Didn’t the last one only end five minutes ago? Alas, just like a bout of indigestion after Christmas dinner, international football made an unwelcome return this week for the resumption of the Nations League and World Cup qualifiers.
The prospect of Lithuania vs Bulgaria perhaps makes even the most disillusioned Arsenal fans yearn for the rain-soaked misery of the Amex Stadium.
That being said, the last Premier League recess sparked something of a domestic resurgence for the Gunners, with our subsequent unbeaten streak and derby delight suggesting we had finally turned the season around.
However, as we look ahead to the schedule over the coming weeks, it seems that it may well be the next three games that will make up the first defining period of the campaign.
Will upcoming fixtures against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Leicester mark a defining period in Arsenal’s quest for a return to Europe?
The first match of this supposedly favourable run takes place on October 18, when we will host an in-form Crystal Palace, led by our revered former captain Patrick Vieira. The Eagles have quelled notions of a possible relegation this season courtesy of some impressive recent results – including a 3-0 win against Sp*rs – and will fancy their chances of completing a north London double here.
Embracing a possession-based attacking philosophy with a committed high press, this encounter promises to be just as uncomfortable as last weekend’s trip to Brighton, and Arsenal will not secure a point with a similarly sloppy performance.
It looks like a banana skin on paper, but home support and surely more forgiving weather conditions, in addition to what can only be a much-improved collective effort, should be enough to get the job done.
There is a quick turnaround for part two of this potentially awkward calendar as, just four days later, Aston Villa arrive at the Emirates for some Friday night football. Victories in both of last year’s meetings indicate the Villans have our number, while great results of late including a last-gasp win at Old Trafford and nine-minute demolition of Everton have propelled them into the top half of the table.
And, looking more deeply into the fixtures and their respective timings, maybe Arsenal should be more confident than they think of success.
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