With four wins in five games in the Premier League and a clash with Tottenham on the horizon, strong form from some of Arsenal’s best players suggest that November may yield more positive results than in years past. Sunday’s North London Derby is the marquee fixture of the weekend as Arsenal looks to continue its unbeaten streak against a Spurs side that only took six points from four Premier League matches in the month of October.
Last weekend’s match against lowly Sunderland is not necessarily indicative of how successful the Gunners will be this November. The match against Tottenham should indicate if Arsenal can continue to compete with best clubs in Europe. Even though several important players are still recovering from injury, strong performances from Alexis and Olivier Giroud should convince supporters that Arsenal can continue to succeed in all competitions.
Arsenal’s form during this campaign has not managed to convince reporters that they will continue to succeed during the month of November. Sunderland, last in the table with two points from 10 matches, has had one of the worst starts in the history of the Premier League. Pundits have argued that a brace from Alexis and Giroud against a bad Sunderland side was more luck than skill. Statistics from past Premier League seasons reveal how Arsenal has struggled in November. A report in The Guardian shows that during Wenger’s time as manager,
“his team average 2.18 points per game in March, 2.14 in September and October and 2.09 in April, but they manage only 1.59 during the 11th month. It is as if they are suddenly afflicted by seasonal affective disorder at the awkward junction between autumn and winter.”
This trend in Arsenal’s form is interesting, but not surprising. During the month of November, all of the main competitions in English football are under way. Since Wenger’s Arsenal keep themselves in contention for the Premier League title every year, the Gunners have always been involved in the Champions League group stage, which adds fixture congestion. In the group stage (and the ensuing knockout rounds), Wenger regularly selects Arsenal’s best players as they pursue one of the most coveted pieces of silverware in European football. In order to give these players sufficient rest, players selected for other competitions such as the EFL Cup and the FA Cup often do not have experience playing against Europe’s best players. Since reserve players do not have a lot of first team experience, important points could be dropped because reserves are forced to play significant minutes in the league due to injuries to key players.
Playing in the Premier League and the Champions League is a demanding task for elite footballers. With ten matches in the Premier League and three group stage matches completed, Arsenal’s list of injuries is beginning to grow longer. Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, and Hector Bellerin will not be traveling to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets for the fourth Champions League group stage match.
Arsenal has the depth to provide suitable replacements for them, but prolonged injury spells means substitutes will see more playing time in the league. With these injuries, a month that features Tottenham, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Southampton seems daunting. However, the match against Sunderland shows that strong performances can contribute to important victories.
Olivier Giroud came on as a substitute and scored a quick brace, Kieran Gibbs was stout in place of Nacho Monreal, Ox displayed pace on the wing, and Alexis’ wit in the 18-yard box was crucial. The determination that Arsenal showed on Saturday morning after a disappointing result against Middlesbrough last week shows that the November curse can be broken despite numerous injuries.