This weekend will show just how far Arsenal have come under Unai Emery.
The first two games of the season – at home to Manchester City followed by a visit to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea – were a write off. Unfair game to judge the Spaniard on as the club moved into its new era.
Following that we have had 13 fairly routine games against sides we would expect to get a result from.
This does not mean that Arsenal’s 13 game unbeaten run has not been remarkable – 12 wins in 13 games is almost faultless – but it was very much results as how we would expect them.
We have a 100% winning record against sides outside the top 6 since January 2018, so it would not be unreasonable to expect Arsenal to have defeated Everton, West Ham, Watford & Leicester.
Emery should also be hugely praised for turning around the clubs away form. 3 wins and a draw since that defeat against Chelsea.
In 2017/18, we got just 16 points away from home -4 wins and 4 draws. This season we already have 10 points. The draw to Crystal Palace might have disappointed some, but over a 38 game season every side will drop points on the road to a team they are superior too.
The game against Liverpool will be the first against a top 4 chasing side since Chelsea on the second week of the season. It is the biggest test so far of the Unai Emery era. One which will show if we have moved forward or not.
Worst case scenario and we lose, it will leave Arsenal on 22 points from the opening 11 games. At the same stage last season, we were on 19 points after 11 games. So regardless we have moved forward.
After 11 games last year, we had lost to Stoke City, Liverpool, Watford and Manchester City, and drawn to Chelsea. All 5 games were away from home.
The corresponding home game against Liverpool saw a 3-3 draw as Arsenal came from 2-0 down with 3 goals in 5 minutes to go 3-2 up; before Liverpool struck to share the points.
If Arsenal do lose, the media will jump straight on it in an attempt to show that nothing has changed at Arsenal. I imagine their revenue has dramatically decreased whilst we have been on this winning run (one social media channel has dropped from 30m hits a month to just 9m as a result of Arsenal not losing).
Like we saw with the draw at Crystal Palace, the media will use any slight negative result to paint Arsenal as a club still in crisis, still with major problems. They will chase the hits, the revenue.
But anyone that go’s to games regularly will know that regardless of the result tomorrow, a lot has changed at Arsenal. It feels fresh. It feels exciting. The fans mindset has changed. We are actually enjoying going to games again.
I expect Manchester City to run away with the title again. They are top of the league with Kevin de Bruyne yet to start a game. Having already face Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal away from home, the unbeaten season is a realistic goal.
That means Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are fighting it out for best of the rest. For second place.
Victory against Liverpool will put us into this race. It will confirm that we are battling for 2nd place – a huge step forward after last season and battling for 6th against Burnley.
Failure to win and it will mean Arsenal’s target is more realistically the battle for 4th.
It will show that we are not quite at the level of Liverpool or Chelsea year, and that they will fill the two places behind Manchester City.
That will leave it as a straight fight between Arsenal and Spurs for the final Champions League spot.
It is a race that I would expect us to win, even if we do lose to Liverpool tomorrow.
A 5:30 kick off will mean everyone can have a few beers before, so hopefully the ground is rocking by kick off time.
Up The Arsenal