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All Guns Blazing: Arsenal’s season is starting to look like all its predecessors

13:28 04 February 2016

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the touchline. Picture: Steve Paston

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the touchline. Picture: Steve Paston

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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti worries about the team’s inability to maintain a title challenge.

In one of the most ‘peak Arsenal’ nights of the season, there’s a fine irony that this time we went the whole… hog. On Tuesday, our title bid stalled quite literally on Groundhog Day, and while I’ll spare you the litany of Bill Murray-themed puns no doubt already splashing the tabloids, this season already has all the makings of its predecessors.

A late winter run of bad form? Check. Impending doom following a big draw in the Champions League? Check. A possible ray of light from a fortunate pairing with Hull City in the FA Cup? It’s all falling nicely into place.

After two consecutive years of winning the FA Cup, I’m wary of sounding like a spoilt football fan. But I don’t think anyone would argue that there should have been an effort to build on those triumphs, rather than set them as the benchmark. Since 2014, however, there’s little evidence that we have significantly progressed, despite perhaps the best run of signings we’ve seen in recent times.

Over the last three summers, we’ve been lucky to see the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech join the squad. All three are undoubted world class talents, but through some sort of strange karmic balance, their arrival has seen the talents of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and recently Aaron Ramsey significantly regress.

In the case of Ramsey, I have some sympathy. The best elements of his game involve getting forward, but after being accused of leaving the midfield too open, he has stayed deeper in recent games and largely been ineffectual. As much as his partnership with Mathieu Flamini is creating problems defensively, it is also stifling our attack; more and more, our decision to re-sign the Frenchman looks like a cheap fix that should have been properly addressed seasons ago.

The result of all this is that we could be looking at another season of the league passing us by, with more surely to follow given Pep Guardiola’s imminent arrival at Manchester City. As frustrating as it is for us fans, I also worry how the likes of Ozil and Sanchez will feel knowing they could walk into a lot of other teams experiencing much greater success.

There’s a long way still to go, but it all feels very inevitable already. Year after year, Arsenal are hitting a glass ceiling, but unlike a lot of less fortunate clubs, there’s no real reason why we shouldn’t be breaking through it.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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