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Arsenal March 2016 preview

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It's a congested slate through the first two-thirds of the month across three competitions with everything to play for...no pressure or anything.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

v. Swansea - Wednesday, March 2 (BPL)

This one's got motivation written up and down it with Arsenal fighting to stay in the title chase while the Swans are just three points off the relegation zone. With just two points from their last four games, Arsenal is struggling for form. This is a prime opportunity, make no mistake. Anything less than three points could serve as a clear marker that the title run would likely be all but over.

Current position and record: 16th, 6-9-12 (27 pts)

Previous meetingSwansea 0, Arsenal 3 (October 31, BPL)

Other Team - Saturday, March 5 (BPL)

An early March North London Derby with both teams currently sitting in the top 3. No, you're worried about your heart being able to get through this one.

Current position and record: 2nd, 15-9-3 (54 pts)

Previous meetingOther Team 1, Arsenal 2 (September 23, CC)
Other Team 1, Arsenal 1 (November 8, BPL)

Hull - Tuesday, March 8 (FA Cup)

Two and a half weeks after a scoreless first leg at the Emirates that saw the Gunners put up 24 shots, 11 of which were on target, Arsenal heads north to face a plucky Hull City side that has already shown how difficult they'll be to deal with. The concern here, beyond progressing to the sixth round to take on Watford, is fixture congestion.

From that first leg game on February 20th through the Everton game on March 19, Arsenal will have played nine games in 29 days. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out for nearly two months with a knee injury and Alexis Sánchezpossible healthy scratch to start the month, Wenger's going to have some very difficult decisions ahead of him.

Current position and record: 2nd (Championship), 19-7-7 (64 pts)

Previous meetingHull 0, Arsenal 0 (February 20, FA Cup)

v. West Bromwich Albion - Saturday, March 12 (BPL)

Sandwiched between a FA Cup match and the second leg at Barca, what is a very opportune weekend to pick up points in the table may offer a chance to push a lineup similar to the first Hull leg. Calum Chambers, Danny Welbeck, Joel Campbell, Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi all picked up starts with Wenger opting to sub in Ox, Alexis and Olivier Giroud late to push for a winner. Congestion is the driver, but picking the opportunities to rest key members of the starting XI will be just as important as timely decisions elsewhere.

Current position and record: 13th, 9-9-10 (36 pts)

Previous meetingWest Brom 2, Arsenal 1 (November 21, BPL)

Barcelona - Wednesday, March 16 (Champions League)

Man, forget that weak soup.

Current position and record: 1st, 21-3-2 (66 pts)

Previous meetingBarcelona 2, Arsenal 0 (February 23, UCL)

@ Everton - Saturday, March 19 (BPL)

An early end to the month is both warranted and deserved. As mentioned above, this ends a 29-day stretch that includes nine games. A respite will be crucial with just seven league games remaining after this one.

As for Everton, it's been a disappointing season thus far for the Toffees. They're in good form though winning five of their last six in all competitions. The dynamic at play here is the lack of congestion for Everton. Arsenal have five contests before heading to Merseyside. Everton have just two.

Current position and record: 10th, 9-11-7 (38 pts)

Previous meetingEverton 1, Arsenal 2 (October 24, BPL)

Summary

It's a tight maze to navigate.

Three points should be expected against Swansea, but how to line up today with one of the biggest North London Derbies in recent memory up next?

Do Arsenal play another light XI against Hull and push starter subs in if they're still chasing the go-ahead goal? Does qualification weigh heavily enough to push Giroud or Sanchez or Mesut Özil into the starting side?

Like the Swansea fixture, West Brom should be a source of another three points. Does that mean the Barcelona game isn't worth leaning into at all? With a trip to Everton that doesn't carry the same demands as Swansea or the Baggies, is it wiser to save some field time against Barca to put a stronger side out against Roberto Martinez's men?

The answers aren't easy. Neither will be results. But for Arsenal to get through this month and still be alive in the title race and FA Cup (assuming fairly that another Champions League exit is a foregone conclusion), those answers and results will need to be overwhelmingly positive.

Buckle up.