After claiming just one Premier League victory in January, Arsenal’s title challenge was teetering on the brink. With Leicester City putting some light between themselves and the chasing pack, and Tottenham looking the better of the north London sides, it was all going horribly pear-shaped for the Gunners.
A victory over Bournemouth last weekend has righted the ship somewhat, and heading into Sunday’s visit from the Foxes, Arsenal have the opportunity to prove that they have the mental fortitude to make a statement of intent, to show that they should be spoken of as the title favourites.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry delivered a rather damning assessment of the Gunners on Monday, asserting that they were wasting their best chance of securing league silverware since 2004.
The Frenchman told Sky Sports: “If I had said to you that Chelsea would struggle, Manchester City would struggle; you would have thought that it would be a season that Arsenal would walk away with it easily. And it’s not happening.
“I would question also the mentality of it. The game against Chelsea, they didn’t score. Those are the sort of games you need to win.
“They need three points. It is business. You don’t win the league for a very long time. Can you win it? It’s time to wake up and do it.
“For me at the moment, Leicester are THE team to win it. They’re not only showing they can win it, they’re showing they can cope with the pressure.”
One can’t really argue with Henry either. While Arsenal were stumbling to draws with Stoke and Southampton, and losing to a struggling Chelsea, Leicester were outclassing Manchester City on the road and beating Liverpool at home. And yet one would expect the opposite to be the case. However, such troubles are very Arsenal-esque.
It’s certainly not the first time that an Arsenal title bid will have come unstuck as spring arrives. Shock defeats, rafts of injuries and thoughts of what ‘might have been’ are all too common place for Arsenal fans.
The 2015/16 campaign is far from over, though, and Wenger’s side are heading into a month that will no doubt define the remainder of their season.
Should Arsenal lose at home to Leicester on Sunday, one can’t see them recovering to take the title. However, a victory could deal a psychological blow to a Leicester side who to this point have seemed somewhat immune to suffering blows of any nature, but one who lack the experience of some of the teams around them. In addition, City host Spurs on Sunday meaning that at least one – or both – of Arsenal’s main rivals will drop points.
Unlike Leicester, Arsenal are still fighting on multiple fronts, and while this could be seen as a distraction, it does not need to be. An FA Cup clash with Hull City, who the Gunners beat in last season’s finale, is next on the agenda, with a Champions League clash with Barcelona to follow. Wenger’s men are given little hope against the Spanish side and this should allow them to play with a certain amount of freedom.
A trip to United rounds off the month before a visit from Swansea is followed by a mouth-watering north London derby against Tottenham.
It’s a tricky run of fixtures, but winning trophies has never been easy. It has always a test of character, though. This time, next month we should know whether Arsenal have the character required to win the league or whether Henry was right to question the mentality of the men at the Emirates.