It’s now or never for Arsenal
LONDON — There will be a few ‘hiccups’ as Arsenal bid to lift the Premier League title for the first time since 2004 but the squad is strong enough to pull through any situation, midfielder Alex Oxlade-chamberlain has said.
The Gunners were quick to respond to Saturday’s embarrassing 4-0 league loss to Southampton by easily dispatching relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Monday, thanks to goals from Gabriel and in-form Mesut Ozil.
The win meant Arsene Wenger’s men moved to the top of the table.
“We’re in a strong position now, it’s where we would like to be,” Oxlade-chamberlain told the club’s website.
“There have been some hiccups along the way and I’m sure there will be a few more but we need to build on this half of the season and go into the New Year positively and in the right manner.
“You need to build momentum. It’s all about getting the right results and as many results as possible from here.
“From day to day, we need to turn it around if we have a bad result. We need to turn that around and we got the right result.”
“We know we’re capable of winning games. The boss said to us that the team that lost at Southampton is no different to the one that beat Manchester City at home.”
With Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck all ruled out with injury, Oxlade-chamberlain hoped for a quick recovery for his teammates.
“We’ll hopefully get some injured players back soon and that will boost us again, but the boys have been really good so far,” OxladeChamberlain said.
“We need to keep that going and today was a good step and a good way to end the year.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s belief they can win the league should not simply come from the weaknesses of those they normally count as their title rivals.
“It should come from their own improvement and increasing confidence.
The pieces of Arsene Wenger’s jigsaw look to be coming together but they must now fight off what has often been their fiercest enemy - themselves. Too often Arsenal have been the team that cannot be trusted when the pressure is on.
Can they change that habit of a recent lifetime?
There is a growing body of evidence that they can, thanks to the introduction of one vitally important new face and the development of those who have inhabited the Emirates Stadium for some time.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech arrived from Chelsea for £10m in the summer - a reluctant sale by then boss Jose Mourinho - and he has been a transformative figure at the club.
But it is not simply on the pitch where Cech will be a figure of such influence. Having won three Premier League titles with Chelsea as well as the Champions League, he knows what it takes to win major trophies and his experience will be invaluable in the months ahead.
Mesut Ozil is also proving why Wenger spent £42.4m to bring the Germany World Cup winner from Real Madrid in September 2013. If Arsenal can get their biggest asset of all, Sanchez, fit and playing regularly after his hamstring injury then Wenger’s side have the sort of quality that gives them a real chance. What Wenger must do in January Wenger was heavily criticised - with some justification — for his failure to spend on a high-class holding midfielder in the summer, as well as on a world-class striker.
Goals have not been a problem, but the suspicion remains his Arsenal squad needed more strengthening and the wisdom of Wenger’s refusal to buy an outfield player will only be fully measured at the end of the season.
History tells us Wenger is never busy in January and the sort of class he needs is usually unattainable because they are either playing for clubs in the Champions League or in the hunt for the Premier League.
Candidates who could seriously improve Arsenal and are able to be signed will be in short supply, especially for a manager who is notoriously selective about how he spends his money.
Wenger has no recent form for buying big in January to bolster his squad, so only time will tell if he changes strategy; it is likely to take the emergence of someone special and who is surprisingly available for him to alter his well-trodden transfer course.
This means his main task through January — and indeed the rest of the season — is to get all of Arsenal’s big players such as Sanchez fit and playing to keep them in contention until the likes of Danny Welbeck, out until February with a knee problem, and Santi Cazorla, missing until March with knee ligament damage, can add depth.
If he can do this, and maybe pull off a surprise in the January market, then Arsenal’s wait really could be over.
The Gunners will never have a better chance.
Next fixtures Jan 2: West Ham v Liverpool, Norwich v Southampton, Arsenal v Newcastle,leicester v Bournemouth, Manchester United v Swansea, Sunderland v Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion v Stoke, Watford v Manchester City. — BBC
Arsenal are in a good position to end their league title drought.