Fading Arsenal face Spurs hurdle next

LONDON - Four draws in five league games, three of them at Emirates Stadium, have left Arsenal's title hopes hanging by a thread and they face another tough hurdle on Wednesday when they visit neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.

Arsenal's decline has been stark in the last two months and defeat at White Hart Lane would be the final nail in their Premier League coffin.

It all started to go wrong when they were beaten by Birmingham City in the League Cup Final on February 27 - though throwing away a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 at Newcastle United earlier in the month was also something of a pyschological hammer blow.

They were then knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United and the Champions League by Barcelona.

In the league they drew 0-0 at home with Sunderland, 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion, 0-0 at home with Blackburn and, after beating Blackpool, suffered the heartache of gifting Liverpool a 1-1 Emirates Stadium draw after 11 minutes of stoppage-time.

That result on Sunday left them six points behind leaders Manchester United and only two ahead of Chelsea, who beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 away on Saturday to restore their hopes of a top-two finish with six games to go.

With Manchester City seven points adrift of Arsenal in fourth, Arsene Wenger's side look unlikely to miss out on a top-three finish but their trophy drought looks set to go into a seventh year.

They still have to play United at Emirates Stadium and Sir Alex Ferguson's team also have to play Chelsea so everything is far from settled but Wenger has a real job on his hands to slam the brakes on the decline, starting on Wednesday where Tottenham and their fans would be delighted to ensure it does not happen.

Wenger has ranted and raved at everyone and everything except himself and his players during the lean streak but would be better employed addressing his team's problems - not least their lack of a strong leader on the pitch and their declining ability to make and take chances.

The extraordinary finale to Sunday's game diverted attention from the fact that Arsenal had again looked relatively toothless in attack. However, Wenger criticised Liverpool for their defensive approach.

"We are maybe jaded a bit physically, you could see that some players have played around 40-45 games and we lacked a bit of a change of pace," Wenger said.

"We will have to give everything until the last game of the season and see if it is our year or not."

By the time Arsenal run out for what will be another formidable test at White Hart Lane they could be nine points adrift if United triumph at Newcastle on Tuesday.

Chelsea are also in action on Wednesday, at home to Birmingham City.