IT hasn't been the most memorable of seasons for Arsenal Football Club. Knocked out of England's two domestic cup competitions by lower league opposition, the team's Champions League dreams now hang in the balance after a brutal first-leg home defeat to Germany's Bayern Munich last month.
What's worse is that the Gunners' next opponent, its North London rival Tottenham Hotspur, even leapfrogged them into third place on Monday after recording yet another impressive victory on the road, this time a 3-2 win over West Ham.
That result was largely due to the performance of one man, Welsh winger Gareth Bale, who is fast becoming one of the hottest commodities in European football, having already caught the eye of many of the continent's top teams.
The 23-year-old is arguably playing the best football of his life at the moment. He simply can't stop scoring goals, and what beauties they have been too. His latest effort against the Hammers came deep in injury time, a 25-yard screamer from outside the box that would be worthy of winning any football match.
Bale insists that his individual performances aren't the main reason why the Lilywhites are doing so well, but everyone knows he's just being modest. The statistics tell it all. He has now scored a remarkable eight goals in Spurs' last six games to elevate his team to third in the Barclays Premier League (BPL) table ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal.
Whether Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas is able to hang on to his star performer in the summer is a big question mark, but for now he is counting on his prized asset to help the club achieve a top four finish that would guarantee it a place in next season's Champions League.
The mood at Arsenal is quite a despondent one by contrast. The Gunners are enduring the worst spell of manager Arsene Wenger's 17 years at the helm.
Even a scrappy 2-1 win over Aston Villa last Saturday could not prevent it from falling into fifth spot in the standings and out of the Champions League reckoning for the time being.
In all honesty, the normally reliable Wenger seems to have lost the plot. After suffering a shock defeat on penalties to fourth-tier Bradford in the League Cup last December, Wenger failed to reinforce his feeble squad in the January transfer window and his team went on to lose at home to lowly Blackburn Rovers and then Bayern Munich in the space of four days.
Nobody quite knows why Wenger hasn't realised the urgency of beefing up his team, especially after losing some of his most talented players, such as Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, in recent years. Sure, there are still the likes of Theo Walcott, Santi Carzola and Olivier Giroud to bail him out of trouble, but it's clear that the Gunners must invest heavily in the summer or they will surely see their trophy drought - currently eight seasons and counting - continuing indefinitely.
Arsenal certainly has the cash on hand. Earlier this week, the club announced profits of £17.8 million (S$33.4 million) for the first six months of the financial year and cash reserves of more than £123 million - figures that will fuel growing demands by fans to bring in new blood.
The more immediate task at hand for Wenger, however, will be to mastermind an unlikely victory in the North London derby tomorrow (11.55pm, Singapore time) at Spurs' imposing White Hart Lane stadium. The Frenchman is walking on thin ice these days but all three points could buy him some much-needed breathing space with his bosses, especially with the crucial second leg clash with Bayern still to come.
Elsewhere in the BPL, leaders Manchester United will embark on a run of four straight home games, starting with Norwich City tonight. The Canaries are one of only three clubs to have defeated the Red Devils and Alex Ferguson will surely have a mixture of both revenge and re-opening a 15-point lead at the summit on his mind.
Champions Manchester City, so impressive in seeing off Chelsea last Sunday, will have to wait until Tuesday to play at Aston Villa. City boss Roberto Mancini is refusing to throw in the towel just yet but he knows his side will likely have to win all its remaining 11 BPL games to have any chance of retaining its title.
If the rumours are to be believed, Chelsea appears to be in turmoil after a supposed dressing room fallout between interim manager Rafael Benitez and his players after the 0-2 loss at Manchester City. The Blues have won only 13 of the 26 matches since the Spaniard took over last November and will look for three points against visiting West Bromwich Albion.
Liverpool, currently languishing in eighth spot, will be raring to go after its game with Swansea was postponed as the Swans were busy winning the League Cup at Wembley Stadium last Sunday. Liverpool is in a rich vein of goal-scoring form with eight strikes in its last two games and will look to continue that hot streak at strugglers Wigan Athletic.
The rest of the weekend's fixtures sees Everton playing Reading, Southampton at home to Queens Park Rangers in a bid to avoid the drop, Stoke City taking on West Ham, Sunderland facing Fulham and Swansea battling Newcastle.