Win the Premier League? Beat Barcelona? What can Arsenal do to salvage season?
Last Updated: 16/03/16 6:52pm
Has Arsenal's FA Cup defeat to Watford ended their hopes of success this season? What can Arsene Wenger do to ease the pressure that hangs over him? Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith surveys the scene at the Emirates...
With Leicester and north London rivals Tottenham leading the charge for the Premier League title, the forecast at the Emirates Stadium looks bleak in the wake of Sunday's shock cup exit.
What's more, the north Londoners face a daunting trip to European champions Barcelona on Wednesday as they bid to overturn a two-goal first leg deficit in their last-16 Champions League tie.
With Wenger facing the most intense level criticism during his 20-year tenure, and ahead of the Gunners' trip to the Camp Nou, we caught up with Sky Sports pundit Smith for his assessment of the state of affairs at his former club...
What can Arsenal realistically achieve this season?
Defeat at home to Watford saw Arsenal taste defeat in the FA Cup for the first time since 2013, dashing their hopes of becoming the first team since the 1880s to win it three years on the spin. Few, if any, give them any chance of navigating their European tie with Barca, but what can they achieve this season?
SMITH SAYS: "Arsenal can still win the league. The 11-point gap is big but there are still nine games to go. There are plenty of points to play for but they cannot afford to drop any more. Of course they can still win it, but I don't think they will. They have got to give it their best shot and certainly have to play better than they have been of late. My mind turns to the Manchester United performance and the Watford defeat where the level dropped, they were better against Spurs but you'd expect them to be up for a north London derby. They have got to pick things up quickly."
Would ending the season with a bang appease the fans if silverware isn't won?
The large majority of football fans up and down the country haven't got a problem with their club losing games, so long as the passion and will to win is there for all to see. Arsenal's performance levels in recent weeks have dipped below the high standards they should be reaching. So could fans salvage some pride from a string of better performances?
SMITH SAYS: "It would be easier for Arsenal fans to take, that's for sure. But if Leicester and, God forbid, Spurs win it they would question Arsene Wenger who has been talking about the financial gap all these years - paying off the stadium, Man City and Chelsea having bigger budgets. So for one of the others to go and win it makes his argument redundant and it would be really damaging. There would be a big swell of fans calling for him to go. If there was no reaction from here on in it would be hard for Wenger to stay."
Would blooding the next crop of Arsenal youngsters ease the pain?
It's a line that has been fed to Arsenal fans for years. The promise of an exciting new era of success being nurtured in the club's revered youth teams, waiting to come to fruition. So could a group of young guns breaking into the first team atone for the Gunners' disappointing campaign?
SMITH SAYS: "No. Arsenal fans have seen good young kids for the last 15 years, they want them to be a proper team. They want to see that steel and craft, the harder side of the game, to see out their title challenge. It is not about kids coming through, as nice as that is, it's about ending a 12-year drought for the title."
How can Wenger ease the pressure currently hanging over him?
Arsene Wenger has won three Premier League titles and six FA Cups during a revolutionary spell at Highbury and the Emirates. However, recent results have acted as fuel to those who argue his legacy is now being tarnished. Starting with Wednesday trip to Barcelona, can anything be done by the Frenchman?
SMITH SAYS: "The only option Wenger has is to go as hard for the title as they possibly can and produce the best football. When they do produce their best football they are a match for most. When the draw was made, everyone expected Arsenal to go out of the Champions League so people can't get too carried away by being eliminated by Barcelona. The fans will be looking at what sort of attitude they show now, they want to see a committed performance at the Camp Nou and they'll certainly not want to witness an embarrassment. They have to be organised and disciplined and not go gung-ho, after all they could score late on to force extra-time - you never know! It's time for a mature performance."