Oscar

The Big Chinese Takeaway Should Be Taken Seriously

The latest English transfer window may have closed, but where one door, or window, closes another one opens, and the Chinese Super League is making one hell of an impact in Europe.

Eyebrows have been raised by the big-name additions of Ramires from Chelsea, Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk who was a target for Liverpool and Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez who all left for China for £25 million, £38 million and £31 million respectively.

Another Chelsea man, Oscar, was also subject of a whopping £75 million bid from Jiangsu Suning who are the team that lured Ramires and Teixeira to the Super League as well as Manchester City flop Jo for a more modest £8 million.

Fredy Guarin, who was touted for big things while at Porto but struggled to make much of an impact at Inter Milan, completed a switch to Shanghai for $11 million (around £7.5 million) and Shenhua can also boast Demba Ba and Tim Cahill as members of their squad.

Other big names include ex-Arsenal man Gervinho who is now at Hebei CFFC along with Stephane Mbia who will be remembered by fans of QPR, although probably not fondly, and former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho now plys his trade at Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande along with Martinez.

It is not just players that have made the move to Asia though. World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002 Luiz Felipe Scolari is the manager at Evergrande, journeyman Sven Goran Eriksson is the man at the helm of Shanghai, Chelsea legend Dan Petrescu is boss of the mega rich Jiangsu and one of the few Chinese players known to English fans, Li Tie, has been in charge of Hebei since August of last year. Guus Hiddink announced he had offers from China and even Jose Mourinho’s name has been banded about as a possible arrival.

Super signing: Ramires at Jiangsu

Super signing: Ramires at Jiangsu

So why is the Super League now…well, the super league?

Xi Jinping, President of China no less, happens to be a big football fan and is sick of watching his nation fall behind in the football world and has demanded the clubs spend big to attract the globe’s top talent.

The Guardian report the riches are coming from business men who are using the sport to improve their political relations and Jinping was in the UK as part of a state visit in October last year and paid a visit to Manchester City, despite being a fan of their rivals Manchester United.

Are the Chinese actually interested in the league though?

Damn right they are. From this season onwards clubs in the Super League are set to receive around $200 million (£134 million) a year as part of a five-season television deal package worth around $1.25 billion. In the 2015 season the clubs were awarded just $9 million which signals the rapid growth. To put that into some sort of context the Premier League’s three-year television deal is worth £5.14 billion which dwarfs the Super League in many respects, but the Premier League is 24 years old, the Super League has not even reached puberty yet, being just 12.

Why is the Super League different to MLS or Qatar?

Well, squad restriction is the best place to start..and China is more relaxed. American squad rules are complicated to say the least, but the headline is that MLS clubs are only allowed three “Designated” players which would be your high profile ones of Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry and the like. In China you are allowed five non-Chinese players but at least one still needs to be Asian – South Korean, for example. Three plus the non-Chinese Asian are allowed in a match day squad. The Qatari league allows four foreign players with at least one being Asian.

MLS players also have a wage cap whereas Super League teams can spend whatever the hell they want and it is not unfair to say that they have been.

The national team front would also be a major difference. The Chinese FA has launched a campaign to get the national side to where they believe it belongs and in January 2015 they reached the quarter-finals of the Asia Cup – their best performance in a decade. They won all their group games but lost to hosts and eventual winners Australia.

China is planning a bid to host the 2023 Asia Cup, and Xinping has ordered that football be more prevalent in schools…and when you are a country with a population of an estimated 1.357 billion surely some of them could and will be top footballers if brought up with the sport from a young age.

Qatar already have the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, for now at least, but their approach of moving young players from African countries to Qatar so that they can citizenship before 2022 is not exactly the traditional method of grassroots.

Soccer is growing in the U.S slowly but surely, although it is still seen as a women’s game in the States due to the apparent ‘no contact’ nature of the sport – and this is highlighted by 26.7 million Americans watching the Women’s World Cup Final (won by the USA), but only 17.3 million watched the men’s team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Is the Chinese model sustainable?

Looks like it. When you have got big business men along with the fifth richest man in the world involved, you always have a chance.

Do not be surprised if this time in the next few years, maybe even next year, you are sat in-front of your television set glued to Guangzhou Evergrande vs Jiangsu Suning and watching the players your club were after in the summer.

 

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Mesut Ozil has quietly proved he is the best number ten in the Premier League

Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal arrival in the summer of 2013 created shock waves for fans in north London who felt the £42.5 million acquisition from Real Madrid was a sign of Arsene Wenger finally being a little less tight with the club’s money.

Since then Ozil has been something of a Marmite footballer with some thinking he has been the best thing since slice bread, and the rest being of the opinion that his Premier League future could be toast in the not too distant future.

One major criticism of him is the claim that he goes ‘missing’ in big matches, despite the fact that two of his four league goals last season came in the north London derby with Tottenham and in the home clash against Liverpool as well as two of his seven assists in all club competitions during the 2014-15 campaign coming in the FA Cup Semi-Final win over Reading.

Ozil of course was also superb in Sunday’s 3-0 win over rivals Manchester United, creating one goal and scoring another as the Gunners romped to victory at the Emirates stadium.

David Silva of Manchester City is considered the best number ten by the majority of fans and pundits, and with good reason too as he topped most of the important stats for the required position last season against fellow number tens.

The Spaniard registered seven assists, more than Ozil (five), Phillippe Coutinho (also five) and Juan Mata (four). Oscar contributed more however with eight as Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time in five years.

Silva did create more chances, scored more goals and made more key passes than all of the above though. Ozil created 23 less chances (70) than Silva (93), scored four goals compared to Silva’s 12 and made 21 less key passes (65 to Silva’s 86).

However, Ozil played just 22/38 games whereas Silva featured in ten more and therefore was on a football pitch 781 minutes more than his German compatriot.

Stat off: Ozil vs Silva

Stat off: Ozil vs Silva

If you do the maths, on average, if Ozil played those 781 minutes, his numbers would be higher than Silva’s.

He would have seven assists, level with Silva, 92 key passes, higher than Silva’s 86 and he would have created 99 chances, six more than the ex-Valencia man.

Silva would still top Ozil in the goals stakes. Arsenal’s number 11 would only score one more goal.

It is a similar story if you take his totals from the early stage of the 2015-16 season.

Out of Ozil, Silva, Mata, Coutinho and Oscar, Mata has featured the most with eight matches, having played for 664 minutes.

Mata’s stats for assists, key passes, chances created and goals are three, 13, 16 and three respectively, and he is only the best amongst his fellow centre attacking midfielders at scoring goals – and that is without the average score coming into effect.

City’s Silva is the most efficient assister with six. Ozil has four, Coutinho has two and Oscar does not have any.

Ozil is numero uno (or nummer Eins) in terms of key passes (27) and chances created (31), compared to Silva (ten and 16), Mata (13 and 16), Coutinho (five and seven) and Oscar (three and three).

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Once you calculate all five players to have played as much as Mata, the results are as follows:

Assist king is still Silva with ten, next is Ozil with five, Mata and Coutinho are level on three and Oscar is still stuck on zero (although, in fairness, he probably would have registered at least one if he played another six times).

Again, Ozil is the most creative in terms of key passes and chances created with Silva, Mata, Oscar and Coutinho behind him in that order for both stats.

Mata remains the top scorer too, closely followed by Oscar, Silva, Coutinho and finally Ozil.

Number tens are often judged on their assist totals, and that makes sense, but Ozil is let down in this tally, not for his lack of creating ability (as his key passes and chances created amount prove), but because of the strikers who are supposed to finish off his good work.

At Real Madrid Ozil played behind one of the best forwards and players in the world right now, and that the sport has ever seen, in Cristiano Ronaldo and, failing that, Karim Benzema, a very good striker in most people’s eyes.

During this time in the Spanish capital Ozil racked up 47 assists in three and a bit seasons, whereas his numbers have gone down since he has started playing with a good, but wasteful, pair of attackers in Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott. If those two could finish as well as Ronaldo, then Ozil would get a lot more assists.

This works in a similar vein to Silva who is fortunate enough to be in the same side as one of, probably the best, centre forward in the Premier League – Sergio Aguero.

If Aguero was up front for Arsenal, Ozil would have a better option in front of him to score the chances he creates, therefore increasing the amount of assists he gets. The point is made often that for this reason Ronaldo makes Ozil look better than he is, potentially valid point, but on the flip-side, surely that means Giroud and/or Walcott could or do make him look worse than many seem to think he is?

Not that it was needed, but that must give Arsenal fans even more reason to want Wenger to splash out on a world class centre forward, to not just get more goals for the FA Cup holders, but to get Ozil the credit he deserves as truly the Premier League’s best number 10 right now.

Chelsea 6-0 Maribor (Remy ’13, Drogba pen ’23, Terry ’31, Viler OG ’54, Hazard pen ’77, ’90)

Chelsea strolled to an emphatic 6-0 win over Slovenian champions Maribor to remain top of group G after three matches.

Goals from Loic Remy, John Terry, an own goal by Mitja Vila and two penalties from Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard secured the three points for the Blues at Stamford Bridge in what was a comfortable night for the Premier League leaders.

Remy opened the scoring 13 minutes in when he cut inside a Maribor defender and buried a shot into the bottom right corner past Jasmin Handanovic.

The France International had to be replaced soon after though due to an injury he suffered during the celebration of his second goal for Chelsea.

His replacement Drogba made it 2-0 to the hosts after 23 minutes with a penalty following Ales Mertelj’s handball.

It was three nine minutes later when captain Terry slid in to convert Cesc Fabregas’ low cross across the face of goal.

Number four came on 54 minutes through a Vila own goal, diverting the ball into his own net from Eden Hazard’s cutback.

The fifth was a second penalty coming 13 minutes before the end, Hazard calmly sending Handanovic the wrong way but sending his team very much the right way.

Maribor did have the opportunity for a consolation with a penalty of their own midway through the second half when Agin Ibraimi was brought down by Nemanja Matic in the box but the Maribor midfielder who took the spot kick himself was denied by the post.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Luis, Fabregas (Ake ’60), Matic, Oscar (Solanke ’73), Hazard, Willian, Remy (Drogba ’16)

Subs not used: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Salah

Maribor: Handanovic, Suler, Filipovic, Mejac, Tavares (Mendy ’72), Ibraimi (Zahovic ’68), Rajcevic, Viler (Vrsic ’57), Stojanovic, Bohar, Mertelj

Subs not used: Cotman, Ndiaye, Sallalich, Arghus

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

Chelsea ended a high tempered London derby triumphant over Arsenal, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Costa sealed the three points 12 minutes before the end when he lobbed Wojciech Szczesny after being set up by a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass that beat the Arsenal defence all ends up.

Hazard opened the scoring for the West Londoners when his run where he dribbled past three despairing defenders culminated in Laurent Koscielny bringing down the Belgian in the box and the defender maybe should have been shown his marching orders.

23-year-old Hazard stepped up himself and slotted it past Szczesny with 27 minutes played.

Events off the pitch were the main talking points of the first half however with managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger engaging in a touchline spat as a result of a crunching Gary Cahill challenge on Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger was of the opinion Cahill should have seen red for his foul and, after some wind up tactics from his adversary Mourinho, pushed the Portuguese coach in the chest.

Calum Chambers was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch as well, not picking up a second yellow card for pulling down Andre Schurrle.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Arsenal also had reason to feel adjudged by referee Martin Atkinson when Jack Wilshere’s shot was blocked by the hand of ex Gunner Fabregas.

Chelsea were worthy winners but an early injury to Thibaut Courtois provided a minor bleak point to their victory. He was replaced by Petr Cech 24 minutes in.

Chelsea: Courtois (Cech ’24) Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Schurrle (Mikel ’69), Oscar (Willian ’87), Hazard, Diego Costa

Subs not used: Zouma, Filipe Luis, Salah, Remy

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere (Rosicky ’83), Flamini, Cazorla (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69), Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Subs not used: Martinez, Monreal, Coquelin, Campbell, Podolski

Burnley 1-3 Chelsea

A ruthless Chelsea tore apart Burnley at Turf Moor after Scott Arfield gave Jose Mourinho’s side an early scare.

Debutant Diego Costa, World Cup winner Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic were on the score sheet for the West Londoners.

Cesc Fabregas put in a man of the match performance on his return to the Premier League, contributing two assists for his new club.

It was Burnley who took the lead though when Scott Arfield scored an exquisite volley, chesting down Matthew Taylor’s cross, letting the ball bounce and firing past Thibaut Courtois after 13 minutes.

Chelsea responded in the perfect fashion, equalizing four minutes later when Costa seized on a deflected low Ivanovic cross and smashed home first time with his weaker left foot for 1-1.

Dream debut for Diego: Costa levels in Burnley

Dream debut for Diego: Costa levels in Burnley

Schurrle completed the quick-fire comeback three minutes after when he tucked in from a tight angle after a 20 pass plus move.

The par excellence was Fabregas’ majestic pass from Ivanovic’s cross. A disguised shot that turned into a delicate assist on the volley – a real tour de force.

Ivanovic effectedly sealed the game when he broke free of his marker to turn in Fabregas’ corner ten minutes before the break.

There was one minor sour note to Chelsea’s first half of the season however, Costa recieved a booking for simulation when he went down in the box, tripping over Tom Heaton’s hand as he tried to round the former Cardiff ‘keeper.

Newly promoted side Burnley struggled to break Chelsea down in the second half, Arfield producing their best opportunity, a curler, that would have reduced the deficit if it wasn’t for a world class save by Courtois, tipping it out for a corner at full strength.

Jose Mourinho’s dominant side opted not to create any opportunities either and were content the 1-3 scoreline.

Travelling Chelsea supporters were treated to a late cameo from returning hero Didier Drogba when he replaced Eden Hazard six minutes from time.

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Taylor (Kightly ’70), Ings (Sordell ’82), Jutkiewicz (Barnes ’70)

Subs not used: Gilks, Dummigan, Long, Wallace

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Schurrle (Willian ’78), Oscar (Mikel ’82), Hazard (Drogba ’84) Costa

Subs not used: Cech, Zouma, Filipe Luis, Torres

Man of the match: Cesc Fabregas

Brazil 0-3 The Netherlands: Dutch delight while hosts limp to fourth placed finish

The Netherlands finished the 2014 World Cup as the third best team thanks to a 0-3 win over hosts Brazil with goals from Robin Van Persie, Daley Blind and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Van Persie’s second minute penalty gave the Netherlands the lead in the traditional tournament match that many consider a dead rubber as Brazil’s hangover from their Semi Final thrashing continued to linger.

Arjen Robben was fouled by Thiago Silva in an incident that appeared to occur outside the box but one thing that was certain was that the Brazil Captain should have seen red for the second time this summer as he was the last man.

He was only shown a yellow card however and Van Persie dispatched the resulting spot-kick past a despondent Julio Cesar.

Silva’s new Paris Saint-Germain teammate David Luiz’s poor from continued when he headed Jonathan De Guzman’s cross into the path of Blind who calmly slotted home a second for the Dutch on 17 minutes.

2002 Champions Brazil conceded their tenth goal in two games when Daryl Janmaat’s low cross was diverted past Cesar’s near post by Wijnaldum.

Ramires came closest for Brazil when he shot wide just before the hour mark after leaving Ron Vlaar in his wake.

Oscar thought he had won a penalty for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s dejected squad but was booked for simulation. The Chelsea man knocked the ball past Blind and the two clashed knees but the referee Djamel Haimoudi of Algeria indicated there was no wrongdoing.

Blind himself was carried off injured following the clash.

Like most other matches involving Holland this World Cup, Robben believed he was due a penalty, this time after being tugged by Fernandinho but the referee said no again.

Louis Van Gaal diminished the importance of the third place playoff game before kick-off but will have little qualms with his side finishing in the football equivalent of a bronze medal place as he embarks on his forthcoming Manchester United career.

Brazil 1-7 Germany: Hosts humiliated as Germany in seventh heaven

Miroslav Klose became the all time top goalscorer in World Cup history as Germany are the first team to secure their spot in the 2014 Final with a thumping 1-7 win over hosts Brazil.

Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira also netted while Toni Kroos and substitute Andre Schurrle both scored a brace in one of the worst nights in Brazil’s fabled history.

Muller opened the scoring when he hit a side footed volley past Julio Cesar from Bastian Schweinsteiger’s corner just eleven minutes in.

Golden Boot candidate Muller, 24, was unmarked in the box and it was a sign of things to come as Brazil’s defense was lackadaisical throughout.

Thiago Silva missed the game through suspension and Germany were quick to test out the new partnership of Dante and stand-in skipper David Luiz and exposed it to maximum effect.

Klose netted his record breaking goal with 23 minutes played after a neat passing move from the Germans. Kross picked out Muller who laid it back to Klose, his initial shot was saved but the Lazio striker had no problem converting the rebound for 0-2.

Marcelo and Fernandinho the men to blame for the goal, Mesut Ozil and Phillip Lahm had little trouble on the left to work it to Kroos while Fernandinho missed the vital interception that gave the Bayern play-maker the space to orchestrate the play.

Not even Klose: Miroslav Klose scores Germany second to become the finest marksmen in World Cup history.

Not even Klose: Miroslav Klose scores Germany’s second to become the finest marksmen in World Cup history as Brazil are thrashed.

Full back Marcelo was suspect again for the third that arrived just seconds after too. Ozil and Lahm again enjoying the space on the left, Lahm found Kroos with a pinpoint cross that was smashed home first time. Cesar got a hand to it but to no avail.

Germany ran rampant in Belo Horizonte and added a fourth only a minute later – the most embarrassing of the lot. Stupid, careless passing finished with Fernandinho losing the ball cheaply to Kroos who played in Khedira who unselfishly squared it back to Kroos for a simple tap in.

The wait for the fifth wasn’t too long either, three minutes after number four went in, Germany added to their rout with a carbon copy of the previous strike. Former Real Madrid teammates Khedira and Ozil with a one-two that the current Galactico slotted in.

179 seconds separated Germany’s second goal from their fifth.

Joachim Loew’s side didn’t let up in the second half either, Schurrle converted Lahm’s low cross for six. Again Marcelo outdone on the left, again Luiz failing to organise his back four like the absent Silva does so well.

A bad night for Luiz continued to get worse when his former Chelsea colleague Schurrle added his second and Germany’s seventh.

The £50 million PSG man rampaged forward as he so often did throughout the course of the game and ended up being caught out again this time by long, direct Jerome Boateng throw in that Muller flicked on to the path of Schurrle who beat Cesar at his near post with a half volley that went in off the underside of the bar.

Oscar did hit back with a the most worthless consolation goal. Brazil broke following a poor miss from Ozil, Oscar escaped through the middle, sidestepped the last defender and buried the shot.

It was Brazil’s joint worst ever defeat and the biggest margin of victory ever in a World Cup Semi Final.

Brazil fans expected their players to return as heroes but instead they go back humbled as Deutschland are in dreamland.

Cameroon 1-4 Brazil: Brilliant Brazil bound for second round

Neymar

Hosts Brazil cemented their spot as group winners with a comfortable 1-4 win over pointless Cameroon. A brace from Neymar along with one each from Fred and Fernandinho set up a round 2 meeting with Chile.

Neymar gave Brazil the lead in Brasilia when he side footed Luiz Gustavo’s cross first time past Charles Intandje who had no chance

The face of the tournament doubled his tally with 35 minutes played when he dribbled past some Cameroon defenders and finished past Intandje with style again, sending him the wrong way with an accurate finish.

Fred sealed the win with a close range header from David Luiz’s cross five minutes into the second half to kill off Cameroon’s hopes of a shock.

Cameroon had infact leveled the scores nine minutes after going behind with Joel Matip tapping home his first goal for the Indomitable Lions, turning home Allan Nyom’s squared pass.

Neymar had chances to get a third for Brazil, no closer when his volley was palmed out and away by former Liverpool Goalkeeper Intandje with 20 minutes played.

He never did get his illusive hat-trick though and was replaced by Willian in the closing stages as a precaution for the latter stages of the competition.

A neat passing move provided the fourth and final goal for Brazil.  After they capitalized on a poor free-kick from Cameroon, Oscar fed Fernandinho who gave it to Fred, to Oscar, and then back to Fernandinho around the edge of the box and the Manchester City play-maker tucked it in first time for 1-4.

Elsewhere in Group A, Mexico defeated Croatia 1-3 with goals from Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez which sets up a last 16 tie with Group B winners The Netherlands.

Why Arsenal need to change their philosophy to progress

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Arsenal are well known for their patient passing play but eight, possibly nine barren seasons without a trophy needs changing. Fast. It could all improve if they ditch their modern tactics.

Following Wednesday’s 0-2 defeat to reigning European Champions Bayern Munich, the Gunners look all but out of this season’s competition which would see them fail to get past the last 16 for the fourth successive time. They haven’t got past the quarters in five years.

What was highlighted most on Wednesday was how Arsenal were completely played off the park at their own game, at home, with Bayern having an astonishing 79% possession statistic. This wasn’t helped of course by Wojciech Szczesny’s dismissal on 37 minutes which forced Arsene Wenger to replace Spanish play-maker Santi Cazorla but Arsenal looked second best even before that.

England’s best “Spanish Footballer” comes in the shape of Jack Wilshere but he was non-existent for the full 90 minutes while Mesut Ozil was his usual “passenger” self, looking uninterested for the whole game, even his crucial penalty was incredibly lazy. He missed.

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Ozil’s dip in form should have him looking over his shoulder.

This is not the first time Arsenal have been beaten by their own game, Barcelona did the same to them in 2011.

One of the most worrying aspects of the modern Arsenal is Wenger’s decreasing tactical knowledge. Following Szczesny’s sending off, the Frenchman brought off Cazorla while the consistently average Ozil was kept on. Even worse, when 0-1 down with 15 minutes to play, Arsenal’s main, possibly only, attacking threat Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hauled off for the defensive minded Tomas Rosicky.

Holding onto a narrow loss at home is embarrassing enough, even when a man down. What’s more embarrassing however is when it doesn’t work, Thomas Muller made it 0-2 with two minutes remaining.

Should Wenger have kept “The Ox” and Cazorla on, Arsenal would have possibly created more chances with Cazorla’s passing followed by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful jinking runs, but there was none of that, Arsenal stepped off Bayern and allowed them to pass them to death.

The argument that this would have left Arsenal more open defensively is a valid one, however Chelsea proved in 2012 that it can be done when they earned their hugely impressive 2-2 draw over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and that was with ten men following John Terry’s clumsy challenge.

Wenger’s tactical failings also apply to his forward line. Promising striker Yaya Sanogo looked isolated for large periods of the Munich match however he won most, if not every header. This suggests that the France Under 21 International would benefit from a striking partner, something Arsenal don’t use. Sanogo could use his strength and heading ability to knock balls down to his partner, possibly Olivier Giroud or a new acquisition, and even grab the odd goal himself as he does get in the right areas but lacks the decisive finishing touch at this stage.

Where Chelsea’s formation, which is exactly the same as Arsenal’s, succeeds is that they have better goal scoring midfielders in the shape of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, formerly Juan Mata and occasionally Ramires. These get on the score sheet enough times that the limited scoring ability of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba isn’t too much of a problem. Whereas Cazorla, Ozil, and Oxlade-Chamberlain have 10 league goals between them, Hazard boasts 12 on his own.

This season has been a lot better for Arsenal, the double is still realistically on the cards in theory. Where they struggle however is overcoming the big teams. Their league results against last season’s top four are a 6-3 away loss to Manchester City, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea, and an away loss and home draw against a below par Manchester United team. Not forgetting a 5-1 thumping away to Liverpool.

The Gunners have a tough end to March with Tottenham away followed by a trip to Chelsea before finishing at Manchester City at home. February’s fixture list has been cruel to Arsenal with that Liverpool loss and the home draw against Manchester United joining an FA Cup and Champions League tie. If they end March where they are now they will still be in the title race but given this season’s record against the top sides it looks doubtful.

The FA Cup is realistic after they eliminated Liverpool to reach the quarters but they meet Everton which is not an easy prospect. Arsenal will be boosted by Chelsea and Man United’s elimination but Man City are clear favourites to lift the trophy and carry on Arsenal’s long wait for silverware where it all looked so promising just few months ago.