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Arsenal’s month ahead: November

May or may not start a new series on TSF.

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Premier League - Emirates Stadium Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Arsenal play three matches in November. The Gunners host Watford on November 11th, travel to Liverpool on November 20th, and host Newcastle on November 27th. Arsenal are in the midst of a 9-match unbeaten run, making the club the second-hottest team in the Premier League. Only Liverpool’s 15-match streak (a.k.a. the entire season thus far) is longer.

Fun fact: these three matches will be the fewest Arsenal have played in a November since the 1976-1977 season, when they also played three. That year, the Gunners beat Birmingham City 4-0 at home, drew Liverpool 1-1 at home, and beat Coventry City 2-1 away. That season was the first in charge for Terry Neill, who managed the club from 1976-1983. Neill was just 34 that season and is still the youngest manager in club history. That team also featured Arsenal legend Pat Rice and all-time club appearance leader David O’Leary.

Bonus fun fact: in November 1976, Rock’n Me by Steve Miller Band started the month atop the Billboard charts but was dethroned by Tonight’s the Night by Rod Stewart, which spent 8 weeks on top, the longest-stint of any song that year.

There are a couple reasons for the sparse fixture list this month. First, there are only four weekends in November this year when often there are five. An international break from the 9th to the 18th eats one of those weekends. And the Gunners aren’t in Europe this season; in past years, European competition added two fixtures to the list.

Six points should be the expectation for the month. Anything more than that is gravy. Arsenal should beat the 16th (Watford) and 19th (Newcastle) place clubs in the table at home. I don’t expect a result from Liverpool away.

The Gunners are unbeaten in the last five against Watford (4-1-0). The clubs did not play last season because Watford were in the Championship, having been relegated in the COVID-interrupted season. The Hornets have had 14 different full-time managers in the last decade, with Quique Sánchez Flores taking charge twice to make it 15 “different” coaches. And that does not include Hayden Mullins’ two 2-match stints as caretaker. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that Watford sacked Xisco Muñoz at the start of October and hired Claudio Ranieri to replace him.

With Ranieri in charge, Watford were smashed by Liverpool, battered Everton, and lost to Southampton. So I really don’t know what to make of them. They’re not great, that’s for sure. But they’ll periodically play really well, and you never know with a new manager. It’s a match Arsenal should win, but you get into trouble when you start counting your chickens in the Premier League. Just ask Manchester City about Crystal Palace.

Liverpool are monsters once again. They’ve scored the most goals in the league and are one of just three clubs to have yet to concede double digits. Mohamed Salah is on another level right now and unlike last season, their backline is healthy. If I had to pinpoint a “weakness” for the Reds, it would be their banged-up, aging midfield. But it hasn’t been too much of a hindrance this season. They’re the best club in the Premier League on current form for me. A draw would be a fantastic result for Arsenal.

Newcastle at the Emirates is a should-win for the Gunners. Their defense is porous — the second-worst in the Premier League with 23 goals conceded. Right now, they’ve got Graeme Jones at the helm in a caretaker role; the new, Saudi-led ownership group gave Steve Bruce his walking papers in mid-October. The Magpies may or may not have a new manager by the time they travel to the Emirates — it would make sense to make a permanent hire during the international break. The current favorite to land the job is our old friend Unai Emery, whose Villareal side is off to a poor start after winning the Europa League last season.

The optimist in me is confident that the Gunners will secure the expected 6 points. The realist / scarred Arsenal fan is thinking “strong run of form + easy opponents at home = they’re gonna screw it up somehow,” which I’m sure you can relate to.

And it’s the Barclay’s, something weird is bound to happen in November. Because let’s face it, something weird happens every week and that’s part of why we love this league. I hope it’s the Gunners shocking Liverpool at Anfield and not a surprise defeat at the Emirates.