|Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has worked wonders this season. AFP Photo|
So that’s that, right? Manchester City, again, are champions. Not quite, but it’s going to take a miracle and more for Arsenal to win the Premier League.
Wednesday night’s thrashing at the Etihad Stadium really was men against boys. And I know Arsenal are still top, two points ahead of City, but with two games in hand I can only see there being one winner.
But let’s face facts here, Arsenal didn’t lose the league because of this heavy defeat to their nearest rivals. No, they lost it in the weeks before, at Liverpool, West Ham and at home to bottom of the league Southampton.
In those first two games, Mikel Arteta’s team threw away two goal leads and only managed draws. Against the Saints, a match they should have won at a canter, they were lucky to get a point, nicking an equaliser in the closing minutes.
I’m sure Arsenal fans, and I know one or two, will be gutted right about now, but it’s worth noting they have had a fabulous season.
Even if the unthinkable happens and they lose their remaining matches, they will still be playing Champions League football next season, something they’ve not managed to do in seven years.
And I’ve no doubt next season, they’ll be there or there about challenging for the title again, especially if they splash out on a decent midfielder or two.
Declan Rice perhaps?
Maybe he was just winding up Arsenal supporters, but former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand cheekily suggested this week their Spanish manager could be tempted to leave Arsenal at the end of the season and move to Real Madrid.
Rio claimed that was ‘the word on the street’.
I’m not buying it myself. For one, Arteta is a former Barcelona youth player, so I think a move to their Madrid rivals is pretty much out of the question.
But secondly, and most importantly, I believe Arteta knows he’s on the verge of building something special at Arsenal.
He’s developed a very good squad of young players, playing a style of football that at times this season, has been a joy to watch.
City and Arsenal apart, most of the other tops teams will improve next season. Liverpool and Chelsea have been poor by their standards, and Newcastle and Manchester United will also fancy themselves to mount a challenge.
But with the experience of coming so close this time around, then next season, Arsenal will be far better equipped when the going gets tough.
Did they blow it this season? Yes, I suppose they did. But Arsenal fans shouldn’t cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened. VNS