The Premier League is there to be won. Yes, it is only early November, but with Chelsea in disarray, Manchester United consumed by Louis van Gaal’s stifling philosophy and Manchester City yet to gain real momentum, this season represents Arsenal’s best chance of winning their first league title since 2004.
Until Wednesday, with Arsenal second in the Premier League table on goal difference, goalkeeper Petr Cech and Alexis Sanchez in fine form and Mesut Ozil finally beginning to justify his record transfer fee, all the signs were pointing towards a change in fortunes for Arsene Wenger and his side after years of mediocrity.
The subsequent 5-1 defeat to a rampant Bayern Munich has created a crossroads in the Gunners’ season. Wenger’s men must accept that, with a makeshift back four due to injuries to Hector Bellerin and more significantly Laurent Koscielny, they were simply beaten by a better side who, on that display, are surely favourites to lift the Champions League trophy in May.
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That is not to say the FA Cup holders can allow such a performance to be repeated. Although Bayern were breathtakingly good at times, Arsenal certainly facilitated their greatness with: Gabriel and Matthieu Debuchy regularly exposed, David Alaba allowed far too much time to pick his spot for the Germans' third goal and Thiago and Xabi Alonso generally given as much time and space as they pleased.
However, this result is gone, and potentially Arsenal’s Champions League campaign along with it. Though disappointing, claiming a first league title in over a decade was surely the priority at the beginning of the season and Sunday’s derby - with Koscielny set to return - should be welcomed as an opportunity to regain momentum.
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Tottenham sit fifth with three consecutive wins in all competitions and the leveling nature of local derbies will make this a close game, especially with Harry Kane’s recent return to form in front of goal, however on paper, Arsenal should be too strong.
Only Kane and Jan Vertonghen - who is forming a very promising partnership with Belgian compatriot Toby Alderweireld - and potentially Christian Eriksen instead of Aaron Ramsey would make it into a combined XI, and this, merged with home advantage will make the Gunners heavy favourites.
The talent on paper has never been in short supply at the Emirates and instead it will be Arsenal’s mental strength under the microscope again on Saturday.
Considering their financial strength, wide array of attacking talents and avid fan base, another fourth or third placed finish cannot be accepted this season. With Manchester City likely to take three points from their trip to Aston Villa, Arsenal must keep up the pressure on the league leaders.
With their high-energy style and combative midfield, Tottenham will seek to hassle and outmuscle Arsenal whilst preying on the doubts Wednesday’s capitulation will have sown.
The mark of a title-winning team is the ability to bounce back from adversity and doing so in the high-pressure environment of a derby, would finally confirm Arsenal’s credentials as genuine title contenders.
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