The defeat at Everton last Tuesday night was so similar to Sunday's defeat that it beggars belief. We scored first again and instead of pushing home our advantage we gradually invited them on to us until the inevitable goals came. All too late we then tried to salvage a draw from what had originally been a winning position and again came up short.
We have played all of the so called contenders so far and the only ones we have beaten are the runaway leaders Chelsea. We led against Liverpool, Spurs and City though and only took one point from the winning positions we had in those games. You just can't win the title by throwing away points against the other contenders and yet we continue to do so season after season.
I'm sick of hearing how lessons have been learned and how we will prove ourselves, only to be let down by the players just when it matters most time after time. To me it looks like we lack bottle and belief and there seems to be very little we can do about it. We're accused of being too nice, but I don't buy that. However it does look like it just doesn't mean as much to some of our players as it does to the opposition at times.
Both Everton and City upped the tempo after the break and they were the first to almost every loose ball time after time. I have no doubt we intended to hit them on the break and try to increase our lead in each game, but we didn't have the wherewithal to string two passes together for the most part. Two wins in those games would have had us breathing down Chelsea's necks, but now we're the ones looking over our shoulders as Spurs and United close in quickly behind us.
Only a week ago it looked like we could be the ones to challenge Chelsea, but now we're nine points behind them as the season nears its mid point. What those two results have done to our confidence is anyone's guess, but we will find out over the busy Christmas schedule.
We have three games coming up against West Brom, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth which we really have to win and they are followed by games against Burnley and Watford. On the face of it we can and should win all five games and if we haven't closed the gap on Chelsea by then I think we can safely say they are the real deal. We can't worry too much about the teams around us as we quite simply have to do everything possible to get back in the title race.
At the moment it doesn't look like we have a hope of clawing back a Chelsea team who know exactly how to see a game out and how to change things when they are losing. Their come from behind wins against Spurs and City were exactly the performance champions need to turn in and they have won every other one of their last 11 games without conceding a goal. In contrast Arsenal have gone 12 games in all competitions and eight in the league without keeping a clean sheet and we look almost incapable of doing so at the moment.
If you're not going to keep a clean sheet you need to score a minimum of two goals in every game to have a hope of winning, but we're just not creating enough chances. We suffered from the exact same problem right through November and it looks like the goals we got against Stoke and West Ham were the exception rather than the rule. If we're going to close in on Chelsea we simply have to offer an awful lot more going forward as well as tightening up at the back.
The real questions have to be answered by Arsene Wenger who again seems incapable of getting his players up for the game when it matters. He can blame two offside goals all he wants against City or a corner that shouldn't have been against Everton, but he can't hide from the inadequate performances of his team. It's his job to prepare them for the games and make sure they have the tools to cope within the game, but their failures reflect very badly on him.
Maybe it's time for a manager who can install more bottle and grit in the players and teach them how to see a game out. It's not an easy thing to do, but Chelsea's new manager has shown it can be done and he is showing every other manager up at the moment.
With the fixtures Arsenal have coming up between now and the end of January I could be writing about a team who have five league wins on the bounce and are closing in quickly on Chelsea at that point, but I have little or no confidence in the team doing it. If there's a difficult way to do something you can depend on Arsenal to find that way and we are the architects of our own downfall far too often. We need something to change fundamentally if we're going to progress and it's hard to see, other than a change at the top, what that can be.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.