When Arsenal entered Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon to take on Chelsea, they had genuine reason to believe that a Barclays Premier League title fight was in the offing. After being thrashed 6-0, there was no doubt that the Barclays Premier League title is an impossible task for Arsenal, and it now appears that a ninth consecutive season without a trophy is beckoning.
From the very beginning of the game, there was no doubt who the winners would be, as Samuel Eto’o curled in the first goal in the fifth minute, Andre Schurrle blasted one home in the seventh, and Eden Hazard slotted home a penalty in the 17th. By that point, Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs had been sent off, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had seemingly handed over possession in every possible way, and the Gunners generally looked helpless. By halftime, the score was 4-0; things only got worse from there, as Chelsea made sure Arsene Wenger didn’t enjoy his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal.
While losing to a city rival is always a bad thing, this game has far-reaching effects in that Arsenal now sit in fourth place, and are seven points behind Chelsea with only eight games to play. With Manchester City and Liverpool also looking near unbeatable and sitting ahead of Arsenal in the standings at this point, there is no doubting that the fight for the Gunners in the league is really over fourth place, with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur the only genuine challengers.
Undoubtedly, it would take a slight miracle for Arsenal to be upended by Tottenham, who the lead in the table by eight points, with both teams having eight games to play. But with three tough upcoming games against Swansea City, City and Everton, it would be no surprise to see this gap close to as little as two points in the next three weeks. From there, it would be a mad dash for fourth place over the final month of the season, and anything could truly happen.
While Arsenal has made a habit of slipping out of sticky situations like this for each of the past three seasons, one has to imagine that their luck will eventually run out. This is an incredibly scary proposition for the Gunners, who have already been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16, missed out on the Carling Cup, and really only have the F.A. Cup to look forward to.
So, after starting out the current campaign with so much promise, it is obvious that Arsenal are limping to the end of the season, and a ninth consecutive season without silverware is looking increasingly likely. To make things worse, the Gunners could be looking at the prospect of finishing out of the top four in the Barclays Premier League for the first time in 2000 — not exactly what Wenger wanted to look forward to when he entered Stamford Bridge.