Keep the Faith?

It's getting a bit difficult to do, that's for sure.

With a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday, Arsenal have most likely thrown away any chance at the Premier League title this season. The reasons for the defeat are many, but certainly not unfamiliar:

1. We started 6 midfielders and no strikers. Again.

Arshavin was up front by himself again yesterday, and though he was certainly up for the match (which makes me wonder what he's doing in matches that aren't considered "big") and for all the talent he possesses (loads), he simply is not cut out to play as a lone striker. Yes, I know people had said the same about Robin van Persie, but Robin isn't 5'4" and trying to outleap tree-topping defenders or futilely muscle out the same. We are short a striker (or several), as all of us have known for some time. That Arsene admitted to trying to sign a player, presumably a forward, in January but didn't... I don't know what that says exactly. Obviously he wanted to address a shortcoming in the squad, but what held him back? Surely, after learning in November that van Persie would be out for months, that Bendtner was out long-term and that Eduardo and Vela are both rather frail, surely Arsene could have had his vast scouting network bring up a suitable number of players to negotiate with? Likewise, with all the time he had, why could a deal not be reached? And why do we always have to take care of transfers at the deadline? Could we not spend some of that time negotiating a price and then pull the trigger, rather than playing financial chicken, waiting for the prospective sellers to blink first? This type of business is costing us year-in, year-out.

2. We have no answer for Didier Drogba.

Not as if that's something to be incredibly ashamed of. Drogba is one of the best in the business, a rampaging bull in the box who can victimize any defense given enough time on the ball or enough space in which to work. The man owned our defenders, particularly Gael Clichy. I love Gael, and on his day he's a damn good fullback. But he hasn't been on his day in two years, it seems. Yes, he's just come back from injury, but he wasn't so great before he was hurt either. He's having a very bad go of it out there, and the only reason he's still in the side is because Armand Traore was even worse.

3. Manuel Almunia is about as useful in goal as a quadruple amputee.

How the manager can still trot the man out there each week is beyond me. He's no longer just inconsistent, which is bad enough. He's now consistently poor. His displays instill no confidence in me as a fan, and I can imagine how our defenders must feel playing in front of him. Jens Lehmann permanently lost his place to Almunia two seasons ago after a pair of mistakes early in the 2007-2008 season. Bear in mind, Lehmann was Germany's top keeper and a member of the Invincibles in his first season with Arsenal. This season, Almunia has made so many howlers that I can't even count them all up (including a dreadful kick yesterday and simply covering his face when Drogba's free kick came in), yet he's guaranteed a place in the first team. What is it that's allowing this situation to continue? Can Fabianski, shaky enough himself at times, be worse? Or the hero of Craven Cottage, Vito Mannone? As a friend mentioned this weekend, good keepers aren't necessarily expensive. a couple of million, a pittance to a club like Arsenal, could buy you an experienced, talented goalkeeper and sort out the position for seasons to come. You're going to tell me Arsene couldn't find a single affordable goalkeeper in January to take that place? Even when we were winning matches, I was sure that Manuel would cost us if we stayed with him. We stayed and have been punished.

Three seems a nice round number to end on. Frankly, I'm not feeling too well anyway, and the subject matter isn't improving things for me either. Yes, we dominated possession and had a couple of chances yesterday, but we did little with all of that while Chelsea (Drogba) took full advantage and grabbed the points. These are the types of matches that champions win, when you're not on your best form, but you grind out a win anyway. We were found wanting, much as it pains me to say it. I can't rule out any chance of our title challenge, as mathematics won't allow it, but it's not very likely that we can leapfrog both Chelsea and United now.

Next up is Liverpool, who've been on a good run of form lately and are coming off a win in the Merseyside derby. If they've been paying attention at all, they'll know they can likely sit back and wait to hit us on the counter, as Man United and Chelsea have done, and this is one of their strengths. Can we manage to win this and right the ship somewhat? Wednesday will have the answer. One thing I know is that no matter how much possession you have, if you score fewer than the opposition, you lose.

Finally, I think we can all heed the wisdom of Martin Keown, an Invincible, an Arsenal legend, and the coach of our last solid defensive side.

Stay classy, and if you can try to keep the faith, I'll do the same.