News surrounding Arsenal at present is gloomy: the majority of fans seem to want Arsene Wenger to go but he seems hellbent on staying put, Alexis Sanchez is set to engineer a move away and writers, pundits and former players are queuing up to lay into the team.
To be fair, with six defeats in nine games and form that has fallen off a cliff, they deserve it. Despite all the talk, nothing regarding Wenger – or, for that matter, Sanchez or Mesut Ozil – will be decided before the summer. The big question for the spring is how much Arsenal can salvage from this season.
If they were to finish in the top four and win the FA Cup, it would certainly not represent progress, but it would not represent decline either. Doing the same thing you have done multiple times does not show the fans you are heading in the right direction, but it would make Wenger’s position a lot stronger if he is, as expected, going to sign a new contract.
But given their abysmal form, how likely is it that Arsenal will achieve those goals?
Not very likely, according to the bookmakers. They are ranked as serious underdogs in both markets. If you think they can turn it around, you can make a hefty profit. Before you bet check the Premier League odds at William Hill and you will see that Arsenal have gone all the way out to 11/4 to finish in the top four. A few weeks ago they were odds-on. But defeats to West Brom and Liverpool have pushed the odds way out. They have now lost seven of their 27 games, way more defeats than any of the five teams above them, and the oddsmakers have reacted to that. Chelsea are guaranteed a place, so the first teams up are Tottenham and Man City, both 1/10, then Liverpool at 2/7, followed by Man Utd at 6/5 and Arsenal at 11/4.
The table does not actually look that bad. Arsenal are six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, but have two games in hand. They are two behind Utd, on the same number of games, but it is certainly possible for them to overhaul such a small gap. What is worrying is that Arsenal are in the worst form out of all the teams battling for those three remaining Champions League places. They have lost four of their last six games. Tottenham have won four of their last six. Even without the injured Harry Kane, it looks like they will finish above Arsenal for the first time since the mid-1990s. That would be more painful for the fans than not making the Champions League. Next up is Man City. If you put together a mini-league of the top seven clubs, Arsenal would be bottom, so that does not bode well. They were the better team in the reverse fixture, but still lost 2-1. If they crumble again, it could be all she wrote for their chances of finishing in the top four, which would leave them in a far worse position when it comes to recruiting players to overhaul an ailing squad in the summer as they will not have as much money or the lure of Champions League football.
William Hill is similar pessimistic about Arsenal winning the FA Cup. Of the four teams remaining, it has the longest odds on Arsenal. It is possible that they will beat Man City in the semi-final and then beat the winner of Chelsea or Tottenham, but highly unlikely. When they won the FA Cup in 2014 they beat Wigan in the semi-final and Hull in the final. When they won it in 2015 they beat Reading in the semis and then an already-relegated Aston Villa in the final.
This season the big clubs are taking it very seriously, and we all know how Arsenal have done against them this season. Could be time for Wenger to get his coat.