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Arsenal: Mental strength questioned; Wenger blasts referees; Juventus want forward

After a great run of form in the league, Arsenal have recorded back-to-back defeats and have fallen off the pace in the title race. This was seen as a great opportunity for the Gunners, but they are at risk of throwing their chance away as Chelsea are now nine points clear of them in the table. They made a great start at the Etihad Stadium with a quick Theo Walcott goal. However, their performance in the second half was awful and they didn’t deserve anything from the game. Gary Neville suggested that it was due to their mentality as it has been in previous years.

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“I disagree with his point about mentality being strong, I don’t think it is.

“There was a huge physical drop for Arsenal in the second half, I’m not quite sure where that has come from.”

This is a concern for the Gunners as they approach the New Year as their rivals are all improving, while they appear to be getting worse. Tottenham and Manchester United won at the weekend, closing the gap on Arsenal, which means that the North London club could be going from title challengers to fighting for the top four yet again. That would be disappointing for supporters as they are growing tired of never progressing as a club. The next few matches are crucial to Arsenal and they may require another long unbeaten run to get back into the title race.

The frustration could be heard in Arsene Wenger’s post-match comments as it looks like his side are going to blow a title challenge once again. He has been a great manager for Arsenal and laid the foundations for a successful future. However, there are doubts about his ability to win major honours again and this past week will only have compounded those. He is facing a possible FA charge after criticising the way referees are protected.

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“Enough is enough for us. Both goals were offside, which is very difficult to accept in a game of that stature. The second he is five yards offside. But as it is well known the referees are protected very well, what is right, like the lions in the zoo, so we have to live with their decisions.”

This is out of character for Wenger and he could face punishment for his comments as the FA try to clamp down on criticism of referees. The Frenchman will regret those comments, but it comes as a result of being frustrated at his players. They twice lost matches from a leading position in the past week and that isn’t the mark of title contenders.

The Mirror report that Juventus are still hopeful of completing a deal to take Alexis Sanchez back to Serie A, which would be a huge coup for the Turin club. They have pieced together one of the best squads in Europe and Sanchez would add dynamism to their attack. Although the Italian club will struggle to meet the wage demands of the Chilean, they can offer the opportunity to win major honours and that is what Sanchez is looking for as he reaches the peak of his career.

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The past week will have done little to convince Sanchez to remain at the Emirates Stadium as they have once again lost significant ground in the title race. There appears to be limitations to how successful Arsenal can be in a competitive division like the Premier League and that is a concern for the better players at the club. The club need to be ambitious over the next 12 months and show the likes of Sanchez and Mesut Ozil that they are prepared to make the next step. If they don’t, they risk losing both of them.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Stuart MacFarlane

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