- Preview: Arsenal v Reading, team news, 18yr old starts + prediction
- 4-2-3-1 v Reading: Perez & Jeff start – My Arsenal starting XI
- [Photos] Several youngsters join Ramsey & Giroud in Arsenal training
- Team News: Arsenal duo ruled out but star to return against Reading
- Arsenal boss confirms these 9 players will feature against Reading
- Wenger to hand attacker first start of the season against Reading
- Arsenal boss offers injury update on Cazorla & Giroud
- Ratings: Cech shines but Ozil fails to spark as Arsenal held
- Video: Arsenal 0-0 Boro: Lackluster Gunners drop valuable points
- Teams: Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Cazorla out, Elneny in
A Lot Of Positives Yet To Come In Arsenal’s Season Despite Chelsea Draw
Arsenal’s title hopes have effectively been ended after a 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Sunday. This match was a six-pointer and Arsenal knew the importance several days before leading up to the kick-off as Chelsea’s win over Manchester United had changed the entire complexion of this fixture. The blues came to the Emirates clearly looking for a point that would take them within two wins away from a title. It is exactly what they achieved after an extremely defensive performance in front of 60,000 disgruntled Arsenal supporters. Despite being joint second in the table, Betfair are now offering extremely long odds of 50/1 for Arsenal to lift the title.
However, the Gunners are unlikely to be too down-beat as we have the FA Cup final to look forward to in a few weeks time. Furthermore, Arsene Wenger has been maintaining for a considerable period that Chelsea remain overwhelming favourites for the title. It was always going to be a long-shot and the simple fact is we could hardly mount a serious title challenge after the start we had to the season. It’s the amazing run in 2015 that has been responsible for this last-gasp title challenge.
The season could not have begun any worse for Arsenal as we only managed two league victories in the opening eight matches. Since the middle of December, however, the form has been consistently on the up. More importantly, it seemed that Arsenal have learnt their way of playing against the top teams. The performances against Manchester City at Etihad stadium and against United at Old Trafford are perfect examples that Arsenal are finally showing signs of maturity. Against Chelsea, though, nothing appeared to go right for the FA Cup finalists.
Even though Chelsea had a few penalty claims in the 90 minutes, referee Michael Oliver failed to give a clear handball by Gary Cahill after a Santi Cazorla shot. Such key decisions needed to go in our favour if we were to claim the three points and have any chance of making it a title race. Still, it was a good performance from Arsenal in a number of ways – especially in defence. Chelsea were playing without a recognised striker for the first half. Even then, the likes of Cesc Fabregas and the mercurial Eden Hazard were kept quiet.
Home form is essential for any team looking to win the league. The Emirates stadium is close to becoming a fortress for Arsenal, as we have been beaten only once at home in the league in the last two years. At best, Chelsea had a few half chances in order to become the second team after Manchester United to win at the Emirates since 2014.
While Chelsea did not create many opportunities, Arsenal will also be disappointed with the amount of chances we created. Olivier Giroud was largely anonymous, as he was marshalled well by John Terry and Gary Cahill. Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott made a significant difference in the last 10 minutes of the match and Arsene Wenger would have certainly regretted not starting one of the pacey duo. Welbeck and Walcott did something that the likes of Giroud failed to do for most of the match – getting behind the defence.
The result is of course a disappointment for Arsenal, as Chelsea are almost within touching distance of the league title. A win for the Gunners on Sunday would have reignited the title race since the gap would have been reduced to just seven points with five games left. As it is, Chelsea are just two victories away from sealing the league title. It was certainly a missed opportunity and both Ozil and Welbeck had opportunities to get an injury time winner. The goal appeared harder to miss, but the duo both fluffed their lines and Chelsea were able to clear.
The title may be lost, but Arsenal should not allow their heads to drop. We are level on points with second-placed Manchester City with a game in hand so we have a great chance of finishing as runners-up and bookmakers like Betfair have Arsenal as the favourite to finish in the second spot at odds of 2/5. Manchester United may have lost back-to-back games against Chelsea and Everton, but they are second favourites at 14/1. Manchester City’s calamitous form since the turn of the year sees them ranked below United at odds of 9/4.
The second half of the season has brought a lot of positives for Arsenal and it could still get better when we take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup final next month, so while the title was ultimately beyond us, this season still has the potential to be a hugely positive one.