In a surprising turn of events, a TV pundit has told the media that Arsenal will struggle to win the title this season.
Jamie Redknapp is no stranger to criticising Arsenal, so when asked about his opinions on a title challenge from the Gunners, you can guess roughly what his response was.
However, he was actually strangely complimentary of Arsenal’s chances in the coming season, telling Sky Sports that “they should be title challengers” next season.
The main obstacles to this, according to Redknapp, are the distraction of the Europa League and the possibility of Alexis leaving the club. The former could certainly be an issue. Chelsea won the league last season without any European distraction, let alone the extra difficulties that Arsenal will have to navigate this season with Thursday nights and an extra knockout round.
“They should be title challengers,” Redknapp said. “Arsenal have got very good players and finished the season very well. The Europa League is obviously a distraction when the league is so wide open. In the last two seasons the title winners haven’t had any European football and that makes a big difference.
“I’m filming A League of Their Own at the moment and Cesc Fabregas was a guest. He said you cannot underestimate how much easier it is when you are not playing European football.
“The Europa League will make it difficult for Arsenal but they will still be strong this season. They’ve added Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, but can they now keep their best players?”
Leicester of course were in the same position as Chelsea when they won the league, able to focus solely on their one match per week after they even exited the cup competitions at an early stage, to combine with their lack of European competition.
The recent quotes from Arsène Wenger and Per Mertesacker suggest that Arsenal plan to stand firm against any desires from Alexis to leave the club. It’s about putting that plan into action now.
For now, as usual, Arsenal aren’t getting the backing of the experts. The Arsenal players will just have to try to prove them wrong.