International break threatens to disrupt Arsenal's return to form

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Last season saw a rather dramatic shift in powers in the Premier League, with England's highest division boasting a greater standard of competition between those battling for the title and the league's strugglers.

This year the trend has continued, with the so-called smaller clubs showing little or no regard for reputations. When it seemed as though Manchester City were going to steamroll anyone who dared cross their path and separate themselves from their lacklustre rivals in the title race, consecutive losses to West Ham and Tottenham suggested that they were just as vulnerable as everyone else.

Prior to the season, though - before those at the bottom were causing upsets against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United - there was a growing belief that one team in particular had the credentials to muster a title challenge - Arsenal.


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Scepticism, admittedly, was a recurring feeling amongst Gunners fans given the naive transfer window that Arsene Wenger conducted, failing to sign anyone but the so-far impressive Petr Cech.

And, indeed, from the very first day of the season, the press and critics were happy to jump on the bandwagon claiming that it was the return of the same old Arsenal – a team of nearly-men led by a manager past his prime.

However, the more ardent of fans didn’t panic and believed that whilst the Premier League is full of unforeseen twist and turns, Arsenal were amongst a select few teams in the league that could sustain a decent fun of form.

Since Sunday’s rampant win over Manchester United, many newspapers have been full of praise, with journalists who mocked Wenger as little as a week ago seemly suggesting that Arsenal have now shown their title credentials.

Finally - Arsenal and their manager are getting a slice of the respect their efforts deserve.

For the north London outfit, therefore, this is without doubt a terrible time for an international break - and they always seem to come just as they're hitting true form.

Not just for the fact that there was a feeling around the Emirates that league form was starting to pick up does the international break come at a bad time, but also that there will be a growing worry throughout this round of qualifiers and friendlies that any one of Arsenal's buoyed stars could pick up an injury.

History doesn't bode well, either, with an in-form Robin van Persie ruled out for three months courtesy of a meaningless friendly for Holland once upon a time, whilst Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have suffered similar fates after international duty.

Factor in important games for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsay for Germany and Wales respectively, and lengthy trips for players such as Alexis Sanchez, and it’s very possible they'll return jaded come the club's tricky visit to Watford.

This is, of course, is part of football – but you can see why managers, who work so hard to find cohesion and form, are often left pulling their hair out. In Sunday's press conference, Wenger went as far as to say he would "pray" his team returned without injury. 

So, until October 17, Arsenal fans across England will be watching the various international clashes with one eye open, hoping that their stars can pick up the required results without derailing their domestic form and, more importantly, their title challenge.

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