Why are Arsenal fans nervous in Premier League title race?


Only two outcomes await Arsenal from their place atop the Premier League desk: agony or ecstasy. The membership’s supporters lurch helplessly between the 2 extremes, considering the glory of a primary title since 2003-04’s “Invincibles” and the ignominy of dropping the eight-point lead they’ll maintain on April 1.

This curler coaster of feelings renders all remaining video games a well being hazard, every setback delivering a way of foreboding {that a} superb season might all of a sudden collapse, whereas each constructive second is recent affirmation that this actually goes to be their 12 months.

– Stream on ESPN+: FA Cup, LaLiga, extra (U.S.)

Gunners fans by no means anticipated to seek out themselves in this place, and no matter occurs over the subsequent two months, some solace will come from the progress the membership have already made. Yet the sense of alternative earlier than them is evident. Arsenal have performed the most effective soccer in England this time period and produced the best stage of consistency for 75% of the marketing campaign.

But City have proved themselves able to occurring a successful streak when it issues most. In the ultimate 10 video games of the previous three seasons, City took 2.4 factors per recreation (ppg) in 2019-20, 2.1ppg in 2020-21 and a pair of.4ppg in 2021-22. In the identical interval, Arsenal managed 1.6ppg, 2.0ppg and 1.5ppg.

So, as they try to deny Manchester City their fifth title in six seasons, what are the remaining obstacles in Arsenal’s method, and do the fans actually suppose they will recover from the road? ESPN spoke to 4 distinguished Arsenal supporters — Tim Payton, Arsenal Supporters Trust Board Member; Boyd Hilton, host of the “Footballistically Arsenal” podcast; Lois Langton, former Arsenal Independent Supporters Association chair; and Faisal Khan, founding father of Arsenal-focused YouTube channel “Latte Firm” — to seek out out.

Q. What is the overall temper amongst Arsenal fans?

Payton: “There is a saying in British politics about feeling like ‘a man carrying a priceless Ming vase across a highly polished floor.’ Anticipation, nervous, cautious. There are 10 cup ties left now. You can really feel the excitement but also the sense of tension as well because it has become something to throw away.”

Hilton: “Mainly excitement for me and the pleasure we are taking in the football we are playing. It is extraordinary to think how quickly [manager Mikel] Arteta has turned us into this attacking machine. Every time I do a podcast or I talk to fans at the Emirates I tell them we’ve got to enjoy this while it is happening because it is so unexpected and so unbelievable. We are aware we are going to be telling our grandchildren about this, even if we don’t win the league with how far we’ve come with 10 games to go.

“In the late-Arsene Wenger period once we had some fairly good gamers — [Mesut] Ozil, Alexis Sanchez — each every now and then we did play some respectable soccer, but it surely did get form of stodgy and predictable. And there was no connection to these gamers like there’s now. There is one thing actually particular in regards to the persona of the group that interprets to us in the group. But there’s an underlying sense of concern, uncertainty and nervousness. Maybe that is simply me.”

Langton: “It’s not simply the soccer that we have been privileged to observe that has led to Gooners all over the place sporting an ear-to-ear grin on most Monday mornings. What has made this season particular is the togetherness that’s permeating the membership. Never has the ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit‘ [Victory Through Harmony] motto felt extra becoming.”

Khan: “Arsenal fans are tremendously excited in regards to the prospect of a primary league title in virtually 20 years, but completely fearful of heartbreak. We discover ourselves unexpectedly in a title race and the nerves are effectively and really kicking in.”

Q. What worries you most? What are the biggest obstacles?

Khan: “Potential heartbreak. We’ve seen some carefully fought title races in current years, and having been prime for many of the season I do not suppose I’m emotionally sturdy sufficient in case the worst occurs.”

Payton: “The greatest impediment now might be strain and it being a brand new scenario for them. The fixture listing should not be a problem as a result of Arsenal have not obtained the European video games [after they were knocked out of the Europa League in the round of 16 by Sporting CP]. Relatively talking, you have obtained relaxation and restoration time, definitely in comparison with City as a result of they’ve Europe [the Champions League quarterfinals against Bayern Munich] and the FA Cup [semifinal against Sheffield United] ongoing which is partly why they are behind now. Arsenal should take care of the enormity of it; the heightened scrutiny and strain.”

Langton: “The late-Wenger years have been usually dominated by discuss of psychological fragility and it is testomony to this group that now we have managed to maneuver on from that. I suppose the most important concern is the unknown — this group is basically untested at this stage of the season whereas the brand new model of Man City is in acquainted territory.”

Q. Do the Gunners really have the mental strength and the squad depth to handle the pressure of the run-in?

Khan: “Manchester City are a well-oiled machine in relation to the house straight. They’ve demonstrated that they are often relentless on the enterprise finish of a season. Given Arsenal have one of many leanest and most inexperienced squads in the league, the underlying concern of falling simply quick is most unsettling. Keeping our beginning XI match may even be key for any success. Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba and Thomas Partey being obtainable for each recreation is important. Partey is irreplaceable — he makes us tick and we have been so unlucky to have him lacking in opposition to City on the Emirates. Up entrance, we are fortunate to have Gabriel Jesus again in the combo [after injury] and with [Leandro] Trossard’s signing in January now we have some good depth. Don’t underestimate the impression Emile Smith Rowe might have for us in the run-in!”

Hilton: “When we’ve had setbacks this season, we’ve bounced back pretty much every time. We lost to City and then won the next six games — that’s the obvious example. The players have got the mentality, but they have to keep up the level of intensity for 10 games and that is quite a challenge. All it would take is one loss and one draw for Man City to come back. Most Arsenal fans assume City won’t lose more than once, if at all, in this final stage.”

Payton: “We are so clear of the Wenger era now and there is probably something in the view that ‘what have they got to be scared of?’ They will feel there’s lots of time. The pressure comes on in many ways when you think ‘if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it again.’ There is an innocence in it which is immune to the pressure. Whether that holds is the big question.”

Q. The two groups nonetheless should play one another on April 26 triggering a four-game run for Arsenal which contains City away, Chelsea at dwelling, a visit to Newcastle, then Brighton at dwelling. Is that the decisive interval?

Hilton: “If we get through that undefeated, that is the period that decides it. The City game on its own is beyond huge. If they beat us — which I kind of expect given they beat us at home when we were playing really well — and if they win their game in hand, that’s two points … You weigh it all up and we could come out of that week level with them. The eight-point gap we have now will be narrowed to make the final few games even more stressful than they need to have been.”

Langton: “As Arteta would say, the most vital match is the next match — which is Leeds [on Saturday]. If we start speculating ahead to matches at the end of April and early May, that is what, if anything, will cause us to trip up.”

Q. Is the sense of nervousness heightened by feeling this may very well be now or by no means? City have been somewhat in need of their finest this season, Liverpool and Chelsea have endured torrid campaigns, whereas Manchester United are in transition below Erik ten Hag. Having come this shut, would it not be a failure to not win it from right here?

Khan: “I think it’s commonly accepted amongst the fan base that we find ourselves here much sooner than expected. Now that we have this chance, we have to take it. With regard to the future, obviously rival clubs will strengthen, and some will blow our spending out of the water, but in Arteta we have a coaching genius. With him, anything is possible, and I hope we can challenge for years to come.”

Payton: “If Arsenal came second to Manchester City with 90 points, it would be an outstanding achievement and should still be celebrated as Arsenal’s best season in 19 years. That’s the glass half-full position you could take. There will be an issue for them if they don’t make it and it is incredibly close. Regrouping and coming back stronger next year is what you would hope would happen, but clearly there could be an issue in that. It is the worry that could put more pressure on now, maybe more for the supporters than the players.”

Langton: “Let’s get to the end of this season first! But I am confident that the recruitment in the past couple of years and our young crop of players have set us up well for the future. It’s very easy to think that big-money signings are the answer. That’s not always the case. Having players who understand the club, its history and its values are far more important.”

Hilton: “Remember how difficult it was for Liverpool to beat City in all those years when it was just the two of them against each other? It is really hard with the richest club in the world as your main rival. The fact we are not in Europe either now and all the other teams have fallen by the wayside, it is a two-horse race and how many times is this going to happen, that we are this close with 10 games to go? It is really stressful because of how gigantic an achievement it will be. It will be a gigantic disappointment if we don’t actually pull through in the end. But I would never describe it as a failure. It’ll just be a massive disappointment because hopes are so high and the football we are playing is so good, it would be a crushing blow. It is already a massive success that we’ve got this far.”



Burley: Arsenal have themselves in charge for Europa League exit

Craig Burley reacts to Arsenal’s loss on penalties in the Europa League in opposition to Sporting.

Q. Finally, the final word query: will Arsenal win the Premier League this season?

Khan: “Horrible question. My heart says yes, of course. My head? I’m starting to believe.”

Payton: “I don’t want to jinx them. But I think I see such talent, such passion, such focus and I’m so impressed with how they dealt with it so far that I am optimistic Arsenal will be champions in May.”

Langton: “I’m too nervous to say it out loud. We are capable of winning it. I think that we deserve to win it. And I hope we do win it. But I will love this team whatever the final league table ends up looking like.”

Hilton: “My head says no, in the end it might be goal difference and we’ll look back on games where refereeing decisions with disallowed goals make Arsenal fans furious, fuelling conspiracy theories, which I don’t believe in at all. But my heart says we will. I feel ashamed not to be backing them no matter what. I am naturally pessimistic always and deep down I think we’ll be pipped at the post at the last minute.”


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