Yes, Arsenal is hitting a sticky patch right now and are not playing the type of fluid football they’re renowned for especially in their away match against Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Watching the match, I kept on asking myself the question in my head, “Are they playing like Premier League title contenders?”
The simple answer was no.
This was a match where Portsmouth could have easily won especially after Benjani knocked the ball past the fast approaching Almunia and had to just knock the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately, he hit the ball too hard past the rushing goalkeeper and Clichy was able to knock the ball away to safety.
Sure, the Gunners had their own chances to win this match too, but two things were clearly evident.
1) Arsenal had an awful match by their own standards. Portsmouth defended well, but it was more Arsenal playing well below-par than Portsmouth stopping the Gunners from playing their beautiful brand of football. Arsenal’s shooting and passing were uncharacteristically poor throughout the match.
2) The Gunners don’t do well under pressure. This was the perfect match for Arsenal to put their stamp on the Premier League title to say to the world, and most importantly Man United, that it’s their trophy to win this year. Succumbing to the pressure of having to win to knock Man United off the throne as well as to beat Portsmouth who are often a bogey side for teams (especially at Fratton Park), Arsenal failed to deliver when it mattered most.
Life doesn’t get any easier for Arsenal. This Saturday they travel to Goodison Park for a match against a very tough Everton team (12:15pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel). Then they play West Ham at home on New Years Day (10am ET, Setanta Sports). Remember, the Hammers are the only team ever to have beaten Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
In the next week, we’ll definitely see whether Arsenal should be considered title contenders. In the back, they’re doing fine, but up front is where Arsenal fans will hope the side can start scoring again.
The good news for Arsenal is while they slipped up against Portsmouth and failed to get all three points, Chelsea drew against Aston Villa and Liverpool narrowly beat Derby, which means — for the time being — that it’s still a two horse race between Arsenal and Man United for the title.