Against Leeds, Arsenal will have to come out with passion that was absent against Aston Villa.
But that is easier said than done against one of the most brilliant tacticians and minds of football the world over, Marcelo Bielsa. And while Arsenal have their own version capable intellect as well in Mikel Arteta, the challenge will be both on the pitch, as well as the coaching boxes.
So we will need to see sharpness, passion, fluidity and grit from everyone coming out of the second international break of the campaign. Last match saw too many weaknesses across the entire board to be satisfied looking toward this next stretch of thirteen matches in forty-one days; without real innovation of spirit and determination, it could very well affect parts of our season both in England and Europe.
Leeds Is Simply The Start
Which is precisely why we must start out well against them. And while this will be no easy feat against a team with great coaching, strict organization and potent offensive tactics, they should be vulnerable still to Arsenal’s own offensive weapons. These players will have to show up however, to put the pressure and punishment to United when they become too aggressive and out of position.
Names like Willian will have to show some progress as well, as he has been lacking since his explosion to begin the campaign. Nicolas Pepe too, will have to show ambition, passion and aggression; it is not only our right side attackers who are struggling, however.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had a slow start to the season with all things considered, and Alexandre Lacazette has appeared tentative in front of the net, unsure of his strike whenever the opportunity properly emerges. These two glaring issues must be resolved in tandem with the right side of our attacking front; it is unlikely that they will ultimately be able to overcome either without the innovations of each other and so, this is both worrying and heartening.
It is both because while we need innovation, we have a good boss who is a capable intellect, as well as communicator. But Mikel Arteta will have to demonstrate his own forcefulness as a manager, not only in out-dueling his coaching counterpart, but in inspiring and motivating his group as this massive stretch of games, across three competitions, begins.
The Gambit is Both Unrelenting and Unforgiving
Should Arsenal overcome Leeds, at their place mind you, which would remove the awful taste of defeat left by Villa, European competition just days later will keep them on their toes, in the rematch to the last group match played against Norwegian side Molde. The blitz of games is relentless, as Arsenal host Wolves before another European affair against Rapid Vienna. A North London Derby will test our conviction before the final European group stage match is played versus Dundalk of Ireland.
While this is a good time to take a breather of sorts, there will be no proper time for Arsenal regarding any sort of let down. Should the Gunners advance beyond the group stage of the Europa League, which I presume they will, the schedule will only grow heavier as the season continues. And while the team will rejoice after that Dundalk game no doubt, Burnley and Southampton await just days later, of which concludes a span of three matches in five days.
It is hardly even fair to suggest that this type of schedule is reasonable for even the best maintained athlete on the planet, and it is something FIFA seriously needs to look into. The domestic leagues however, should be tackling (pun intended) the issue themselves with greater vigor and creativity.
We are not done though, a date with Everton at Goodison Park will be no easy stroll, even with the recently diminished form of the Toffees without Richarlison. The EFL Cup quarter-final match against Manchester City at the Emirates will be a more difficult match than the FA Cup victory the Gunners earned last season, and it will take a truly great performance to wrestle the club down in just the quarter-final of the competition. A
fter that match, three games against Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom close out the brutal, repressive stretch of football. Should Arsenal on the third of January be in good positions in all three competitions, they will have won some very difficult matches under very difficult circumstances.
They will have much to be proud of, and yet much more to go in order to realize the goals of which they’ve set for themselves. It will have been an entire team effort, utilizing the youth and the experience, offensive and defensive innovation, as well as accountability of everyone. But it is not impossible, simply a task, a real and sincere task; we have the team to overcome this obstacle and we will need them to believe in themselves as fervently as we believe in them.