In Depth

Arsenal have become an irrelevance in the Premier League

No St Totteringham's Day for Gunners fans this season, but its Groundhog Day in the battle for fourth place

Tottenham Hotspur's demolition of Stoke on Monday night all but confirmed the worst fears of Arsenal fans, who must now face up to the fact there will be no St Totteringham's Day celebrations this year for the first time since 1995.

Instead, it has been a case of Groundhog Day as the Gunners have fallen out of contention for silverware and now sit, almost inevitably, in fourth place after a hugely dispiriting draw against Crystal Palace.

As the team gaze up the table at Tottenham and Leicester, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Arsene Wenger's side have become an irrelevance in the title race, destined only to make up the numbers.

Two months ago, when Danny Welbeck headed a dramatic late winner against Leicester, Arsenal were two points behind the league leaders and level with Spurs.

That goal "roused a notoriously difficult crowd to its feet and somehow cut through the cold, corporate and clinical environment at the Emirates Stadium", says James Masters, of The Times. "There was atmosphere, belief, and, more importantly, opportunity... [It] was supposed to provide the catalyst for Wenger's side to launch their title challenge and take advantage of the ineptitude of their rivals."

But the opposite happened, with Arsenal's flame once again flickering and dying. The beneficiaries of that result now appear to be their local rivals, Spurs, who are one point closer to Leicester as a result.

Since that match, Arsenal have managed two wins in seven games. Instead of racing to the top, they could now be beaten to fourth place by Manchester United, who were ten points adrift in February. Leicester, meanwhile, have won six of eight.

It is clear that despite the presence of stars such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in his side, Wenger has once again built a team that "could" win the title, rather than one that "should".

Much has been made of the emergence of Alex Iwobi, but there is little to suggest he will fulfil his potential and fare any better than the likes of Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Merida or Emmanuel Frimpong.

"For Wenger, who has one year left on his contract after this season, time may be coming to an end but for someone who helped revolutionise the game in this country, it would be sad if he were to go out with a whimper," says the Times's Masters.

But the knives are out again for the Frenchman. "Arsenal players and staff are becoming increasingly mystified by the decision making of manager Arsene Wenger as they now face a fight to make sure the club's season does not completely fall apart," says Matt Law, of the Daily Telegraph.

The Gunners boss has given his side four days off in the last nine, despite glaring problems in the team, and for the first time, there appear to be signs of dissent from within the club, rather than just in the stands.

"Wenger's training schedule is not the only thing that has raised questions within Arsenal recently, as his team selections and substitutions have also left players and staff members scratching their heads," says Law.

"The club are expected to keep faith with Wenger for the final year of his current contract, but failure to qualify for next season's Champions League would place huge pressure on him to quit."

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