November will be Arsenal’s do or die month as the Gunners’ relatively easy fixture list early on throws up a few spikes on their, up until now, flawless thoroughbred Premier league highway burst.
The Gunners will face their toughest run of fixtures since the start of the campaign, starting tomorrow as they face a resurgent Chelsea side buoyed by their last-gasp, smash and grab
win over Manchester City. What follows will be a true barometer of their title winning credentials.
Wenger’s boys face Liverpool and Manchester United back to back with a crucial Champions League match away to Dortmund sandwiched in between. Add to that, they also face a
tricky Southampton side that is playing with a certain verve and fearlessness absent from most other supposed ‘mid-table’ sides. Arsenal can only beat what’s placed in front of them but everyone at the club, not least Wenger himself, knows that their technical and mental capacity to challenge for the league may just be hinging on whether his side can come through this month unscathed.
Gunners fans can be forgiven for their early season optimism. They have witnessed their side turn around their fortunes after that calamitous opening day defeat to Aston Villa that sparked a mild revolt at the club. A relatively kind fixture list has seen Arsenal bamboozle their way to the top of the league, serving up scintillating football to boot. Mesut Ozil’s impact has already been well documented and Wenger hopes his effect can continue his club’s current momentum.
Arsenal is in every sense a ‘momentum’ side so to speak. A negative result can spark a bad run or a difficult period (one only needs to look at their 2010/2011 season when a Carling Cup defeat -now Capital One Cup-at the hands of Birmingham proved to be the catalyst for a disastrous run of results that saw the club exit the Champions League and relinquish top spot in the league in a matter of weeks). Lightning may just strike twice.
Wenger may, however, feel bullish about his side’s chances against Liverpool and especially United. History lends credence against the former while the current state of affairs applies as against the latter. The Gunners have traditionally got the better of the Merseysiders but this current Liverpool side looks every inch capable of mixing it up with the big boys. They are more solid at the back, have some depth in the middle and bear the most lethal strike force in the division at the moment. Things are a lot more different in the red half of Manchester though.
Old Trafford is in the midst of a difficult transition and as Mark Hughes aptly put it, there is not a better time to face the Red Devils. They are a side lacking in confidence, assuredness and any form of defensive solidity. What’s worse, however, is that the fear factor is gone. Sir Alex seems to have retired with it as teams are now finding it easier to play at Old Trafford that they ever before. David Moyes is still adapting to the side, trying to learn the players and settle on a formation. They are significantly weaker now and the Gunners will approach this game with a little less apprehension than in previous years. All this however, will depend on how they
fare before they roll into Old Trafford. Arsenal fans may just want to be woken up when November ends.
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