A 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Monday – coupled with a 0-0 draw between title contenders Leicester City and Manchester City – secured a coveted spot at the top of the league for Arsenal FC heading into the new year. Naturally, this has everybody talking. But we choose to let the haters hate.
As an Arsenal fan, I can’t help but wonder: is this destined to be our year, or has First Place on January 2 become our shiny new Fourth Place Trophy? Will we be forced to ironically chant “Playing football the Arsenal way” while watching our title hopes get thrown into a burning fire of banter sometime around mid-March by the likes of John Terry and José Mourinho? Will false hope transform itself into things falling apart before our very eyes, leaving me crying alone in my room, dressed in my “lucky” Santi Cazorla jersey, draped in red-and-white-tinted flags, scarves, and regret?
You know what? I’m inclined to say that this is destined to be our year. Despite laying our lack of mental endurance on a platter to be devoured by The Saints of Southampton on Boxing Day, I know that this team of legends – led by superhuman Alexis Sánchez and pass master Mesut Ozil among others – has what it takes to build on back-to-back FA Cup trophies and win the grand prize. Here, I’ll even give you 10 reasons why Arsenal is going to win the league:
The last time Arsenal was second on Christmas, it went on to win the league.
Okay, I know, this one sounds a bit crazy, but I can’t help it – my superstition often gets the best of me when it comes to the teams I support. Stats like this are as painful as they are beautiful, because while they represent a potentially positive trend and a shot at repeating history, they also leave room for disappointment and defeat. This year, however, it feels like the Gunners are building towards something that’s been elusive since the Invincibles. Two consecutive FA Cups, second place on Christmas, first place on January 2, _____ place at the end of May, perhaps?
Belief is growing stronger everyday.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was quoted after last week’s massive 2-1 win over Manchester City saying that it “strengthened our belief that we can win.” He went on to describe his team as “more mature than before; I don’t know when we last had such a good chance to win the title. We have not had such a good chance for a few years.” This team is a unit. Togetherness.
The annual injury crisis is happening early this year.
Alexis has been absent, along with Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere…the list goes on. When you boil it down, it’s just about the entire midfield line. The good news? The Gunners are still at the top of the league, despite having to stick Calum Chambers in a defensive midfield role and make some other strange tactical decisions.
The attack is about 10 times more creative.
Rather than being an exclusively one-dimensional offense, the Arsenal attack is often jumpstarted from the backline. Yes, we can still attempt to smash and grab force it straight into the box with a little Giroud holdup play, but we can also look to our creative Spanish wingbacks Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerín – both of whom have been fantastic this season – for an innovative attack and solid crosses into the box.
That is all.
An early Champions League exit will provide newfound focus rather than embarrassment.
We are the example par excellence of going out with glory, so it isn’t unreasonable to assume that we will put up a valiant fight against Barça only to lose out on away goals. No matter – an early exit will give us the additional time we need to focus on winning the league.
Arsenal's opposition is abysmal.
Arsenal’s league opposition can generally be described as steaming hot garbage (with the exceptions of Leicester, Crystal Palace, and maybe a couple of others). Chelsea has been shockingly bad, and LVG and United have most likely been crying themselves to sleep while watching Chicharito highlights on a neverending loop. If there’s ever been a time to win the league, that time is now.
The Tico Factor.
Aside from the routine cast of starters, guys like Costa Rican international Joel Campbell are stepping up in a huge way. Campbell has been a stud down the right side, making some crucial plays and putting his heart on his sleeve while sprinting down the line to track back and help his teammates defend. That’s the kind of comradery that leads to trophy bus tours, this much I know for sure.
The transfer window is looking promising for reasons beyond securing defensive midfielders (i.e., Alexis has pleaded with Arsène to seal the deal on Chichadios). Dreams really do come true. If Chicharito comes to Arsenal, I might not have to ask the fútbol higher powers for a single favor for decades. Can you even imagine? Chicharo’s #BallondOr goal-scoring abilities, Ozil’s passing, and Alexis’ general reckless abandon? ?
The superhuman will be back.
Alexis Sánchez will be back in two weeks. Knowing him, he’s had a perfect mix of recovery work and time with his dogs over the past few weeks, so he’ll surely shoot right back into form in no time. ? COYG!