Do Arsenal players really believe they can win the title?

By Avenell Dave

I said at the start of the season that this would be our best chance of winning the title for some time.

United, City and Chelsea all have new managers and we had to take advantage of that.

Of course, the lack of initial signings and the first game of the season dampened that positivity and as Arsenal fans, not believing in ourselves seems to be a real malaise.

I was speaking to a United fan last week and then again on Saturday and Sunday.

He has been saying for a long time that Fergie left David Moyes with a weak squad in need of a massive overhaul and that if anything, United could find themselves in a relegation dogfight if they lose van Persie and Rooney for any length of time.

Ridiculous talk, of course, but equally, he goads me by saying that it would be up there with Devon Loch if from this position we fail to win the title.

I play down our title hopes, mindful that here is only so much we can expect of what is still an under-staffed squad and wounded by what has gone on before.

Sky Sports spoke this morning about how ten teams in recent years who were top after 15 games have gone on to win the title, but one of the chokers was Arsenal in 2008.

Walking out of the stadium on Sunday and all I could hear were people, many of them older fans, speaking about how top four will be as much as we can expect come the end of the season.

Even though I'd said much the same to my United pal, it got me frustrated how little faith so many of us seem to have in Arsenal at present.

Yes, we could do with another defender and another striker to give us some options.

Yes, we have gone a few years without a trophy and fallen at the last hurdle a few times when we should have lifted a trophy.

City and Chelsea have stronger squads and their somewhat lukewarm form may improve after Christmas.

But we are top by five points having played a very very good Everton side who, as the stats showed, had the lions share of possession and actually look good for a top four place themselves this season.

Of course, you could nitpick and say that we have to start beating sides in form and at the top of the table if we are to win the title but our form this season is no fluke, if you couple it with the fine form we had in the second half of last season as well.

Some of the mutterings I heard as we left the stadium were along the lines of title-winning sides needing to hold onto leads in big games, especially with only a few minutes to go.

There is some sense to that but even so, Deulofeu's strike was superb and few keepers or defenders could have stopped it, so little room did the Barca loanee have to get his shot away.

And if Giroud had scored at the end, it would have put a gloss on a performance that probably didn't warrant a win.

Whether Steve Bould deserves any credit or whether it is just the players growing more mature, we are now harder to beat and less gung-ho and that has to be a good thing where every point counts.

My main concern was that we started so slowly again - and while that could in no small part be down to Everton doing very well, I wonder whether too many of our players, when faced by top sides, start to doubt themselves or the team's ability to win big matches.

Even when we have beated United or Chelsea in the past, we haven't build on it and I do fear that we have a mental block.

But there could of course be another reason.

I suggested last week that Aaron Ramsey be rested for the Hull game and plenty have suggested that his performance was one of a man exhausted by this season's exertions.

I would be tempted to rest him for Napoli, regardless of the size of that task, so that he is fresh for City on Saturday morning.

Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere also failed to perform, perhaps due to fatigue or, in the Spaniard's case at least, due to a loss of form that has hindered him for much of this season.

Whatever the reasons, the next three games are massive not just in terms of results, but in terms of belief that we have what it takes to win the title this season.

And that goes for the fans as much as it does for the players.