EYE ON EPL

Players must believe and fight till the very end - it's not over till it's over

Even when Tampines Rovers trailed leaders Brunei DPMM in the S-League by nine points with six games to go last year, the last thing on the players' minds was to give up. Although DPMM eventually became champions , they won it only on the final day as Tampines pushed the title race down to the wire.

Belief is the most important asset to have as any title race heats up.

But Mesut Oezil did Arsenal a disservice by saying that his club "mucked it up", to the displeasure of his manager Arsene Wenger.

What he had said was probably true and I think he was venting his frustration. But his remarks were untimely at this crucial juncture of the season. For his team-mates, it hurts to hear such comments from their star.

With seven games to go, Arsenal trail long-time league leaders Leicester City by 11 points with a game in hand. The Foxes need four more wins to wrap up the title.

There is no doubt that many in the chasing pack of Tottenham, Arsenal and City have already mentally written off their chances of catching Leicester at the top. At least the players should know how to do their job professionally... Even if it is just a slim hope, they should not throw in the towel easily.

Although the title might be slipping out of their reach, some in the Gunners' camp could still believe that the title race is alive.

After all, in 2012, Manchester City trailed leaders Manchester United by five points with five matches to go, but eventually won the EPL title on goal difference.

That they won it with a stoppage-time goal in their final match, when some fans had already streamed out of the stadium, shows that it is not over until the final whistle is blown. City kept believing and were rewarded.

There is no doubt that many in the chasing pack of Tottenham, Arsenal and City have already mentally written off their chances of catching Leicester at the top.

At least the players should know how to do their job professionally.

If there was no fight left in Arsenal, do you think they would have thrashed Watford 4-0 last Saturday?

As a professional footballer, even if it is just a slim hope, they should not throw in the towel easily.

Claudio Ranieri truly deserves credit for how he has built a sense of belief and hope at his club, who, at this point last season, were seven points from safety but are now seven points clear at the top.

Following another narrow 1-0 victory on Sunday - Leicester's fifth consecutive victory with that scoreline, the Italian reminded the players of their job: "We have to remain calm, concentrate on the matches and make performances. Match after match. That's our job."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'Players must believe and fight till the very end - it's not over till it's over'. Print Edition | Subscribe