Arsenal is surely out of the title race, and Arsene Wenger's future is up in the air again, marking a familiar pattern for Gunners' fans.
We have been here before. Many times. Arsenal has now lost 11 of its last 12 fixtures at Chelsea, but that was not the only case of history repeating on Saturday.
Chelsea’s 3-1 win puts it 12 points clear of the Gunners and kills off what was left of Arsenal’s title challenge. Arsene Wenger’s side–with the manager still banned from the touchline–started well but had no response after Marcos Alonso had headed the host into the lead. The difference between the sides was summed up by Eden Hazard’s incredible solo goal that doubled the lead. Running from the halfway line, he shrugged off Laurent Koscielny, used his strength to see off Francis Coquelin, who bounced off him. He then twisted past Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi in the area and fired past Petr Cech. Jonathan Northcroft, writing in The Sunday Times, summed up Arsenal’s bedraggled defenders: “Mangled synapses and twisted blood.”
And so, the same conversations happen again, as they around this time every year. Where was Mesut Ozil in the big game? Does Alexis Sanchez really want to win more than his teammates, or does he just look like he does? Will Aaron Ramsey stay fit for a whole season? Should finishing in the top four be enough for a squad this talented? And of course, the killer question: should–and will–Wenger stay beyond this season?
The last one is perhaps the only one that matters now. Wenger confirmed after the game that he had been offered a two-year extension but said that he needs to feel more appreciation if he’s going to sign it. This is the dilemma at the club whose home defeat to Watford last week seemed to create a hangover effect at Stamford Bridge.
The biggest problem is that the future of Arsenal–whether it wins the league, progresses in Europe, or is just content to battle for the top four–is not up to the board. It’s up to Wenger himself. He has that much power that he decides whether he stays or goes; perhaps he wanted to go out on a high, having seen off the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho for one last time. That is unlikely; the next move is still his.
But this is Arsenal, and we have been here before. So you can probably guess what will happen next.