Arsenal aren't feared anymore - but does that mean we should we accept mid table mediocrity?

As the crunch clash against Benfica looms large Ian Mills reflects on where Arsenal are as a club right now

Arsenal aren't feared anymore - but does that mean we should we accept mid table mediocrity?

Arsenal are mired in mid table

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Is mid table where we are at these days?

At the start of the season I thought that given our squad strengthening we would finish fifth.

Fellow Gooners might have had us down for a top four finish, while less optimistic ones might have suggested a place in the Europa League would be the height of our ambitions.

Very few however would have predicted we would be firmly ensconced in mid table with only 13 games left to play.

Was I looking through rose tinted spectacles in the summer, should we start to get used to being just in the top half of the table?

In my Arsenal supporting life (from the late 1970's) the club have only finished outside of the top half once (in 1994/95) and only seven times outside the top six.

However, we have been in decline for several seasons starting with our first finish outside of the top four under Arsene Wenger in 2017.

That 5th place finish (by a solitary point) has been followed by 6th, 5th and last season 8th. 

Opponents are no longer in fear of playing The Arsenal, home or away and we clearly have no divine right to finish in the top 4.

We have to earn that right again. 

We are undoubtably a team in transition and one look at Mikel Arteta's league record to date shows that we should not expect to be much higher up the table than our current 10th place.

Under him we have played 45 Premier League games winning 19, drawing 10 and losing 16.

We have lost five home games before the end of February and failed to score in 10 Premier League matches. 

We have become accustomed to the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea finishing above us along with (whisper it quietly) the extremely painful sight of our North London inferiors.

However the sight of the likes of Everton, West Ham, Leicester and Aston Villa disappearing over the horizon is really quite extraordinary. 

Without doubt this is probably the strangest football season we have ever experienced, played out against a backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, and with the number of away wins outnumbering those at home for the first time since English league football began. 

What we need is to go on a really consistent run.

We did recently manage seven league games unbeaten which included five wins before we imploded at Wolves and followed that up with a poor performance at Villa Park.

Had we won both those matches we would have been in the top five.

Indeed, every time we have had the chance to make significant progress in our league position we have suffered a setback.

This has left no margin for error to even qualify for the Europa League, the Champions League hopes went up in smoke a while back.

Ahead are a daunting set of league fixtures as well as the second leg of the Benfica knockout tie.

Despite the difficulty of the challenges ahead we need to redouble our efforts to claim as many points as possible as well as progressing in Europe. 

Arteta is clearly still moulding the squad and first eleven to his exact requirements and a crucial summer transfer window lies ahead, particularly after a positive January window which saw us shift on much of the deadwood. We also have to remember that the Spainard is learning on the job. 

In other words patience is required, yet that is rare commodity in the average football fan and is also in short supply when it comes to professional footballers who are hungry for success.

I am extremely thankful that we are not Chelsea, as with Arteta's record I am certain that he would already have been shown the door by now.

That said Arteta needs to salvage something from a season that is in danger of petering out, particularly if we slip out of Eurooe.

As hard as it some times feels to admit it the days of The Invincibles are a long time ago.

17 years on from our last league title and we look light years from being genuine challengers again.

I cherish every trophy Arsenal win, a league title even more so as it means you are the best team in the land.

You can ride your luck to win a cup, that doesn't apply to the league where you need consistency as well as brilliance and we lack both right now.

For the short to medium term we need to accept we are not a top four club, we are in the pack of teams chasing a Europa League place with a rookie manager at the helm.

It's perhaps a painful truth yet one we have to accept and hope we can improve on in the not too distant future.


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