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Same old Arsenal? Why Wenger's Gunners are faltering again

Match of the Day

You can see highlights of Chelsea v Arsenal on Match of the Day at 22:30 GMT on Saturday on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

Even if Arsenal beat leaders Chelsea on Saturday, would you trust the Gunners to push on and seriously challenge them for the title? I think not.

It is possible Arsene Wenger's side will win at Stamford Bridge because, on their day, they can turn any team over.

But you need consistency to sustain a title bid and they do not have it. This is the same old Arsenal - a team who cannot see things through.

They can be brilliant but they are also soft - and that is the way they have been for several years now.

Right mental approach starts from the top

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Arsenal's home defeat by Watford on Tuesday was a disastrous result in a big week when they should have been stepping up their title challenge.

If they had beaten the Hornets, then the Gunners could have narrowed the gap on Chelsea to just three points by beating them on Saturday.

Now, whatever happens at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will still be at least six points clear at the top of the Premier League. It is not as if the pressure is on.

Top of the Premier League

I think Arsenal have to beat Chelsea to keep the title race alive for the rest of the league, but a Gunners win would not mean the end of the issues that we know Wenger's side still have.

Arsenal have made poor starts to games recently before recovering - against Preston in the FA Cup and Bournemouth in the league.

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They did not get away with it against Watford but the really worrying thing is the opposition that it is happening against.

Arsenal do not have a great record against the rest of the top six this season, though I can understand that because they have all taken points off each other.

Premier League top six head-to-head 2016-17
TeamPWDLFAPts
1. Liverpool734010713
2. Chelsea7313111010
3. Tottenham7232979
4. Man City62137107
5. Man Utd6132486
6. Arsenal5122985

It is one thing to be played off the park for spells by those teams, but Arsenal have better players than Preston, Bournemouth and Watford, so there is something else that is not right - and Wenger admitted that this week when he questioned his players' mental strength.

It must be frustrating for him but surely that starts at the top, with the captain of the ship?

It's Wenger who has put this squad together

Arsene Wenger celebrated his 20th anniversary as Arsenal manager in September 2016

It is not as if Wenger has been in the job for six months and is still assessing his squad like the the managers of some of his title rivals.

He has been there for more than 20 years and it is him who has put this squad together - a squad of players which, in his own words, are soft.

That is why people are questioning whether the Frenchman should still be in charge. For a long time now, year in and year out, they have come up short.

In past seasons, you could look at Arsenal's squad and say they were missing a certain type of player, or were short in certain areas of the team - but the transfer window did not close this week with their fans unhappy over their failure to buy anyone.

I would argue that while, say, Liverpool have a lack of depth to their squad, Arsenal have got decent options in every outfield position.

You could say they could improve on what they have got in certain places, but that it is the same for all of the teams at the top of the table - and they did not buy in January either, because the players they wanted were not available.

Why haven't they signed up Sanchez and Ozil?

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil

What many of the other top teams have been doing in the past few weeks and months is securing their star players to new, long-term contracts.

Arsenal have not done that and the situation with forward Alexis Sanchez and midfielder Mesut Ozil is worrying for them.

Both players' futures remain unclear and while some people might just think their contract talks must be complicated, the situation is actually pretty simple: if a player wants to commit to a club, they do it.

I cannot believe it is about money. Wenger would not be so stupid not to give two such key players what they want, within reason.

Unless their demands are absolutely astronomical then Arsenal have to make a statement of intent - the same way Spurs did with England duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli earlier in the season.

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It is a few years since many of Arsenal's best players were allowed to leave the club, but they have to tie down Sanchez and Ozil otherwise they have enormous problems.

Unless both players sign up, Arsenal will be perceived as lacking ambition as well as being serial underachievers in terms of mounting a title challenge.

What next in the title race?

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It is possible the outcome of Saturday's game could offer a new twist to the title race, but the reality is that it is going to be very hard for anyone to catch Chelsea now - even if Arsenal find a way to beat them.

Antonio Conte's side would have to suffer an extraordinary turnaround in form and results to lose it from here and that does not look like happening.

As Chelsea showed against Liverpool on Tuesday, they are dogged when they have to be and are always well structured and well organised.

Conte's teams do not have to play well to win because of how stingy they are at the back and, from the position they are in, I think they will win enough games to take the title.

Chris Sutton was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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