The look of disgust was clear. The contempt was palpable. The derision in his voice was as loud as his words. As a matter of fact, it was one word: “No”.
Alan Hansen on Match of the Day dismissed Arsenal’s title hopes without so much as a second thought.
Call me petty, call me trivial, call me any number of things, but when somebody in a position that he’s in and with the knowledge that he has outright dismisses a team as nothing more than a flash in the pan I take issue with this.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that beating Liverpool on Saturday night was momentous in the title race. As Aaron Ramsey’s wondrous season continued with the swing of his right boot that smashed home the second goal, it also smashed the words of Alan Hansen back down his throat.
Now, I know this sounds like a missive directed solely at Alan Hansen, but it’s not. It’s about what Hansen represents.
He speaks as a wider public perception of the football world. And it is this idea that brittle Arsenal, with their little squad and players just don’t have it in them to win the league.
This idea is what really is getting under the skin of Arsenal fans, because it’s not based in any reality. It would be wilfully ignorant to ignore the last eight years, which have been littered with Arsenal collapses and stutters, but this really is a different Arsenal now.
Since defeat at Tottenham in the Spring, Arsenal have picked up 51 out of a possible 60 points.
The Gunners have lost just once in the league; that seemingly freak result against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, since the debacle at White Hart Lane.
No team has picked up more points in the Premier League in 2013.
In this timeframe, Arsenal have played Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in the league and are unbeaten in those fixtures.
They haven’t played all of the European contenders so far this season, but at the same time you can only play what is in front of you.
In the same time, Manchester City have lost to Cardiff and Aston Villa, Chelsea have been defeated by Newcastle and Everton, and Manchester United have lost to West Brom and Liverpool.
Nobody has been as consistent as the Arsenal.
And what of the small squad?
This ‘small’ squad, against Liverpool at the weekend, was missing Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Flamini and Theo Walcott.
The bench included a Spanish international full-back in Nacho Monreal and the official club captain Thomas Vermaelen.
Yes, there is room for a striker maybe, but even if Nicklas Bendtner is just around to allow Giroud the occasional rest. The squad looks deep enough to sustain a title challenge.
The fact of the matter is that for too long, Arsenal have been put into the corner and dismissed as an afterthought.
They may not win the title and may end up scrapping for fourth place. But form is temporary, and they have been too good for too long for this to be considered as ‘good form’.
Arsenal are deserving of respect, and its about time people take seriously their claims to be title contenders.
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