Arsenal are closer, points-wise, to the relegation zone than leaders Manchester United, although Arsene Wenger feels this season was a case of missed opportunity.
Where did it all go wrong for Arsenal this season? Some supporters thought in August that winning the title was an unrealistic aim, especially after Robin van Persie completed his move to Manchester United and the latter have been reaping the dividends when it comes to that particular piece of business.
RVP was so often a match-winner last term and was probably the single most important reason why Arsenal finished in the top four of the Premier League, with his absence keenly felt in the opening two games of the season where the Gunners stuttered to goalless draws against Sunderland and Stoke City.
Wins against Southampton and at Anfield gave hope that the Gunners could yet challenge for the Premier League title and a 1-1 draw at Manchester City was even more encouraging, although bad results so often followed good ones, such as the 2-1 reverse at home to Chelsea, the 1-0 defeat at Norwich and the 3-3 home draw with Fulham.
When you win the Premier League title, it often comes down to results against other top teams and Wenger’s team have fared badly in this regard, with the Frenchman bemoaning the fact that this could have been the year that they won the title again.
“I saw Tottenham v Manchester United and you think (about) the difference between us and Manchester United when you see them play…,” Wenger said.
“It was a fantastic opportunity (to win the league) this season. To catch Manchester United now is out of sight at the moment.
“We have to get closer to the people in front of us first before we can think that. Man United is far but there is no untouchable team in the country at the moment. That is for sure.
“It should not be difficult (to get in the top four) but it will be tough.”
Theo Walcott cited a lack of belief as a reason why the players lost recently at Stamford Bridge, with Arsenal only starting to play to their true potential when trailing 2-0.
“I agree with him,” Wenger said. “The players come out and think ‘we could have done better’.
“But when you look at the first half (against Chelsea on Sunday) we lost goals we shouldn’t lose, 50/50s you cannot lose in big games.
“You can say what you want but you have to go with a mentality in big games based on belief and total commitment.
“Last year we could win big games and on Sunday you come out of the game and think ‘what is happening?”‘
So, is it realistic for Wenger to think that Arsenal were not that far away from a title challenge this season? And how close will the Gunners be next season?