Arsenal’s next three Premier League fixtures will tell us a lot as to whether they are worthy of a European place or if it’s a bridge too far for Mikel Arteta’s charges this season.
The Gunners welcome Leicester City to the Emirates tomorrow morning (AEST) as they look to build upon their recent run of good form. Since losing to a last-minute winner away to Brighton last month, Arsenal have won four matches on the bounce, scoring ten goals and conceding just once in their FA cup tie with Sheffield United thanks to a calamitous piece of defending from Sead Kolasinac.
Much has been made of Arsenal’s defence this season, with David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of most criticism, their improvement since Mikel Arteta took over and in particular the last month cannot be denied. Along with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney the much-maligned back four has shown solidarity and togetherness, with Arteta’s fingerprints all over it.
Now, are Luiz and Mustafi the long-term solutions for Arsenal? Certainly not, but for the time being they are improving and getting results to go with it. Conceding only once in four games is decent form by anyone’s measure.
After Leicester the Gunners travel to their most bitter rivals, Tottenham, whose own form has been up and down at best – they got the three points thanks to a Michael Keane own goal over Everton Tuesday morning (AEST) after losing 3-1 to Sheffield United to be a solitary point behind Arsenal in eighth.
It shapes as a classic six-point game, and it’s a match they simply must win to keep pace with Chelsea and Manchester United, who occupy fourth and fifth respectively.
Arsenal’s last game along this brutal three-game stretch is welcoming champions Liverpool to the Emirates. By this stage there could be everything to play for or nothing at all depending on how Arsenal fare in their earlier fixtures. Odds would say this is a loss waiting to happen, but seeing how Arteta has the Gunners playing at this point in time, it is feasible to see Arsenal getting a point. With Liverpool having secured the title, their motivation could be waning. A win is still a big stretch, but at this stage fans have to dream, and in this season of uncertainty anything can happen.
After a week of positive news, with young stars Bukayo Saka signing a new four-year deal and tying Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli down a new long-term deal to go with an impressive 2-0 win away at Wolves, fans can see there is a cause for optimism at the Emirates, with Arteta slowly implementing his style. Positive results stemming from the changes. Also, an exciting crop of young stars are coming through the ranks and have been given a chance, and they have proved pivotal to Arsenal’s recent resurgence.
Although there is still a long way to go if Arsenal are to secure European football for next season, there will be plenty of opportunities to show the football world they are not the basket case they looked just a couple of months ago. They have another chance to show their solidarity and togetherness as a group tomorrow morning.
Leicester is the next test that awaits, and a win is simply non-negotiable if they are to keep that slim hope of European football alive.