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  • Chelsea Show 2017

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can still challenge for the title. But is his optimism really that well founded?

 

Arsene Wenger has probably seen his Arsenal team as title contenders from the moment he took charge of the north London club all those years ago, and he would've been right back then- in fact he didn't see his side fail to finish outside the top three for his first decade in charge. 

But rarely in his 16 year tenure has his side looked less like top spot contenders after a more than shaky start to the season, and a lack of consistency, especially in their defensive efforts, mean that this side are fast becoming also-rans in the title race. 

However, after he saw his side squander a 2 goal lead against Fulham at the weekend, and eventually draw the match 3-3, Wenger was asked if his side could still challenge for the title, now being 8th in the table, and 11 points behind leaders Manchester United.

"Of course, yes why not?" was Wenger's defiant response.

Many pundits and indeed Arsenal fans may see this response as very unrealistic, given the sides stuttering league form and unconvincing cup performances, first going 4-0 down to Reading in the League Cup before eventually winning in extra time, and failing to beat Schalke after being 2-0 up in the Champions League. 

Much has been made this year of the fact that it is now 8 years without a trophy for the Gunners, and Wenger's recent claims that qualifying for the Champions League every season is as important as a trophy have done little to sway his critics, who believe his actions in the transfer market over the last couple of seasons in particular have left his side as a 'feeder club' for Europe's big sides. 

Last season Arsenal made their worst start to a season for over half a century, but finished third in the league, thanks largely to the goal scoring efforts of Robin Van Persie, who was subsequently sold to Manchester United, much like Samir Nasri was sold to the blue side of Manchester the season before.

And though one of Van Persie's relacements Olivier Giroud scored twice against Fulham, it is the lack of comparable replacements for the likes of Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri in recent years that has seen his side falter, and a growing number of fans voice their anger on the terraces. 

So, what next for Wenger and Arsenal? Some have suggested that he should consider taking a role in the boardroom, and let a new manager come in to freshen things up, but Roy Hodsgon's tenure at Liverpool with Kenny Dalgleish in the wings is a prime example of why that wouldn't work.

If you feed into his optimism you could argue that they are still on course in the League Cup, and though it has been tougher than many would have liked, they should still qualify to the knockout stages of the Champions League. 

On the other hand, for a man who made Arsenal 'The Invincibles' in 2004, one win in their last four league games suggests that Arsene Wenger's optimistic view may be bordering on naivety, something rarely associated with one of the most level headed managers in football.

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