One North London side, looking to assert themselves in the Premier League, won 3-0 tonight, putting themselves in a good position to assault Leicester from a 5-point gap. That team, though, was Tottenham Hotspur, who climbed ahead of Arsenal by virtue of having a goal difference that is 10 better. Arsenal, on the other hand, were held 0-0 by Southampton; Fraser Forster made excellent saves from Mesut Özil, twice, and Theo Walcott, and James Ward-Prowse cleared an Alexis shot off the line. Arsenal, though, for all the chances created, never once looked like winning. It is now a month since Arsenal have won in the league. They've gained 3 points from 12, and have failed to score in the league for 305 minutes, just over 5 hours. What looked to be a title challenge is now petering out to the usual scramble for 3rd or 4th.
Anyone who thinks Arsenal's goal-scoring problems are not an issue at this point are deluding themselves. Arsenal have scored 37 in 24 games--an average of 1.5 per match. That puts the side on pace to finish the season with 58 goals--the second worst total of Wenger's reign. The worst was in 1998/99, with 57 goals. That team, though, only conceded 17.
Arsenal have scored fewer goals than Manchester City, Leicester City, Tottenham, Everton, and West Ham. It has been a problem all season; when Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sánchez got injured Arsenal were 4th, with 24 goals in 14 games. This is all with having the prime years of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez. This has not been a good side all season, and is only 5 points off the top because the rest of the league has been pretty poor. This is a side, after all, that contrived to lose to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos.
And it's a problem because the manager consistently makes odd decisions. He played Santi Cazorla in central midfield, far after the point it was a useful strategy. He continue to plays Mathieu Flamini, despite the return of Francis Coquelin, the signing of Mohamed Elneny, and the availability of Mikel Arteta and Calum Chambers. He played Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny at centre back, fresh after the two were horrible as a pair on Saturday. Gabriel made several errors tonight; his passing is atrocious, his decision making seems worse and worse every week.
There is no shame in losing to Manchester City. They are a better team, with more money. But in this season, with Manchester United and Chelsea having fallen away, to not finish in the top 2 would be pretty shameful. And with Arsenal on a downward slope, it seems more likely than not. If it does happen, the manager's position should be reconsidered. If it isn't to happen, Arsenal need to start winning, fast. They play Bournemouth this Sunday, Leicester the Sunday after. Both are absolutely must-win games. If not, the title challenge will be over, in February, again.