Optimism is sky-high among Arsenal fans after Unai Emery’s men thrashed Fulham 5-1 to record their ninth straight victory on Sunday afternoon. The Gunners are now just two points off the top of the Premiership table and already they are flying in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup.
It is a shame that they must now contend with an international break, which will halt their momentum and possibly result in key players suffering injury. They do not have another fixture until Monday, October 22, when they host Leicester, and soon we will be into the dreaded November.
This was Arsenal’s worst month during Arsene Wenger’s long tenure at the club as the wheels typically came off when winter’s icy claws gripped the Premier League. The Gunners were lumbered with the tag of having a soft underbelly, and it is true that they have struggled in away trips up north when they were getting kicked about cold pitches. The good news is that Stoke are now Championship fodder, so that is one less thing to worry about, but Arsenal’s record in November is still a concern.
If you check out a Bookmaker review and find market leading odds on the Premiership you will see you the Gunners are still huge outsiders to win the title. Champions Man City are the 4/6 favourites, while Liverpool are 9/4 and Chelsea are 9/1, while Spurs are 33/1 and Arsenal are out at 40/1. The oddsmakers are unconvinced by their chances, despite the Gunners’ phenomenal upturn in form. They are just two points behind City, Chelsea and Liverpool, and above Tottenham on goal difference, and they are the form team of the division, surging with confidence and playing Champagne football at present. “We’ve got our Arsenal back!” chanted the fans after Aaron Ramsey’s sumptuous finish to round off a magnificent team goal at Craven Cottage.
Yet the pundits do not share this optimism. Alan Shearer and co were already writing Arsenal off after the game, and that is probably fair enough. Arsenal have not spent anywhere near as much money as City or Liverpool, and this was always supposed to be a transition season under a new coach after Wenger’s long reign came to an end. But Arsenal have surprised everyone by playing with real zest and dynamism going forwards, and in recent weeks they have been utterly clinical. Even more impressive is their newfound ability to win ugly.
After two early season defeats to City and Chelsea, they have strung together six straight wins in the league, plus two in Europe and one in the league cup. But they could be accused of amounting to flat track bullies, as they have been vanquishing opponents tipped to finish in the bottom half of the table. October finishes with games against Leicester and Crystal Palace, so the real test of their mettle will come in November.
That sees them face a rampant Liverpool at The Emirates, before an impressive Wolves side visit north London. Then it is an away trip to high-flying Bournemouth before the derby against Spurs on December 1.
If they are still hovering around the top of the table as they head into that Tottenham game, the bookmakers might start taking them seriously. It would also give them confidence in their ability to reassert their dominance over their fierce local rivals, who have been crowing for the last two years in spite of a lack of trophies and an uncanny ability to crumble under pressure. The Gunners have made good progress under Emery, and Lucas Torreira in particular has been a revelation, while Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be good for plenty of goals.
But November is the real acid test for the club, and if they can put that hoodoo behind them it should cause optimism levels to shoot up even further among supporters.