ONLY three points separate Arsenal and Tottenham in this topsy-turvy Premier League table but while the Gunners are sixth, Spurs languish in 12th – and that puts them in a very different bracket psychologically.
Arsene Wenger’s men had another off-day in losing at Swansea yesterday and, with Chelsea already 12 points away at the top of the table, I’d say they are one more slip-up away from forgetting any hope of the title.
Arsenal just haven’t looked convincing yet this term. You simply can’t consider yourself contenders if you blow a three-goal lead at home to Anderlecht, as they did in midweek. Consider the woeful start their next opponents Manchester United have made. Well, Louis van Gaal’s team are just one point behind the Gunners. That offers some perspective.
They’re suffering from a lack of cohesion, and it looks to me like players are making it up as they go along rather than knowing their jobs and sticking to them.
When you watch Chelsea you know you’re going to see a specialist in each position, and everyone knows what their brief is. Swansea are doing well because they clearly all know their jobs.
But Arsenal are suffering from not having basics to cling on to when they aren’t at their best. Clearer instructions would help, and Wenger needs to get a new-look team to gel urgently – before they get left behind any further.
The malaise runs even deeper at Tottenham, who seem to have inconsistency in their DNA. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has faced criticism over his sparing use of youngster Harry Kane, but he ought to be more concerned by the number of his players not performing.
It’s a similar problem at United and Liverpool, and has prompted some to wonder whether Pochettino and, at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers are quite as good as we thought.
Given that sort of company in mid-table, Spurs chiefs can’t afford to be too knee-jerk about Pochettino’s position, but the Argentinian will be feeling the pressure.
This almost unprecedented league table still hasn’t settled down, though it is looking increasingly unlikely that Southampton and West Ham will simply roll over when bigger clubs give chase. But while it’s so tight one win can make a huge difference to the look of the division, and, while his job is not in immediate danger, Pochettino must be desperate for three points and a little breathing space.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups. He now works as a media commentator.