v. Southampton - Tuesday, February 2 (BPL)
The Saints are coming into this game on the heels of a much-needed three game winning streak that follows a rough, rough patch. From November 21 to January 2, Southampton went 1-1-6. Oddly enough, the season has been such a muddled one across the league that Southampton went from 7th in the table on November 8 to 8th as it stands right now.
We shant make mention of the Boxing Day massacre here. It is worth acknowledging though that they have since added striker Charlie Austin on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Also, Steven Caulker's loan was cancelled to allow him to move over to Liverpool.
Current position and record: 18th, 9-6-8 (33 pts)
Previous meeting: Southampton 4, Arsenal 0 (December 26, BPL)
@ Bournemouth - Sunday, February 7 (BPL)
Scrappy Bournemouth has scrapped through their first ever campaign in the Premier League to scrappy sixteenth place. I sincerely hope they scrap their way to a second scrappy season in the top flight next year...just not in this game. Scrap elsewhere.
Current position and record: Scrappy 16th, 6 scrappy wins-7 scrapped draws-10 scrapless losses (25 very scrappy pts)
Previous meeting: Bournemouth a scrappy 0, Arsenal 2 (December 28, BPL)
v. Leicester City - Sunday, February 14 (BPL)
What offered a relatively tepid fixture as we looked at the schedule in the run up to the season now looms as a monster Super Sunday showdown. League leaders Leicester now approach the Emirates with a chance to cement their status as a legitimate top four team by season's end while Arsenal can add to a potential looming title run.
The timing here is crucial as well.
The next two games are of significant importance. So what seemed like a comfortable play-in back in, say, September when these two last met now can't be taken lightly. This is no longer a game for Wenger to rest some of the starting XI in advance of the next two fixtures.
That's as fine a compliment as you can pay to what Leicester has achieved thus far in the 2015-16 season.
Current position and record: 1st, 13-8-2 (47 pts)
Previous meeting:Leicester 2, Arsenal 5 (September 26, BPL)
v. Hull City - February 20 (FA Cup)
This is where things can get rough for Arsenal this month. With Leicester less than a week prior and a decent team from Spain coming in just three days...the lineup choices for this one will be very interesting.
Hull City was a fortunate draw. Depending on how the rest of February plays out, Wenger might well be gifted a relatively inviting opportunity to sit Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez for this one. And with various Like A New Signing's returning soon, I wouldn't be surprised if Arsenal are taking on a Championship side with Jack Wilshere making his return...
Current position and record: 1st (Championship), 17-5-6 (56 points)
Previous meeting: Like you don't remember.
v. Barcelona - February 23 (Champions League)
Never heard of em.
Current position and record: 1st in La Liga, 15-3-2 (48 points)
Previous meeting: Three post-group stage two-leg draws in favor of Barcelona in 1999, 2010 and 2011...and the Final in 2006. Whatever. Let's make history.
@ Manchester United - Sunday, February 28 (BPL)
You can point to it being Man U's worst point total after 23 matches. You can also point to just what that means in terms of their history. They've been relatively unassailable in Premier League history. And while they looked absolutely terrible on Saturday against Southampton, they're Man U. They're in fifth with reason to claw back in the fight for a Champions League spot.
This isn't anywhere near as easy as the narrative would suggest right now.
Current position and record: 5th, 10-7-6 (37 pts)
Previous meeting: Man U 0, Arsenal 3 (October 4, BPL)
I deemed last month "interesting for what it didn't include." Going 2-2-1 perhaps dishearteningly, things turn up a notch in February. Disappointing draws against Liverpool and Stoke behind, Diego Costa now dead to us this season, what lies ahead is daunting.
Barcelona. The FA Cup. Upstart Leicester and downtrodden Man U and speed traps against Southampton and at Bournemouth...this is a comprehensive month of Arsenal football.
NLD Pt. II and a trip to the Camp Nou loom in March. The title is up for grabs. January was a month of keeping a hold on to the months ahead.
The months ahead start here.