17 years in a row. Arsenal have managed, some times by the skin of their teeth, to qualify for the Champions League 17 years in a row, but is that record about to come to a halt this season?
Saturday evening saw Arsenal succumb to one of their most damaging defeats in the Premier League for quite a while, a 2-1 home defeat to a poor United squad could be a season defining loss in terms of what it does to the confidence of the side.
Arsenal now find themselves in 8th place with 17 points from twelve games, a very poor total for a top4 challenging side but luckily for them 4th place United are only 2 points ahead of them, emphasising the poor quality of teams chasing 4th spot this season.
Of course two points is nothing to be worried about but the manner in which Arsenal have been playing recently is a major worry, the team is crying out for a leader, front-man Alexis Sanchez has led by example this season but is not the driving force or leader on the pitch that Arsenal so badly need.
Jack Wilshere has been touted as that man since bursting onto the scene but his injury prone nature has seen him miss far too many games in the past few seasons to fulfil his aspirations of becoming the leader and star of this Arsenal side.
Saturdays defeat showed, not only that Arsenal struggle majorly defensively, but also that confidence amongst the squad is low, when they went a goal down they looked no threat to Manchester United, their heads seemed to drop, they flooded men into the box but never overly worried the United defenders, a serious worry considering Van Gaal’s defence consisted of Blackett, McNair and Smalling.
It has almost been a given in the last few years that Arsenal, no matter how they perform will sneak their way into that final Champions League place, but this year more than ever there are big worries in North London.
Manchester United are, at this moment in time, not a very good side, so for them to come to the Emirates and win with relative comfort says a lot about Arsene Wenger’s team. With morale undoubtedly very low after that defeat you have to question where is the leader in that team that can rally the troops?
Other than Alexis Sanchez, not one Arsenal player has performed consistently at a high standard. After all he has done for the club, Arsene Wenger is almost immune from being sacked but he must begin to turn things around quickly before they fall too far off the pace.
Challenging for the title is already far from their reach and unless Wenger can get his side winning again soon, the top4 places could quickly begin to look out of reach as well.