Still trusted! - Jamie McDonald
Let's look at Arsenal's progress using some basic numbers.
This post is not about Robin van Persie, but it kinda is. It's mostly about not freaking out.
After 25 games in 2013, Arsenal sit on 41 points, have scored 49 goals, and are in 6th place, 21 points behind the leaders (Manchester United) and four points out of fourth place. The two teams immediately above Arsenal, Everton and some team made up of hobos and street urchins, have vastly inferior goal differences (20 for Arsenal, 10 for Everton, 13 for PBFC), but all three have allowed either 29 or 30 goals. What does that tell me? That tells me that Arsenal's situation isn't as dire as people make it out to be, and that Arsenal still have both the firepower and the defensive capability to finish in the Champions League places.
As a point of comparison, after 25 games in 2012, Arsenal had 43 points, had scored 48 goals, and were in 4th place, 17 points behind the leaders (Manchester City). But Arsenal last year had conceded 35 goals after 25 games; for all our carping about Arsenal's defensive frailty, they've actually gotten a lot better, at least by that one arguably inelegant statistical measure.
Is everything perfect in Arsenal-land? No. The squad is still thin and the defense does still make too many mistakes, just to name a couple. But for everyone who thought Arsenal would be doomed after Robin van Persie left, I would offer up the fact that Arsenal have scored one more goal than they did by this time last year as proof that Arsenal know what they're doing, and while it does hurt to lose someone of RvP's caliber, it wasn't then and isn't now the end of the world to lose a player like that. One player is never bigger than the club, and this season's diffuse goal scoring chart (18 goals for Theo, 14 for Giroud, 12 for Podolski, 8 for Cazorla) shows me that in ways that aren't always apparent when watching Arsenal make heavy work of Stoke or draw with Sunderland.
No, Arsenal won't win the league this year, but they're in better shape than it might appear. With 13 games to go, on paper at least Arsenal have a pretty favorable run-in, with a visit from Everton and a tricky tie at Swansea in March and a visit from Manchester United in April the three matches that jump out as potential problems. I'm not suggesting Arsenal can run the table otherwise, but when the bulk of your remaining schedule consists of WBA, Reading, QPR, Wigan, and Newcastle, it's hard not to feel optimistic about Arsenal's chances of reaching the Champions League yet again.