And so the fixture congestion begins. Including the Burnley match this past Sunday, Arsenal have 15 matches in 48 days. Technically, it’s only 14 games guaranteed - the Gunners must win their Carabao Cup quarterfinal against West Ham to get the 15th - but still that’s a lot of football.
First up, Huddersfield Town tomorrow afternoon at the Emirates. The Terriers won their opening two Premier League matches but have since stumbled to a 2-3-6 record. They currently sit 11th in the table on 15 points.
This is not a fixture about which Arsenal supporters should be all that concerned, at least from a difficulty standpoint. Arsenal have won 11 straight at the Emirates in the Premier League. The Gunners have beaten the last seven newly-promoted teams to visit the Emirates by a combined score of 20-2. The Terriers have scored the third fewest goals in the Premier League this season and have only scored three goals away from John Smith’s Stadium (all in the first match of the season).
Perhaps it is because this match appears to be an easy one that supporters should worry. It could be the proverbial “trap game” for Arsenal. Trap games are typcially played against lesser opponents (check) and right before a much bigger, more difficult matchup (check). The thinking goes that the team overlooks / doesn’t focus on the lesser opponent and a poor performance results.
Players, coaches, and the media talk about trap games, but who knows if they are actually a thing. The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective says they aren’t, at least in American football. Furthermore, the trap game is a mindset / psychological effect that cannot really be proven or disproven - there’s no real way to know if it’s true.
What is true, however, is that this is a must-win game. The Gunners cannot drop points at home, especially to lesser teams, and expect to finish in the top four.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t appear to be overlooking the Terriers. He told the media that his squad selection will be made without giving any thought to Saturday’s match with Manchester United.
Wenger should have just about a full compliment of players from which to pick his 11. Both Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil returned to training following their illnesses, although the German faces a late fitness test to determine his availability. Alex Iwobi will likely miss the match with the injury he picked up against Burnley, and Santi Cazorla remains out long-term.
Huddersfield will be without starting winger (and one of only four players to score for them this season) Rajiv van La Parra. The Dutchman is serving the first of a three-game ban for a red card he received stemming from an incident with Leroy Sané on Sunday.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Huddersfield Town
WHEN: Wednesday, November 29 11:45 AM PT | 2:45 PM ET | 7:45 PM BT
WHERE: Emirates Stadium, London
US TV: Not televised. The game will be streamed on NBC Sports Gold, a subscription service.
Not in the US? Check out livesoccer.tv for streaming information. Please don’t discuss illegal streams here!
Update: Incorrectly stated that Huddersfield have not scored away from John Smith’s Stadium this season. They scored three in the first match of the season against Crystal Palace. I guess mistakes happen when you trust the British media without independently checking what they write.