Wenger insists ship is now steady after cup embarrassment

For a club built on stability, Arsenal have a remarkable capacity for drama. Their 5-2 win at Reading on Monday night was not quite the methodical defeat of inferior opposition many had hoped for.

Rather, it oscillated between delightful attacking football and bizarre panicky defending. That Reading were ever allowed back within two goals of Arsenal was absurd.

But it seemed to sum up Arsenal's season. They always look to be flirting with two extremes. They may have the most technically gifted midfield in England but they also lost to Bradford City in the Capital One Cup.

The club line, though, is different. Arsène Wenger said that only if he was judged by headlines could Arsenal be said to be in trouble – in that case it was a "super-crisis". Looking back at 12 points from their last seven Premier League games, Wenger, above, insisted that Arsenal's position was rather steadier than some had suggested. "In the league, our run is not so bad recently," he said. "This run is not fantastic but not disastrous."

Thomas Vermaelen, the Arsenal captain, made precisely the same point after the game. Arsenal are only two points behind Tottenham and Chelsea and expected to grind out a three-way fight for the two Champions League berths available outside Manchester.

"In the league, it is not going that badly," said Vermaelen. "What we did in Bradford was a big disappointment because we want to win those games. But, in the Premier League, it is close for a Champions League spot and we are chasing the top four."

In recent years Arsenal have allowed bad luck to ruin their confidence and sabotage their seasons. It happened after drawing with Birmingham City in 2008 and after losing to the same side in the Carling Cup final in 2011. Vermaelen is desperate that this capacity for self-destruction should not come out again.

"After Bradford we were focused straight away and we know in England that we have so many games that we can make it up again straight away. You can't stand still too long with a defeat like that – you just learn from it and move on."

That is what everyone at the Emirates wants – to leave behind the mistakes of the last few years. But there is a fear that one of the worst, the negligence regarding players' contracts, could hurt them one more time. Theo Walcott is in the last year of his deal and still has not signed. At a club so prone to collapse and crisis, Walcott's departure could be disastrous.

Vermaelen wants Walcott to stay but, as with Robin van Persie last season, has no idea whether he will sign a new contract or not. "Of course we want him to stay but that is something that is going on between the player and the club," said the Belgian.

"I don't know what is going on behind the scenes – we don't talk about it. Of course, Theo has been invaluable for us when he has played this year. He has been dangerous for us and I hope he decides to stay."