No club encapsulates the unpredictability of the Premier League better than Arsenal. Two weeks ago they were sitting atop the table, albeit temporarily ahead of Chelsea.
A week later, they dropped to their warm and welcoming bosom of 4th place, after losing to Everton and City in successive games, drifting nine points behind the Blues.
As ever with Arsenal, the reactions were far too knee-jerking and extreme, does any other club have such a vitriolic reaction to a defeat? All the familiar accusations were thrown at them and Arsene Wenger was under pressure again.
It’s easy to get dismissive of Arsenal given their title challenges of recent years, but a closer look at their upcoming fixtures and that of their rivals should encourage Arsenal fans.
No game in the Premier League is easy and football is harder to predict than the Manchester weather, but let’s have a look and guess how things might shape up in the coming weeks.
Match Day 19
The big game of the week is between 2nd placed Liverpool and 3rd placed Manchester City. Surely one of the two or both of Arsenal rivals will drop points and the Gunners should take advantage of that.
A home game against Big Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace is no easy task, but anything other than three points for Arsenal is unimaginable. The Gunners have always done well in the London Derbies and since Palace’s promotion in 2013, they have taken maximum points from their games against them.
A win by a three goal margin should see Arsenal break into the top three, irrespective of the result at Anfield. Meanwhile, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United have winnable fixtures and should be three points for each one of them.
Chelsea vs Stoke, Man United vs Boro, Watford vs Spurs, Liverpool vs City
Match Day 20
Arsenal, thanks to the ridiculously arranged fixture list, travel to the south coast to face Bournemouth on Jan 3rd after playing Palace on the 1st. The fixture should be a straightforward but the timing of it means Arsene Wenger has to use his squad intelligently as they will be physically tested to the limit.
Danny Welbeck should at least be in the squad for that game and the return of Mustafi and Mertesacker should boost his defensive options. Chelsea face Tottenham at White Hart Lane and their winning run will be put to test.
Spurs have to get a positive result to stay in contention and have unsettled scores against Chelsea. The Blues may or may not slip, but the Gunners have to win their game to pressure the leaders.
West Ham vs Man United, Sunderland vs Liverpool, Man City vs Burnley, Chelsea vs Spurs
Match Day 21
The Gunners travel to face Swansea 10 days after their game against Bournemouth and once again will be the favourites. Swansea have been something of a bogey team for Arsenal and at the Liberty they will surely fancy their chances. However given the uncertainty that has surrounded their season and the general sloppiness of their play, an Arsenal win is likely.
It will definitely be a tight affair but Arsenal should see it through. That weekend also sees a number of heavyweight clashes, Leicester vs Chelsea, Everton vs City and the big one Man United vs Liverpool. Spurs face West Brom at home and having derailed their title run last season, the Baggies may prove a tough nut to crack.
It’s potentially a massive weekend and one that could see all of Arsenal’s rivals drop points.
Leicester vs Chelsea, Everton vs City, Man United vs Liverpool, Spurs vs WestBrom
Match Day 22
The Gunners end the month with a home game against Burnley. Sean Dyche’s men are notoriously poor travellers and their away record is the worst in the league (at the time of writing). It should be a straightforward three points and should keep Arsenal on course for what looks like a tough February.
Elsewhere, Manchester United travel to Stoke – never an easy one – while Manchester City welcome Spurs, so there is definitely something for Arsenal to gain on at least one of their rivals. Meanwhile, Chelsea and Liverpool have home games, in which they should take three points.
Chelsea vs Hull, Liverpool vs Swansea, City vs Spurs, Stoke vs Man United
Match Day 23
Arsenal host Watford at the Emirates the last of the winnable fixtures before the seismic clashes that await them later that month. The Gunners usually do win games they are expected to win. They are the Premier League’s flat-track bully for a reason.
The weekend also sees Chelsea travelling to Anfield, a tantalising prospect for the other contenders. City, Spurs and United should get the job done that week and Arsenal cannot afford to slip up.
Sunderland vs Spurs, City vs West Ham, United vs Hull,
It’s a run of games that Arsenal should take the maximum points if they are to stay in the fight. After all, the fixture list is favourably arranged for them. In the next five fixtures, the North London outfit face sides in the bottom half of table while all of their rivals have at least one game against their direct rival. There is a reason to hope, Gunners.
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