November has been a peculiar month for Arsenal. It started with what felt like a landmark victory at Old Trafford, the Gunners’ first league win there in 14 years and it has rather stalled since.
Rather than showing definitive progress in the games that followed, Mikel Arteta’s men have struggled to shake off the inconsistency that has been a hallmark of their 2020/21 season so far, demonstrated by a record of four wins, four defeats and a draw from their first nine Premier League matches.
It would be all too easy to take a pessimistic view of the Gunners’ last game. A 0-0 draw to a newly promoted team never looks like a satisfactory score line, particularly when Leeds amassed 25 shots on goal.
However, when you factor in Arsenal’s away record against last season’s promoted clubs (Sheffield United, L, 0-1. Norwich City D, 2-2. Aston Villa, L, 0-1) and that they played the majority of the second half with ten men following Nicolas Pépé’s red card, Arteta deserves credit for being able to secure a point.
The next three matches are of pivotal importance to Arsenal, presenting a great opportunity for Arteta to gain some much-needed momentum.
Qualification as winners of Group B in the Europa League could be secured with a win at Molde on Thursday. A handsome win against Wolves on Sunday could propel Arsenal to as high as sixth before the all-important North London derby on 5 December.
Tottenham have two successive London derbies, playing Chelsea before the visit of Arsenal. Although Spurs currently sit top of the table, if they were to lose their next two league games and Arsenal were to win both of theirs, the gap between the two teams would close to just one point.
Needless to say, the next ten days could be an extremely important period, not just in the context of Arsenal’s season but in Arteta’s reign as Arsenal manager.
There is good reason to believe the Spaniard can turn things around once again. Not only did he resurrect a team that was buried in the rubble to the heights of FA Cup winners, but he has ensured that his Arsenal team will not be easy to beat.
At this stage last year, Unai Emery had overseen his last Premier League game, a 2-2 draw at home to then-19th placed Southampton, who had just been thrashed 9-0 by Leicester. Arsenal were closer to the relegation zone than the top four, already a staggering 19 points behind eventual champions Liverpool.
Freddie Ljungberg was then appointed as caretaker manager, a role which he fulfilled for almost a month, before Arteta took over.
He has since laid the foundations for future success by building a solid base. Bernd Leno continues to prove himself as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, whilst Gabriel has added some much-needed steel in defence.
A pressing priority for Arteta is to get Arsenal scoring again. Although his team have looked stout and secure for the most part, they have failed to blow teams away in attack, not scoring more than twice in the Premier League since the opening day of the season.
Football fans are a fickle bunch and those currently calling for Arteta’s head will be singing his name from the rooftops in just under two weeks if he can lead Arsenal to three successive victories.
Despite recent results suggesting otherwise, there should be little doubt amongst the Arsenal faithful that Arteta is the man to lead the club forward.
Zac CampbellFollow @ZPRCampbell