With the notable exception of certain men in red from the north, the upper reaches of the Premier League table are starting to adopt a “business as usual” appearance. City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain undefeated at the top, Spurs have recovered from that mid-September wobble to return to winning ways. A
s for the Gunners – well, after the toughest possible start in the opening two weeks, it’s been played six and won six. Five of the big six are duking it out, separated by only two points. Yet one of Arsenal’s favourite sons feels his former team is the weakest link and it is a case of when, not if, they fall by the wayside.
What do the experts think?
Before we delve into Paul Merson’s prophesies of doom, it is worth taking a look at the opinions of those who earn money from making predictions. At this stage in the season, you might think that predicting how things will look in seven months’ time is akin to logging on to a gaming site, scooping up your welcome bonus and spinning the reels in Book of Ra
They have City odds-on for the title, Liverpool at 9/4 and Chelsea at 8/1. Spurs are at 33s, while Arsenal
Defence “all over the place”
Given that the Gunners have now won nine games on the spin in all competitions, you might ask what more they could do. The answer, according to Merson, is to concede fewer goals. Speaking to Sky Sports last week, he predicted that Arsenal are heading squarely for a heavy defeat. He said: “Defensively, they are all over the place.”
A look down the goals column in the table suggests that he might just have a point. The Gunners are the only team in the top five to have conceded more than one goal per match. They have let in twice as many as Chelsea and more than three times as many as both Liverpool and City.
Merson says that the performances from Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck and Özil have so far kept the team out of jail. However, the former midfielder thinks that this is only serving to paper over the cracks of a defence that is not up to scratch, and that sooner or later, the deficiencies at the back will come home to roost.
The new boys, Mustafi and Sokratis, are the first-choice centre backs, and Merson suggests that this, in itself, provides further evidence of a lack of depth.
Back on song
Merson’s comments have not dampened the spirits of the Arsenal faithful, who were as on-song as Aubameyang and Lacazette following last week’s 5-1 demolition of Fulham. “We’ve got our Arsenal back,” they sang, and even Unai Emery allowed himself a smile, as he felt the exorcism of Arsene Wenger move forward another step.
Back to their winning ways, or flattering to deceive? The fans certainly believe the former, and those who have the courage of their convictions and get a piece of those 40/1 odds now could be singing even louder by the end of the season. After the international break, Arsenal welcome Leicester City, before taking a trip to Crystal Palace. Ultimately, they can only play the team in front of them, and while they keep winning, the fans will keep singing, no matter what anyone predicts.