Given the games are coming thick and fast at the moment, no sooner had the euphoria of Tuesday’s win settled down for me yesterday evening, I immediately started thinking about the challenge of Aston Villa ahead on Saturday. This was amplified when I saw that Villa were playing City at home in the evening and so we’d get a bit of litmus test as to where they are under Unai Emery right now.
I didn’t watch the game last night but checked in on the final scores. Liverpool got what seems like a pretty routine win at Sheffield United, but that Villa v City game was the one that I was interested in and blow me down like a feather, they’ve only gone and schooled City at home, haven’t they? The stats also show a dominant display, with City mustering just two shots in the entire game. I’ve had half an eye on their results because I’ve noticed they’ve picked up some noticeable wins like the Scum away, Brighton at home and Chelsea away (I know, I know, but we only managed a draw there, so…), but last night will have been the biggest one for them by some distance so to see that they’ve dispatched the reigning treble champions like that will really make a lot of teams sit up and take note.
I’m not going to turn this in to a Villa or even an Unai Emery love-in, because we all saw what Arsenal were under Emery in the end and it wasn’t pretty at all, but what it has started to crystallise in my mind having seen that result from last night is this:
This season is going to be even harder to finish top of the tree than ever before.
Last season we started off brilliantly and by the time everyone had played at least 15 games on match week 17 (looked it up on the official site here) we’d amassed 40 points. This season we’re a little short of that on 36 having drawn an extra two games, but we always knew that pace was not sustainable, as as we’d have ended up with a 101 point season finish with a squad that we all knew wasn’t deep enough to do that. But the rest of the table was City on 35, Newcastle on 33 having played 16 games, the Scum on 30 having played 16 and United on 29 having played 15. Where we stand right now we’ve got all of the top four having played 15 games and the points on the board are:
- Arsenal = 36
- Liverpool = 34
- Villa = 32
- Man City = 30
- The Scum = 27 – although they’ve played 14 and when they beat West Ham tonight I expect that to be 30.
Even if you go down the table right now we’ve got every team in the top nine on 20+ points. Last season that was Chelsea in eighth on that amount. So we’ve got all of the top five (almost) on 30 points. I know we’re only talking about a small points differential here, but I can easily see how this could be maintained because as Villa showed last night, a lot more points are being taken off each other from the better teams in the top half of the table. Liverpool have lost to The Scum, Villa have lost to Liverpool and Newcastle, City have lost to us and Villa and the Scum have lost to Villa and Chelsea. The ability for two teams to break away like we were already seeing last season is, I think going to be much more difficult.
We’ve got a super hard run of games now too. Villa away as I’ve already mentioned above, Brighton at home (who have beaten us at The Emirates in four of the last six matches in all competitions at home, with us drawing one and losing one), as well as Liverpool at Anfield (where we haven’t won in the league since 2012 – 11 years!). It’s all great at the top of the table for us right now, but that could very easily swing if we end up the wrong side of those results.
And yes, I know we’re a good team now, that apart from on Tuesday night we’ve been pretty awesome at the back and have been looking imperious, but we’ve got injuries still hampering our ability to rotate, a bunch of games that need to be got through in December, plus some incredibly tough fixtures and a fair bit of travelling too (we go to Eindhoven as well in the middle of next week), so I think that this is going to be one of the toughest periods in the season for us in the next two weeks. It was only three days ago I wrote about Merson’s comments and the more and more I think about it, he might actually be spot on. Imagine if we win the next three Premier League games. I personally think there’s about a 10% chance of that happening, but if it did, woah-baby, then I think we can start to get really excited.
But, Chris, let’s take it the old cliché of ‘one game at a time’ and let’s try to figure out how we’re going to stop the likes of Ollie Watkins et al first, eh? That in itself will be a big milestone if we can win that one, and we’d have to do something that no other team has done so far this season: win at Villa Park.
Right, I think I’ll leave it there for today, because there’s not really a lot else going on right now from an Arsenal perspective. I don’t even want to contemplate the idea of Cedric coming back in to the team because of our absent defenders, so I’ll park it.
Catch you all tomorrow.