Surely the sensible money is on a young, thin Arsenal squad falling heroically short?

Tottenham v Arsenal - Arsenal players celebrate their goal Credit: Alamy
Tottenham v Arsenal - Arsenal players celebrate their goal Credit: Alamy

Arsenal are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League but should that make them favourites ahead of Man City?

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Are Arsenal strong favourites for the title?
Objectivity, subjectivity and facts are all different however in football I’m constantly blown away regarding how these three measures are confused.

After our win against Tottenham every pundit and expert seems to be going on about Arsenal being strong favourites to win the league but I just don’t see it. However, they are portraying this message as if Arsenal are obvious and clear favourites.

Factually to my surprise at most UK bookmakers Arsenal are very slight favourites over Man City, but statistically the odds are almost equal. One bad game next week and I would guess Man City would be the bookies’ favourites again.

Objectively looking at just this season Arsenal are 8 points clear of Man City after 18 games but there are 60 points to play for, so again you may say we are favourites now but with so many points to play that doesn’t really mean a lot. If we widen the period to say the last say 15 years then in this time City have won 6 titles and we have won zero. In fact in that time we have only finished 2nd once and not in the top 4 for half a decade.

Then subjectively in my personal opinion this season has more chance of being like 2014 where we led the league until February and had played 24 games but eventually finished 4th after a morale sapping defeat to Liverpool who also managed to throw away a lead to Man City. That season we were top of the league longer than any other team and City where only top for 2 weeks in total but the only thing that counts is they were top after 38 games. Also, the 2011 season comes to mind when we were neck and neck with Man United going into February, in the League Cup final and potentially on for the quadruple only to finish 4th.

For the record I really hope we win the league but as a betting man I’d say there is more chance of us finishing 3rd or 4th (which would be progress) and if that happens I’m sure all these pundits will suddenly forget all these comments about Arsenal being strong favourites and instead point to their pre-season predictions of Man City winning the league. And before everyone goes on about Leicester winning the league that was very much a once in a lifetime black swan event.
Paul K, London

READ: Tottenham 0-2 Arsenal: 16 Conclusions on the new Premier League favourites and familiar Spurs failings

 

…I am loving this Arsenal team, and everything feels dreamlike right now. Every ‘next game’ is the one when I expect to come crashing down to Earth, but this has lasted months, and I am enjoying the ride.

Arsenal haven’t even played half their games yet though, so the narrative about how if Arsenal do not win the league then they have thrown it away is nonsense.

At the end of last season, the narrative was that Arsenal will never have a better chance to get top 4, they have blown it and that there doesn’t seem to be a plan. If they finish 2nd or 3rd this year it will be an EXTRAORDINARY season. They have the youngest squad in the league and would have exceeded targets and expectations at the start of the season. Eight points is nothing – lose two and draw one and then it is game over, and with Arsenal still to play City twice, Newcastle and Liverpool away (not to mention a resurgent United next week) then the scenario of dropped points is completely feasible.

Watching City bring on £160m pair Mahrez and Grealish against Chelsea last week to win the game is the key difference. They will keep plugging away and will get results. I am loving this season and I think if all the stars align, we have a chance. Top four looks very likely and that is outstanding for this group and another step on the development and growth as a club and a team. But to say it is game over already is just peddling a narrative and completely false.
John (COME ON YOU GUNNERS) Foster, Brighton

 

Gary Neville is right. Arsenal will not win the league. This is not written as an Arsenal fan trying to play down expectations but a reality. The biggest ”miracle” will be keeping the same 11 players on the pitch for the next 20 games. Much has been written about our thin squad and other than Smith-Rowe quickly finding his previous season’s form, our second choices are very much that.

Arteta is not the sort of manager to send out a team to lose, it’s that winning mentality that has driven us to the top of the league, however for the sake of keeping the first 11 fit and fresh, I am more than happy to accept early exits from the upcoming FA Cup and Europa League ties. We will not get another opportunity like this for many many years and risking the players for 2 trophies we are unlikely to win would be a mistake.

Whatever happens over the next 20 league games, most Arsenal fans are enjoying the ride and not winning the league or previously qualifying for Champions League places, will not be like before due to lack of character but simply lack of quality back-up.
Matt Coplestone (Essex)

 

…When Liverpool had those two seasons where they pushed City all the way and still came second (while hitting some dazzling points totals), we didn’t get much sympathy. We were roundly mocked and told that our efforts and results counted for nothing because we hadn’t won the title. And I get that- it’s the nature of football tribalism and it would be naive to expect sympathy in those situations especially for a club like Liverpool that’s hugely unpopular. Lord knows Liverpool fans would have reacted the same if another big club had been in our place.

At the time, Arsenal fans were amongst the most vocal in laughing at Liverpool but they could find themselves potentially heading for the same fate. Arsenal have been magnificent this season and City have stuttered recently so Arsenal are in the driving seat with that 8 point gap. However at the end of the day we are talking about City- they are capable of rattling off a 15 game winning streak and punish any potential Arsenal slip ups in the future. Arsenal could still have an incredible season and come second. If that happens it will hurt like hell for you guys but it should still be a season worth celebrating no matter how it ends.

Even if you didn’t have any sympathy for us, I will definitely have sympathy for you if you don’t get the title.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda

 

Do Arsenal have the minerals to win it?
So Arsenal are well in command at the halfway point of the season and deservedly so. They have been incredibly consistent, attacking and defending with gusto. But there is still a lot of football to be played and every team will go through a rocky patch. Having seen how difficult it can be to get over the line sometimes under Sir Alex, especially that first title after an extensive wait, it would be mightily impressive if they kept that form up to the end of the season.

It does have a bit of a feeling of Leicester when they won the league, taking advantage of a perfect storm with the other big clubs in periods of transition. City seem to be struggling to integrate their new #9 properly, which sounds bizarre given he has scored loads already. I wouldn’t put it past Pep to find a solution soon, although his struggles with big characters and strikers in the past are well known.

It still feels too early for my team (Utd) to last in a title race. Light up top and if Casemiro gets injured or falls out of form then we could struggle. Short term, Palace away has the feeling of a banana skin and Arsenal will be looking for revenge, so things can change quickly.

Back to Arsenal, I have said before I was not sure about Arteta, although in the face of growing evidence that position is slowly changing. He has been in a title race before as a younger player, north of the border in a season when Rangers pipped Celtic to the league on goal difference by a single goal. I’m not an avid fan of Scottish football, but I do know that Rangers team was full of leaders. Remains to be seen if this Arsenal team will have ‘the minerals’ when the going properly gets tough.

Needless to say, I would prefer to see them win it over City again but if I had to put my house on the likely winner, I would still have to pick City.
Garey Vance, MUFC

 

Some Arsenal fans starting to see the rainbow
Rooney diving and ending our invincible run. Barca beating us in the Champions League final after hanging on heroically with 10 men for so long. Henry leaving for Barca. The premature dismantling of the Invincibles and leaving Highbury behind. The beginning of the banter era. AC Milan stuffing us only for a week later the Ox nearly bringing us back from the dead only to again fall short. RVP getting sent off for having a shot against Barca. The Carling Cup final disaster against Birmingham. The ongoing trophy drought. RVP Cesc Nasri et al. losing patience and abandoning our project youth team. Barca and Bayern taking it in turns to smash us in the Champions League every year. Monaco. The decline. Chamack. Gervinho. The 4-4 against Newcastle. Stoke away every year. United beating us with 9 defenders on the pitch. The 6-0, the 8-2. Liverpool smashing us 10 times in a row. The vitriol against our greatest ever manager. AFTV. The Emery era. The Europa final. Mustafi. David f*cking Luiz. Willian. The early Arteta era. Losing out on top 4 to Spurs. Bringing us to now. What a turn around and what a job Mikel has done. I’m starting to believe, COYG.
Chippy Brady

 

…Last time I mentioned Stewie Griffin in an email I talked about Partey or Jesus getting injured and Arsenal’s lack of transfer movement in the January window. This has half come to pass so I just want to make sure he’s ok and still with us. We need you, bro. Hopefully he’s ok after we took care of Spurs at the lane. Eight points clear is probably nothing to be happy about in his world, and I just want him to be happy.

We haven’t won anything yet, I know… I would also like to check with Richard Keys if it’s ok to celebrate beating our local rivals. God knows Sky were happy to see Newcastle celebrate their last two victories. I just want some of what they’re getting. No such thing as sports washing. No. Such. Thing…
Simon, Norf London Gooner

 

…What is different about Arsenal this season is their fast start and how comfortable they are in transition (the 2nd goal), in attack, in defence, with and without the ball and when under the cosh.

Many times this season, they have taken advantage of maintaining the gap above Man City and what is also very admirable about Arsenal is the giant strides they taken this season as well.

Beating Spurs away after so long and keeping a clean sheet in the process is also very good.

All in all, it’s still a great start to the season by the way and it’s victories such as this that would make us happy when the bumps would come.

Eight points clear at the way half way stage of the season is much more than even the most optimistic Arsenal fan would have dreamt of.

Once again, unethical behaviour by Chelsea by stealing Mudryk from under our noses. Let’s see what the club has in the pipeline. I would trust the team that brought Tomiyasu, White and Ramsdale to the club.
Francis (Arteta is no more Pep-lite) Redheart, Lagos, Nigeria

 

Call yourself a fan…
Why the hell were Conte and Dier asked about that idiot who tried to kick Ramsdale?

That moron has nothing to do with Spurs – their manager or their players.

He may profess to be a Spurs fan but fans don’t behave that way in North London – so goodbye and good riddance to him.

Great result yesterday though – how do you like them apples Stewie?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

Why the Romero respect?
Quick email on Romero as I noticed he was included in F365’s combined Arsenal / Spurs XI. It has always baffled me that he is rated so highly. I love seeing him in the lineup against us because he always looks like such a liability for Spurs. He doesn’t get half the red cards he deserves which is a positive trait I suppose. Easily could have been sent off yesterday.

Still don’t believe we’ll win the league but we’ve been brilliant so far.

Much love
Simon Cochrane

 

…Hand in hand with the loss of every big game comes a painful analysis of the relative merits of the losing team. So obviously after losing the North London Derby most of Spurs’ players need to be cleared out with a manager building around a core of trusted and highly rated players.

A staple of this list continues to be Cristian Romero who is surely one of the most reckless centre halves playing in the Premier League right now. There appears to be this weird acceptance that this guy is or at least close to being a world class operator by Spurs fans and pundits alike and yet, whenever he plays, he’s either getting away with fouls and red cards or being found woefully out of position by dragging himself into duels he doesn’t need to be in.

He’s Marcos Rojo with a right foot.
Simon, London

 

Oh Spurs, why must you keep doing this to me?
Fair play to Arsenal, a fully deserved win. However, this was entirely inevitable. Yet another woeful, dreadful, sloopy, uninspired first half. And yet another significantly improved second half. This is getting beyond amusing or surprising, this is a massive problem. Conte’s problem.

Against average teams we have the players to get us out of this mess but against good sides we simply cannot afford to be giving head starts – no one can. I simply do not understand how Conte is escaping HUGE scrutiny in the media for this. Continually he is referred to as “elite” but it is abundantly clear (to me, anyway) that he is taking us backwards and all the while doing everything he can to protect himself and point the finger elsewhere. It is his job to manage the squad. He has a good squad, not great, but a squad which is better than the squad which finished 4 last term. He is not improving us, the football is dire and he absolutely has to go. If he can’t get the players up and firing for a north london derby, that’s the final straw to me.

Get him out and get Poch back in while he is still available. We may not win anything (we never do) but at least it will be fun again. Football is supposed to be entertainment anyway, isn’t it?
Dave (Berkshire Spur)

 

Brighter times ahead for Chelsea?
Finally happy Chelsea got a win (and a clean sheet too. Shocking). I’m not a big fan of being patient for managers but I must admit, I sometimes get jealous seeing Liverpool, City and Arsenal with one manager for eons and still doing well. The new owners may have a scattergun approach to the transfer market but one thing I’m glad they’re sticking with is their commitment to Potter. I hope he eventually comes good.

And about the game against Palace, Badiashile looked good on his debut. Can’t wait to see him compete with Colwill for that spot next season. Hopefully that means we never get to see Koulibaly in the first team anytime soon. Or ever.

Gallagher also had a pretty good game. His last good game coming against the same opposition. Ziyech brought some much-needed creativity and Havertz was still wasteful, even with his goal. Lewis Hall is my current favorite youngster and should have had at least 4 goals for Chelsea so far. He looks strong defensively and gets in good positions but his finishing lets him down. Hopefully, he watches clips of Alonso and learns from him. The finishing part ONLY of course.

And for the elephant in the room, Mudryk. I must admit, I don’t know much about him other than the fact that Arsenal were supposed to sign him just two days ago. I do believe his transfer fee was too much even though the base fee at just over 60 mil pounds is a bit more palatable. It’s not exactly an urgent need (midfield and right back far more urgent) but we’ll welcome him. Looking at our recent record with attackers however, I’m not exactly brimming with excitement. I’ve been burned too many times already. One thing is for sure, I do feel genuine happiness seeing Arsenal fans salty everywhere. We’re 10th and sh*te and they’re winning the league but we still managed to snatch away their two main targets. That’s enough for me.

I’m pretty sure this has been asked before but I’ve never seen it so I’ll ask anyway: Why 16 conclusions? 16 is a very oddly specific number to choose.
Abdulazeez, Bristol (If we get better luck with injuries in the second half of the season, maybe we might make top 4. That’s just me being hopeful)

(It was either 16 or 427 so we chose 16 – Ed)

 

Are they kicking the FFP can down the road?
Full disclosure; I don’t fully understand footy finances.

But I just about get that in order to comply with FFP, Chelsea are signing people on really long contracts and doing amortisation thing to account for the transfer fee costs over the course of those contracts. In this window alone…. Mudryk; 8.5yr deal, Badiashile; 7.5yrs, W. Fofana; 7yrs, DD Fofana; 6.5yrs, Santos; 5yrs. Plus the imminent reported Nkunku deal will probably utilise the same strategy.

My question is, does this just kick the can down the road and create a headache in future? Basically every season before Chelsea even think about signing anyone they will have already ‘spent’ a good chunk of their FFP transfer cap. I guess arguably they’ll have ‘spent’ less than they otherwise would as the contracts are longer?? But they are still racking up and the contracts are so long that they don’t have any of these drop out for at least 6yrs. Can someone explain if this will be a big problem for them? Or does inflation help them?! Why isn’t everyone doing it??

Also, perhaps a bigger worry… what does it do for the culture at the club? None of those players will have any pressure to perform to get a new deal anytime soon. Are they creating what we should probably call “The Winston Bogarde Effect”???
R

 

Alas, poor Mudryk
I think we can all agree that the answer to the F365 Mailbox question about whether Arsenal and Chelsea were having their “pants pulled down” over the transfer of Mudryk, is a resounding “YES”.

While I am always delighted when my Club signs an exciting young talent and would have been happy to see him at Arsenal, this deal is one I am glad we are not a part of. A reported €100M total fee and an eight-and-a-half year contract, for a promising but unproven talent, seems excessive. While we do spend as a club, I am glad we were not pulled into an idiotic bidding war by mad Todd and his chums and that we have kept our metaphorical trousers firmly fastened around our waists.

Time will tell, and perhaps Mudryk will go on to be the next Messi or Mbappe. But I am slightly relieved that we don’t have to spend the next few months worrying that he may turn out to be more of a Mutu than a Martinelli.

And by the way, have you ever seen anyone look more miserable in their “joined my new club” photos than he did yesterday?
Carolyn, (very happy today) South London Gooner

 

Talking Man City and their flaws
There’s been a great deal of quarrelling over the finer points of the offside rule this weekend with the sticking point seemingly the effect Rashford’s presence had on Ederson and his ability to make a save. Personally I don’t think Rashford’s run has enough influence to be called interference but what the subsequent furore disguised was Ederson again being easily beaten in a 1 v 1 situation.

The goalkeeping data scientist John Harrison has been banging on about this for years. Ederson is not good in what Harrison describes as ‘long 1 v 1 situations’, when an attacker is running through on goal and only the keeper can stop him. Ederson runs out too early and makes it easy for the attacker to either curl their shot around or chip over him, what he should do is back off and allow the attacker to close down the space before moving to make a save. It’s a longstanding issue for City but their control has always been so immense and such opportunities so infrequent that its never really become a problem, until now.

I don’t agree with the ‘Haaland makes them worse’ argument but I do think Pep is his own worst enemy at the moment. Basically up until mid-October City were flying. Foden was deployed as a foil for Haaland scoring 6 and with 4 assists to accompany the Jotunn’s ridiculous hauls, KDB was positioned wide right to reign fire into the box and everything was very City-esque. Then they lost to Liverpool and Pep reacted badly, Foden disappeared from the team and Grealish started getting more minutes, KDB was moved deeper and more centrally, and teams really started to get at them. Their form has still been very good but next to Arsenal they no longer look the invincible juggernaut of past seasons, the derby loss only compounds this.

Ten Hag coached a near-flawless first half against the Citizens. With Martial and Eriksen operating a one in front one behind screen of Rodri, and with Fred and Casemiro man marking KDB and Silva City had no way through midfield. At times it was like watching Van Gaals United as the ball repeatedly made its way across their defence and back again on a seemingly endless loop. The second half was better as Pep moved Rodri further back in between the CB’s and the fullbacks tucked into midfield, this gave them an extra man in the middle and meant Fred had to leave KDB to close down the ball giving the Belgian the space to influence their attack and they were more threatening. Though after Rashford’s goal I was expecting the typical City onslaught for the final 10 minutes but it never really materialised and United saw out the game with particular ease.

I was sure until a few weeks ago that City would eventually reign in Arsenal and win the league if not make it very close however now I’m not so sure. With Pep basically saying he doesn’t care if they win the league and with the form of United and Newcastle its possible they could end up in fourth come the end of the season, who’d have thought that was a possibility when Haaland was announced?
Dave, Manchester

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