Pundits, Arsenal and PL title race

Last weekend following Arsenal’s defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the fans of the North London club were again split right down the middle with regards to their long-serving manager Arsene Wenger.

Former Man United skipper Gary Neville, now a pundit with Sky Sports, piled in and was very vociferous in his defence of Wenger. He even went as far as calling a fan with a “Wenger Out” sign at the Bridge an idiot live on TV.

Neville’s defence of Wenger and his quite brutal dismissal of the “Wenger Out Brigade” has come under fire by other journalists in England.

The respected football writer Henry Winter of the London Times believes Neville was out of order in his branding of the fans.

“The fans who pay money to support the club are entitled to their views on the club” Winter said in his column. Neville quite rightly replied that he also has a right to his views on the situation.

Somewhere at the beginning of the season I tipped Arsenal for the title. In one of my appearances on #plfanzone I repeated my belief that “the team that finished above Wenger’s side will win the title.

My presenter, James Richardson, looked at me with amusement and asked me what had changed. I replied that I believe that for once Wenger seems to have assembled a squad that was deep enough to mount a serious challenge.

On that programme and in my columns here I did give my reasons to support my view. Now, I feel like a proper muppet. Arsenal, it seems, under Wenger must revert to type and start to collapse when expectations rise.

That defeat to Chelsea was expected to be fair. However, the manner of it and the same manner of the defeat at the Etihad to Man City, is what drives Arsenal fans mad with frustration.

The defeat to Chelsea came after the mind-boggling home capitulation to an out of sorts Watford. In all of these, Wenger still believes they are in the title race. Who can genuinely argue against him? Stranger things have happened.

At some point this season it seemed that Chelsea’s strongest challengers will be Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Pundits left with eggs on their faces again as the Merseyside club have not won a league game this year.

At the weekend they capitulated 2-0 in Humberside to a resurgent Hull. The home side thoroughly deserving of their win as they battle to stave off relegation.

This weekend, by the time Liverpool host second-placed Tottenham, they could be in fifth place, only a point ahead of Man United. That is the measure of how poorly they have played since Christmas.

In the last three home games this year they have turned up two defeats and one very lucky draw – a Simon Mignolet penalty save denied Chelsea all three points.

A few weeks ago I wrote that I thought Klopp has started talking too much on the press and this is perhaps causing needless tension in the team.

The return of Sadio Mane did not prevent last weekend’s defeat. He and fellow forwards Firmino and Coutinho need to rediscover their early-season form otherwise Liverpool could easily be sucked out of the top four.

How Mauricio Pochettino handles the Spurs’ squad when the Europa League resumes will tell how much they will be able to hang on to the coattails of leaders Chelsea.

In the previous two seasons I don’t think the Argentine had rotated his squad well enough; as a result their league form has suffered. He believes his team is in a title race and who can really deny him that belief.

It is a fascinating period in the Premier League. The two Manchester clubs believe they can still make the Top 4. United have been consisted in their unbeaten run, but have been let down by the many draws.

City seem to have overcome their wobbles and in Gabriel Jesus they have found a player who has given the squad a new boost.

Yaya Toure has rolled back the years and is standing firm in the holding role; conducting the play as this City side attempt to eke out a rousing end from tired limbs.

In it all, we the pundits try to call it as we see it or as we think we are seeing it. Football, like life, can be pretty unpredictable. We like it so.

Don’t forget to follow the live matches this weekend across our SuperSport channels. Please check local listing for times.

I will use this opportunity to congratulate the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on a deserved Afcon triumph last weekend in Gabon. Vincent Aboubakar’s glorious winner was worthy of winning any major final. I loved the fact that it did not go to penalties.


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