Anyone listening to the views of Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy on Match of the Day on Saturday night would be led to believe Arsenal have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Premier League this season. Think again.
Whilst Shearer, Murphy, Hansen and others maintain reservations about the Gunners’ long-term prospects, citing the fact they have yet to prove themselves against the ‘big boys, it would be churlish to label Arsene Wenger’s men as top four candidates only.
Manchester City and Chelsea – even Manchester United – are many people’s tips for the title and it’s hard to disagree with the fact that the first two, in particular, have the greater strength in depth and are therefore better equipped to stay the distance.
But whilst Wenger may well be one top-notch striker short at the moment (I’m still not convinced Niklas Bendtner is an adequate stand-in for the stand-out Olivier Giroud) there is little wrong with the other three departments.
Keeper Wojciech Szczesny is as good as there is in the Premier League, hence his new mega-bucks, long-term contract, whilst the back four is finally starting to mirror the image of those famous Arsenal defences of the past.
And if there’s a better structured and talented midfield five in the country, if not Europe, I’ve yet to see it. Neither Chelsea, City or United seem to know what combination of creators suits them best and that could be their downfall.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are positively blessed with Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla (with back-up from Flamini and Rosicky) the best in the business in my view.
And don’t forget wing wizards Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are still to come back and provide a different and potentially more devastating dimension.
Yet despite the fact the Gunners have lost just one in ten league games and are currently five points clear at the top of the table, the knockers continue to knock, claiming they have still to prove themselves against the so-called favourites.
Okay, so they have lost at home recently to Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in the Champions League and League Cup, respectively, but there’s no reason to suggest that even with Dortmund (again) and United on the horizon Arsenal are about to blow up. It won’t happen.
Wenger is calm, and why shouldn’t he be, and as for the Gunners’ detractors he states simply: “It is down to us to prove them wrong. It is a continuation of what we started in early 2013. If you take a bigger perspective of our situation, it is not a coincidence we are where we are."
He adds: “We are title contenders and Liverpool are as well, and four other teams certainly. It is an important period, but I am quite confident and relaxed because I have complete confidence we will deal well with the period." So am I.
But what do the bookies think? The Premier League title odds currently stand at – Manchester City 2/1 (favourites); Chelsea 11/4; Arsenal 4/1; Manchester United 8/1; Liverpool 9/1; Tottenham 18/1.
I know who my money’s on!