Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen believes that Arsenal’s run of form in the past nine games proves they have what it takes to challenge for the title next season – is he right?
The Gunners moved back into third place after their 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Sunday and they are now two points clear of rivals Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, having played a game less.
A late Mikel Arteta strike made it eight wins in those nine games for Arsene Wenger’s side, but the loss to QPR last week must serve as a warning to those who believe Vermaelen’s words to be true.
To be fair to the Belgian, he was not making a clear statement of belief that the Emirates Stadium will be challenging for the Premier League title, but he pointed to the periods of quality in an up and down season.
However, Arsenal’s quality has never been questioned and it is something they have rarely been without in the past seven years and they have threatened to achieve something great in a number of these seasons, only to fail so consistently at the business end of the season it is something of an expectation for many Gunners fans.
The damage inflicted last summer took its toll on the early days of this season and Wenger has had to perform an on the hoof rehabilitation on the Emirates Stadium side, so much so that they are finishing a season in as positive a mood as they have for some time.
They are now looking the most likely out of the top two to qualify for next season’s Champions League after questioning whether this would be possible at all on a number of occasions, which is an admirable turnaround in fortunes and makes Vermaelen’s views understandable.
The former Ajax man spoke of consistency being the key and Sunday’s defeated opponents at Emirates Stadium can attest to this.
Roberto Mancini’s side prove that you can have all the quality in the world but it means nothing if those quality players cannot perform under the immense pressure of a title race.
Mentality is almost everything at this stage in the season and City have shown they do not have the correct one when the going gets tough, something that Ferguson has perfected across Manchester.
It is in the head where Arsenal have failed most in season’s past and drastic changes will need to be made if history is not to repeat itself.
The loss at QPR was a perfect example of the short-comings in Wenger’s squad, where a spirited and organised side put out by Mark Hughes was able to ruffle and overpower a subdues Gunners side.
There was talk of complacency in post-match comments and this is something rarely heard when assessments are being made of a United performance, especially so at this stage of the season.
Many Arsenal fans will point towards injury woes as a significant factor in their early-to-mid-season struggles and while they have something of an argument, the overall quality of the squad was brought into question when injuries and bad form struck.
If Vermaelen is to have the consistency he craves for a title tilt, Wenger will need to rid himself of those who do not have the talent or mentality for the pressure of winning trophies.
Robin van Persie has been relied on too greatly until the past couple of weeks and someone to support him is essential transfer business that must be conducted by the north London side.
The loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri served only to highlight the lack of sufficient quality in the squad and even though many of the new signings have settled in eventually, it would take someone exceptionally partisan to believe that is a squad to win the 2012/13 Premier League.
Perhaps the hardship of earlier in the season has helped something click in the Gunners mentality, allowing them to avoid the previously habitual late-season deflation.
Perhaps the blow of losing two of the best player Wenger has tutored into becoming very good players has made something change in his policy of complete trust in his promoted youth stars.
There are still many questions hanging over the Gunners and they will not be answered satisfactorily during the remainder of the current season, but it may provide a beginning to finding those crucial, illusive answers.