Three crucial games ahead could define Arsenal’s season…

Oxford done. Three big games to come.  Spurs, Man United and Man City……by Joel Mians

The lacklustre first half of Monday night’s FA Cup tie at Oxford was a tough watch for all Arsenal fans. Even despite the seven changes to the starting XI from the Newcastle draw, there was a concerning lack of rhythm and conviction in how the team sought to attack their League One opponents.

Dressed in their special all-white ensemble designed to highlight the club’s “No More Red” campaign, the away side were performing like their energy had been drained alongside the colour from their kits, much more akin to a typical first half showing this season from another team in North London… (More on them later.)

Thankfully, Mohamed Elneny’s header and Eddie Nketiah’s well-taken brace averted any prospect of a humiliating cupset at the Kassam Stadium and booked their place into a fourth-round clash away at title rivals Manchester City.

Arsenal’s attention now returns to their long Premier League quest, and the short trip across North London this Sunday to take on bitter adversaries Tottenham.

After missing the chance to go ten points clear at the top last Sunday, the Gunners’ lead may be whittled down to two points, if City emerge victorious in their own local derby at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Saturday.

Arsenal’s impressive title charge thus far endured a minor road bump in their disappointing 0-0 draw against a Newcastle side who came to the Emirates, clearly intent on sitting back, absorbing attacking pressure and frustrating their opponents.

Forget Newcastle ‘parking the bus’, the Gunners effectively had to break open a black and white safe, breached only 11 times in 17 league games, but despite using every attacking combination at their disposal, the home side could not unlock the Magpies’ mean defence to steal those precious three points.

The next three games are likely to present the toughest test yet of any title credentials, which could just as well energise or significantly derail the burgeoning momentum the Gunners have gradually built this season.

Antonio Conte’s side pose the first of these three great hurdles, and even though Spurs have been notably inconsistent this campaign, they may hold the psychological edge heading into this encounter, with Arsenal’s wounds perhaps still raw from their crushing 3-0 defeat in May last year, which allowed their rivals to pip them to fourth place and Champions League qualification.

Nine years have passed since their last North London derby triumph away from home in the league, but Mikel Arteta, who played in that 1-0 win in 2014, will be desperate to ensure his young side do not falter like last year in the white-hot atmosphere at Tottenham.

Indeed, the Spaniard will be thankful to still have Bukayo Saka available this weekend, after Arteta declared the 21-year-old was “fine” after hobbling off the pitch on the 75th minute during Monday evening’s 3-0 victory at Oxford.

The mere sight of Saka writhing in discomfort may understandably increase the clamour of supporters, craving imminent attacking reinforcements this month.

However, with the ongoing discussions with Shakhtar Donetsk over acquiring winger Mykhaylo Mudryk not showing any signs of an immediate breakthrough, and no other incomings mentioned at present, it appears Arteta might have to tackle this crucial set of fixtures with his current crop of players, starting with Sunday.

Interestingly on Monday, the Spaniard achieved a remarkable feat, with the 3-0 win over Oxford. Arsenal’s 20th in all competitions this season in just 25 games, a new club record.

Any more victories from these next three games will have to be fiercely fought ones, but should the Gunners claim an enormous three points this Sunday, and bring in a new recruit before the following Sunday’s home match against a resurgent United, this North London derby could be the moment that definitively galvanises Arsenal’s title ambitions, as they enter the back stretch of the season.

 Thanks,

Joel.

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15 Comments

  1. Our loss to the scum at the toilet bowl was down to Arteta’s naivety and injuries. Setting out to attack with such a depleted squad was one of the stupidest decisions by Arteta last season. We had a perfect opponent that struggles against deep block/counterattacking football. Our deep block was so good liverpool could handle our 10 men. City barely scrapped through despite having an extra body. Makes me wonder why Arteta did what he did with such a depleted squad.

    1. Could have, should have, But’s and If’s.
      All in retrospect..
      If I had eaten my Vegetables back in the year 2003 I would have been much more healthier today in the year 2023.

    2. Most of the injuries at that time was our defensive players. Do you know what happens if you sit deep with more attacking players than defending players? Especially with high pressing attacking players? The midfield would look like an asteroid crater with empty picnic garden ready to be vandalised by those Totty quick forwards. The arrogance of thinking Arteta had plenty of choices at that moment is truly hilarious.

  2. Now no more excuses this time, can’t be losing to this deadbeat Spurs team this season.
    Our first team is 90% fully fit and buzzing. Jesus is the only missing player. We are at full strength..

  3. The piece is right, I’ve felt for a while that these 3 games have the potential to make or break the season.

    We could end up behind City within 3 games and that wouldn’t bode well.

    Mind you, is the game agaisnt City in the FA Cup or the PL?

    I was annoyed to get City away at this stage of the FA Cup.

  4. Man U are starting to make we worry a bit! We know what City can do but United are looking really strong now that they got rid of the cry baby. Add Newcastle and Spurs to the mix and we have a proper fighton our hands.

    If we don’t beat any 2 of the 3 big games then you’ll see us under big pressure. We’ve proved we can lead the pack for a long time, but can this team chase if required?

    We are very close to half way and will likely be top at the half way mark, so that’s the 1st half banked. Very well done!!! I know some on here will glady end 4th but keep in mind to end 4th from where we are now will require us to have the form of an 7th/8th place team for the rest of the season. Would you find that acceptable?

  5. I’m quietly confident of a 2-1 win despite our poor record away at Spurs however I am slightly nervous about Man Utd at home, Rashford is on fire at the moment and I can see them causing us a lot of problems on the counter attack like in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, however having Partey in midfield will hopefully be the difference this time round.

    1. Everyone worried about City and Newcastle and Utd…..well guess what they also play against each other!

      1. Exactly
        I told a friend, City is the main worry.
        U could line up 3 consecutive big team games for them and the win them all

        Just happy they lost to Man Utd now

        Hoping Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool can get points of them too

  6. No midweek games so Arsenal can beat spurs and united…we will have the mental strength to beat united and then we’ll be confident to take on city…..I hope we dominate possession in the next two games

  7. Arteta’s tactic and gameplay always has been total control of the game from start to finish. The team was drilled to squeeze the life out of the opponents. Hence, the hard running attackers and the technical defenders. If the plan goes right, Tottiful and Manasit have no chance. I’m mostly worried about City Oil.

  8. I believe Arsenal will win two and draw one of the above three fixtures.
    Do not forget that these teams are also scared of playing us.
    We will start with a 0-2 victory against spurs on Sunday.
    Apart from the threat of Haaland, city is largely not the team they used to be before, and this was proven yesterday in their game against Southampton. So they are quite beatable if we can snuff out the danger posed by Haaland.

  9. It is imperitive that we have to win the NLD to keep the momentum going for the title push. That said, I hope we sign either Mudryk or someone else in the attacking front and also a midfielder in this transfer window. The Arsenal board must realise that this is a golden opportunity to win the League title and strengthening the squad with quality players will only increase our chances of winning the title.

    1. Agreed. This is a golden chance. We need an attacking player with PL experience that would help. Mudryk would take some time to get used to PL.

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