Title challenge: now it’s just maths

How I yearn for a home win. Yesterday’s draw (our tenth league draw in total) means we have not now won at home in the league for two months. More significantly of course, it means we’re out of the title race too.

“Mathematically it’s not over,” said Wenger. Let it be known now that I hate the mathematical title challenge.

It basically means you can’t win it unless some kind of biblically calamitous turn-around in the form of three teams occurs. It ain’t going to happen. Arsenal fans have known it for weeks and Wenger must have known it for weeks too.

Like at Bolton, the first 45 minutes were so, so bad. For a team allegedly chasing the title, we were disinterested and lackadaisical, a shadow of the side we have at times seen this season. Bendtner was isolated, the two full-backs (Hoyte in particular) were poor and we just looked like we were elsewhere. Liverpool could and should have scored twice. Oddly, just as we picked things up and had a presentable chance (that Bendtner shot tamely at Reina), Liverpool scored.

And like at Bolton, we were a different side in the second half, and we got better with the staged introductions of Adebayor, Clichy and Hleb. Toure headed wide, Bendtner equalised, Fabregas was denied a clear penalty (what do we have to do to get one?) and Hleb had a lovely chance at the end, when rather than shoot he tried to pass his way somewhere else – where, exactly, I don’t know.

But it was too late, especially against a wily and resilient side like them, and away drifted our title challenge for another season.

Had we played like that for 90 minutes, we would have won. But how many times have we chased games this season as a result of starting badly?

I’ll tell you – we went behind at home against Fulham, Sunderland, Man Utd, Spuds, Birmingham, Villa, Boro and Liverpool, only three of which we have gone on to win. Away from home, we let the first goal in at Spuds, Liverpool, Boro, Everton, Birmingham and Bolton. That’s 14 of our 33 games, more than a third. Far too often this season we have not performed for the whole 90 minutes – especially recently. That I suspect is in part to do with fatigue, a small squad running on empty.

And yet we have only lost twice – odd, isn’t it?

Anyway, plenty of time for title post mortems – what of our chances for Tuesday? It’s so, so even. We’ve had three 1-1 draws this season and although Liverpool know that by holding us to a 0-0 they will advance, they also know we can score, that they are vulnerable at set pieces.

It’s our last chance – and it’s theirs too.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.