Here we sit at the second international break of the season with Arsenal slowly climbing the Premier League table. It is a chance to take stock of the Gunners’ last five games as we look ahead to the next group of fixtures for the club. It’s a run of games that could reshape the outlook heading into Christmas.
To say that Arsenal’s season so far has been Jekyll and Hyde is an understatement. The first three games of the season were an unmitigated disaster: zero wins, nine goals conceded, and no goals scored. The knives were well and truly out for Mikel Arteta from the fans and media alike.
One saving grace for the manager was the lack of players available to him. No Thomas Partey, Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ben White, Alexandre Lacazette (for two games). Not to mention Martin Odegaard was not available until the Manchester City match. Arteta had an out, of sorts.
Then came the international break. A chance to reset, get players healthy and attack the next section of games. With Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu newly signed and ready to go, it was all or nothing for Arteta. Win and keep your job, lose and a decision might have to be made.
Arsenal face a defining run in the Premier League season with a set of winnable fixtures awaiting them that could see Arteta’s side consolidate their European ambitions
With Norwich, Burnley, Tottenham, and Brighton on the schedule, not only did fans want to get 12 points from those games, but also put in the level of performances that offers hope to what Arteta’s vision is – and to see it on the field.
A 1-0 win to Norwich was scrappy but three points and a clean sheet. Then away to Burnley, another 1-0 win but this was as gritty as you could have imagined. The Arsenal defense stood up with Burnley putting them under the cosh for the entire second half, but they dealt with whatever the home side threw at them.
Let’s get to the North London Derby. Perhaps the best 45-minutes Arsenal has produced under the Spaniard. It was breathtaking, fluid football, with constant pressing and pressuring, capped off with three goals in just over 30 minutes to put Spurs to the sword.
It is hard to maintain that level of performance and that rang true against Brighton. Arsenal was outworked and out-managed by the Seagulls. This happens, you play poorly, take the points and move on: 10 points out of 12 are nothing to sneeze at heading into the international break.
Now let’s to the next batch of games for Arteta and Arsenal: Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leeds (Carabao Cup), Leicester City, and Watford. Exactly what should be expected out of these? Given that four of the five games are at home, the Gunners realistically should be aiming for 10 out of 12 points in the league, while advancing past Leeds in the cup.
Whether this happens or not remains to be seen but that has to be the marker for Arteta and Arsenal. After a horror start to the year they have steadied the ship. Now is time to consolidate their position in which the club has risen to 11th in the table, just six points behind leaders Chelsea.
With the top six all having tough matches over the next month in – Manchester United play Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City and Chelsea, while City and Liverpool all have tricky away games – there is a real chance for Arsenal to solidify their position in the top half of the Premier League table.
Will they do it? Another question entirely. Having Granit Xhaka out is a blow, and the midfield needs bolstering in January, but if no injuries happen (fingers and toes crossed) then the squad is good enough to climb the table.
With a poor start and now seemingly back on track, the next run of fixtures will see what Arteta’s vision is like and if it can produce consistent results. All the games are very winnable, but as we know with Arsenal, when it is set up for the Gunners to consolidate, they misfire. This can’t happen now.
It is set up for Arsenal to move up the table. They have shown that when it clicks, it really clicks. Consistency is key as the Gunners look to right the wrongs of its early-season debacle.