Well, that was an interesting turn up for the books yesterday, with Liverpool and United dropping points, wasn’t it? I don’t think many would have predicted that, particularly the Scousers, but I’m glad that both events happened. United’s draw because it means they are slowly falling away from the top four chasing pack with these successions of 1-1s, but more than that it’s the fact the Mourinho is starting to look more and more sully, which is a look I much prefer on him compared to smug.
The Bournemouth result was a more exciting one though and I’m pleased that Jackie Wilshere looks like he’s having a jolly old time on the South Coast. He’s been playing his cards close to his chest in terms of his own future beyond this season, but with each game he is looking to get stronger and with each good performance on an individual level, I hope Arsène, Dick and Ivan are refilling the Mont Blanc ready for when he comes back to London Conley in June. A Jack Wilshere with a full season and lots of games under his belt is a player that would fit in at Arsenal. Of that there is no doubt.
As for matters closer to home, we find ourselves in second position after this weekend’s set of fixtures and with December now upon us, I’ve started to look at the Christmas period and do a little bit of the old annual Christmas prediction-totalising. Particularly given Arsène’s comments about our away form, in which he’s spoken of the freedom the team has against less defensive-minded sides.
That’s not a new phenomena against us and we’ve had to deal with it for as long as I can remember, but it’s something that rears its head as a comparator when our away form is so good, which is is at the moment. We are still yet to lose away from home and have draws at United and Leicester that have stopped a 100% record. Which is pretty decent going. But that form is going to be tested to its limit in December I think.
We have two away games for the rest of December, but those two games are away to Everton and Man City. Tough games and let’s be honest, avoiding defeat in both of those games will be good going. I watched the City vs Chelski game and whilst Chelski were ruthless on the counter, City had the chances to bury them and you can’t think they would be that profligate against us when we play them in a couple of weeks time. Everton will also be very tough. We’ve had some good results against them in recent seasons and last season saw the emergence of Iwobi as a first team regular, but in Koeman they have a manager who has worked out Arsène Wenger sides whilst he was at Southampton and also during his time in Holland. He will know what to do to set up and frustrate us, which is why I am viewing that game with some trepidation.
If I’m honest, if somebody offered me four points from those two games, I’d be bouncing off the walls with glee. Two points I could probably accept.
So, now that we’ve got that guaranteed two in the bag, what’s left for December?
Well, the week before those two quick games in succession, we’ve got Stoke at home. Stoke are an up-and-down side and will come to frustrate, but on paper we should have enough to be able to beat them. I know – “famous last words” – and all that, but the team will be full of confidence after that win and I’m hoping that Arsène takes the opportunity to rotate players against Basel during the week, so we see the best out of the team on Saturday afternoon. If he does and we’re fresher, then I’d fancy us to pick up all three.
After the two tough away games, we have West Brom on Boxing Day and then Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day. Again, whilst no game can be taken for granted, you’d want this Arsenal team to be beating those two sides and I certainly think they should. It’s not a ‘given’, but unless I make actual predictions, it really makes the points totaliser to the end of the year a difficult exercise.
So, whilst touching wood, holding lucky rabbits feet and being very clear about there being ‘no easy games’ and that we could lose every single game in December from now on, I hope I’ve appeased the football gods.
If things turn out as I’ve said though, I make that 42 points from the first 19 games and probably about right for a decent attempt at the title. However, it means that we have very little ‘wiggle’ room and just serves to demonstrate how difficult it is to hold that level of momentum to win a league. I think 84 points probably wins you the league this season, given the competitive nature of the division, but in order to do that we need a very good December and a replication of the start of the season (minus the Liverpool game).
This Arsenal team are capable of doing it. The quality is there. But it will be the psychological hurdles that will need to be overcome if we stand a chance of winning the league.
There will be a few more of those between now and next May.
Catch you tomorrow.