The draw at Southampton left Arsenal fans divided; some saying it was a good point while others argued that it was the start of a “downward spiral” of results, especially with the challenging fixture pile up we have over the next month or so. Our fixtures over the next 2 months, as you will probably already know, consist of the following matches:
Crystal Palace (H) Sunday 2nd
Liverpool (A) Saturday 8th
Manchester United (H) Wednesday 12th
Liverpool (H) Sunday 16th
Bayern Munich (H) Wednesday 19th
Sunderland (H) Saturday 22nd
Stoke City (A) Saturday 1st
Swansea City (H) Saturday 8th
Bayern Munich (A) Tuesday 11th
Tottenham Hotspur (A) Sunday 16th
Chelsea (A) Saturday 22nd
Manchester City (H) Saturday 29th
Out of the 12 matches games we have over the “crunch” period in our season, you would say that 8 of those were “blockbuster” games. Most teams are lucky to get that many massive games over an entire season, nevermind over the course of 8 weeks.
There’s no doubt that February and March is a huge period in Arsenal’s season and you can see why a lot of Arsenal fans are wary of how we’re going to do over the next 2 months.
Let’s start off with the negatives.
The first one is injuries. We have Theo Walcott out for the season, and there’s no doubt that we will miss his impact in the title run in. Aaron Ramsey is out for longer than we all thought, and Rosicky and Jack are still out with an ankle and nose problem respectively.
Mathieu Flamini is also out for 4 games now, after his stupid two-footed challenge against Southampton. Mikel Arteta is the only recognised “defensive midfielder” remaining and he’ll have to put in some exceptional performances against Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Another problem is the striker position. Olivier Giroud is our only real good option up front – and Nicklas Bendtner the only backup. I know a lot of us have made fun of Bendtner but to be fair to him whenever he’s been called upon he’s done okay. But I just don’t think that’s enough firepower to lead Arsenal to the Premier League title.
Defensively we don’t look as solid as we used to. The back line of Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs looks excellent and really strong, but as Monreal showed against Southampton, he’s not good enough to fill in for Gibbs. Hopefully Arsene will have a slight re-shuffle and put Thomas Vermaelen at left back, as he’s a player who is desperate to play games and you know he’ll give 110%.
So now to the positives.
Our squad isn’t as strong as Manchester City’s or Chelsea’s but one area where we are well-catered for is in midfield. Even with the players mentioned out of action, we still have Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Serge Gnabry. We also have Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil, who can be used in slightly deeper positions.
With those players in the side (and others to come back), we still have a lot of guile and creativity in the team.
And another big positive is the form of Szczesny. This season he has been outstanding. Apart from a couple of terrible “clearances” from the back which almost cost us goals, he has been sensational. By far the best goalkeeper in the league this season, he has kept us in numerous games this year with some stunning saves. As the teams form has dipped in certain games, Szczesny has been consistent and excellent between the sticks.
And he’s going to have to be on top form going into our killer run in.