Morning folks and welcome to another week. But what a weekend from an Arsenal point of view, eh? For the last two months or so we’ve seen team after team have games in hand over us, been calculating the permutations of those teams around us winning their games in hand, looking at the table and trying to understand how we might be able to overcome the difference when those games in hand have been played out. But now we find ourselves as the ones with games in hand and after the weekend of football we’ve just seen, it’s a positive outlook that we’re staring at.

Arsenal didn’t play and in that instance the best you can hope for is that your rivals drop points in your absence on the football pitch. And all of them did. First it was United on Saturday lunchtime who drew to what is looking like a very in form Southampton side. Then we were treated yesterday to a Tottenham defeat at home to Wolves and Antonio Conte looking very sad and talking about his sides poor form. Then after that, as I was cooking my dinner yesterday, West Ham dropped points away to Leicester and probably shouldn’t have even picked up one point after what to me looked like a handball from Dawson in the dying stages.

So here we are, in the  cold light of day on Monday morning, looking at a league table in which we have three games in hand over West Ham and just two points separate us. United are a point ahead of us but they have played two games more and whilst they will probably go fourth by beating Brighton at home on Tuesday, they will be four clear of us having played three matches if they do, so there is a little wiggle room for Arsenal there too.

But it is only little. You can look at it another way in that our games in hand are against Chelski and Tottenham both away, which I’d not expect to pick up too many points from. Chelski usually do well against us on their own turf and we haven’t beaten Tottenham on their own ground since 2014 when Rosicky hammered one home early on. That’s eight years and counting where we haven’t been able to taste victory, so we shouldn’t count our chickens in terms of those games in hand.

What we can do, however, is ensure that for other games we are showing our consistency and that’s why I’m looking at the next few games and hoping we can go on a winning run. Next weekend we play Brentford at home. We simply must win that. Then we are at home to Wolves on the Thursday 24th February, before playing Watford away at the beginning of March. That represents four matches in a little block that, if we can win all four, would put us in a fantastic position and would open up a little bit of that ‘wiggle room’ I mentioned above.

And I do think we need it because of those tough games. It would be nice to be able to build a confidence and momentum through victories against those sides so we can feel like we can afford a dropped point or two in other matches as the season draws to the scary tail end of it. It would be nice to know there is a buffer and in the next month it feels like we might see that buffer appear, or we’ll trip up and find ourselves right in the mix amongst those other teams with very little to separate the sides fighting for fourth.

And I suspect it will probably be realistic to expect us to come a cropper against opponents we wouldn’t expect. We are a young side that has made mistakes and dropped points where we shouldn’t have, like away to Everton or at home to Burnley. We have looked a bit ropey at times this season and we are relying on an attack that doesn’t seem to be scoring loads of goals. ‘On nil to the Arsenal’ was the mantra on Thursday last week and at a tough place to go like Wolves that is absolutely fine. But when you are at home to Burnley, or Brentford, then you need to be minimising the risk of mistakes by scoring more than the odd goal and that is where we need our attackers to step up and do it sooner rather than later. If we can find the form and goals spread across the team like we were doing in December and over the Christmas period, it feels like we’ll have a good short at building that all-important ‘wiggle room’, but if we don’t start picking up those additional goals in games then you worry that the odd slip up is inevitable. Football players are human beings, after all, and therefore prone to any split second lapse of judgement and in elite sports, those lapses are usually punished. It would not be completely inconceivable, for example, to see us dominate the whole game next weekend against Brentford, only for a player to trip somebody in the box, or slip over leading to a goal, etc. If you’ve scored three goals already when that happens then it becomes a minor footnote in an otherwise routine win. But if you haven’t taken your chances then it becomes a bigger issue than it should be and we would find ourselves lamenting a performance that didn’t result in a win.

I know it sounds terribly reductive i.e. “score more goals and win football matches”, but I do believe we need to be converting chances more than we have been. When you look at the stats we do have plenty of shots; this wasn’t like last season when we seemed a shot-shy team, because we are taking shots and fashioning chances. But we aren’t always converting them and so what I’m also looking for from the remainder of the season is to get those shot conversion metrics up too; let’s have ourselves scoring a little more frequently and in volume during games please, Arsenal.

Do that, and we can start looking at the very real opportunity of top four.

Catch you all tomorrow.