Arsenal earned a hard-fought victory against arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening to progress to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
Arsenal fans are a lucky bunch, our footballing obsession is liberally sprinkled with triumphs and iconic victories. From the golden age of Herbert Chapman, the great ‘50s Arsenal teams, the cuptastic 1970s, the George Graham era and the stellar successes of Arsene Wenger’s double winners, unbeatables, and latterly, FA Cup kings.
It is a statement that rings true throughout sport. Winning a prestigious prize is one thing, defending it is quite another.
That is very much the case in football circles, with competition across the board ensuring that success can never be guaranteed.
In a global and continental sense, no nation has toasted successive World Cup triumphs since Brazil in 1958 and 1962, while the Champions League era in Europe is yet to deliver back-to-back winners.
Narrowing the focus to England, and some six years have passed since Manchester United made it three Premier League title victories in a row – with current holders Manchester City offering a meek defence of their crown in 2014/15.
Arsenal’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Ligue 1 side Monaco will be considered a huge disappointment, considering that the Gunners were expected to have more than enough to get the job done, but continuing the strong surge towards a top four finish is undoubtedly the best tonic. The 2-1 victory at Newcastle made is six straight victories, and nine wins from the last ten games – a superb run of form which has put Arsenal in a wonderful position to not only finish in the top four for the eighteenth consecutive year under Arsene Wenger, but also potentially climb above Manchester City and into second. The upcoming international break provides an opportunity for Wenger to thoroughly prepare for what could be a crucial clash against Liverpool at the Emirates, particularly with last season’s league runners-up in close contention to finish in the top four. Bookies are likely to reflect that Arsenal’s recent form makes them favourites to come out on top, but it is a game that the Gunners simply cannot afford to lose against a team who could close to within three points if they take all three points away from North London.
To say this season has been one of ups and downs for Arsenal would be an understatement. The latest exit from the Champions League was yet another example of how the Gunners have stalled at crucial points in the season. A poor performance at home against Monaco in the first leg gave the side too much to do in the Stade Louis II on Tuesday night and, ultimately, led to Arsenal again being ousted in the round of 16.