Eight games to go. An eleven-point deficit to overcome. No room for errors.
A whole lot of mess to be cleaned. All of this after Arsenal led the Premier League in January, had been the best team by a country mile and looked set for a historic double (Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup).
All of that seems so distant in time now, that hardly anyone remembers Arsenal playing well, let alone dominating the Premier League.
All that is left now is a gargantuan chunk of hopes hanging precariously by a thinnest of thin threads – one wrong move and you are finished.
Simply put, Arsenal have to be immaculate from hereon in to have “any chance” of securing their first Premier League title in twelve seasons (2015/16 included).
The beginning has to be against Watford at The Emirates Stadium – home to some of the Gunners’ characteristically worst performances this season.
Needless to say, one of those loathe-inspiring performances came against the Hornets at home as Arsenal surrendered the FA Cup and were jeered off the pitch.
There’s every reason to think that could happen again, unless, of course, Arsenal leave behind the shakiness they’ve shown against weaker opposition that’s increasingly looking like it could be what defines the season for them.
We saw how complacent Arsene Wenger’s side was in the FA Cup Quarter Final.
There was no urgency, no intent, no definite plan.
It was almost as if Arsenal had been banking upon Quique Sanchez Flores’ side making errors -which they didn’t – and that was never going to happen.
Watford are organised enough not to do anything as silly.
They took the attack to Arsenal and with the pace they have up front in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, the Golden Boys punished the Gunners who apparently came out crying out for a defeat.
Nevertheless, Watford, as dangerous as they undoubtedly are to go full Monty against, Arsenal shouldn’t be too reluctant to attack them.
They have the better players, they boast of the best creator in the world, so why not? If attacking is what Arsenal’s strength is, then a solid display against the visitors would only be a convincing win “full of chances, ruthlessness and yes, goals”.
You don’t just escape your way to a victory at home against a newly promoted side – no matter how good they are; no, that’s not how you win the title. No one wants to see a backs-to-the-wall job, there’s already been enough of it.
If you keep insisting in press conferences about how much do you want to turn it around, do it with swagger so as to send a clear message. That’s how you turn it around.
The fixture against Watford will provide Arsenal the opportunity to rediscover their old swagger only if they come out with absolution.
Otherwise, the Premier League dream could be all over by Saturday evening. It could certainly go either way.
“We have some quality players so the basis of our play is to keep the ball, maintain possession for long periods and get into the opposition half by playing the ball around – that’s what we try to do,” Nacho Monreal told Arsenal Player.
“That said, you need to be a complete team across the board and when we don’t have the ball we have to put the hard work in, defend as a team and stick together because then when we recover possession, we have players capable of bringing out the magic inside them and making us a really dangerous side.
“In that regard the match [against Everton] was perfect. The first half was fantastic in every sense – we performed very well both with and without the ball. We barely gave them any chances, as soon as we lost the ball we were able to win it back straight away because our positioning was good and we were pressing really well.
“We study our opposition closely throughout the week to identify where we think we can hurt them. Aside from keeping possession and taking the easy option, you have to try to target the opposition’s weaknesses to work a scoring opportunity and score the goal that makes the difference and secures you the three points.
“We’re aware that we don’t just depend on ourselves – that’s obvious. Right now we’re in third place so I think the only objective we need to set for ourselves is winning the eight matches we have left and then what will be will be. It’s not just down to us. Even if we do win all eight games that doesn’t mean we’ll be champions, but what does depend on us is winning those eight games.
“We’re coming off the back of two really good performances, the most recent of which we won. We know it’s going to be difficult against Watford because we only played them recently and they knocked us out of the FA Cup, but we’re hungry for revenge.
“It’s a completely different competition. They’re not fighting for big things so we need to show that we are. We need to show we’re the home side and that we want to keep fighting for the league title. That’s what we’re going to do.”