We posted last week that what looks like another frustrating EPL campaign should perhaps result in a makeover for the Gunners—and it’s fair to say things aren’t looking mightily encouraging at the moment. Fourteen points through the first nine matches is less than ideal for a club with the sort of talent Arsene Wenger is managing, even with a few injury issues presenting a partially reasonable excuse. But on a good day, this year’s Gunners can still compete with the league favourites. Also, it could be the coming fixtures that will ultimately decide if this team fights near the top of the standings or struggles through the middle.
The first match in a vital November is the upcoming contest with Burnley at Emirates Stadium, which we can go ahead and chalk up as a must-win. This is a nice chance for the club to pick up a little momentum after the 2-0 win over Sunderland and gain a few easy points as a cushion for the coming contest. Indeed, following the Sunderland result, BBC Sport quoted Wenger as taking a cautious, match-by-match approach. They said that improvement is always possible, but on that day it was the three points that mattered. Getting three more against Burnley should be straightforward, but it’s the next four matches, taking the Gunners into December, that will decide the season.
On 9th November, it will be a trip to Liberty Stadium for a game against the surprising Swansea City, who currently sit even with Arsenal in the league tables. Swansea was never expected to make much noise this season, and they’ve come back down to earth after securing nine points in the opening three weeks (including that opening week shocker over Manchester United at Old Trafford). But unfortunately, this is the position we’re in. Arsenal will have to fight off these pesky, ordinarily middling squads to keep its place among the four or five league favourites. Securing three points at Liberty City now looks crucial.
On the 22nd, we’ll see the hotly anticipated home match against Manchester United, who suddenly look to be rounding into form. The Betbright football blog wrote about encouraging signs for Man U and improving odds for Louis van Gaal’s club in a preview for the Chelsea match. Now that Man U managed a draw against the Blues (albeit with Diego Costa sitting out), the club should be riding high. There’s a long way yet for van Gaal’s side to go before they’re intimidating to anyone, but Man U no longer looks like the joke they were last season. And with Chelsea and Man City figuring to lead the way from here forward, Man U will look to supplant Arsenal as the third contender many still view us as. Beating them back down would make a strong statement to the league.
On the 29th, the Gunners travel to The Hawthorns to take on West Brom, who have only one victory at home to date this season. This is a game that will be all about momentum. Should the Gunners topple Man U, it will be vital to secure the three points away from home against a vastly inferior squad. Should November not go well to this point, this could become a desperation match.
And all of that will bring us to a 3rd December match against Southampton, which (like the Swansea City game) will give the Gunners a chance to knock down a team performing above its talent level. Southampton has managed a shocking 19 points thus far and currently sit just behind Chelsea in the tables—and they may be here to stay. A recent Telegraph article provided a nice look at Southampton’s success in “home-growing” players. It then quoted manager Ronald Koeman as suggesting that no one in the league looks better, save Chelsea and possibly Man City. Right now it’s hard to argue, but Arsenal will get the chance to right the scales—and potentially its own season—in the December 3rd tilt.
Of course, one could take any batch of EPL matches and apply significance to them based on current standings and trends. But with a great deal of pessimism surrounding the Gunners of late, the coming stretch between now and the beginning of December is starting to seem more pivotal than the average month of league play. Here’s hoping form improves!
Thanks to today;s guest Jared Harris for the comprehensive preview of a crucial month for the Guuner. Author Bio: Jared Harris is a freelance writer and international football enthusiast. Jared spends most of his time trying to stay on top of all the latest sports news. In what little spare time he has, he enjoys grabbing a drink at his local spot or playing the latest FIFA game.
You can follow him @jaredRHarris