November has not gotten off to a great start for the Gunners. Arsenal FC began the month getting dumped out of the Carabao Cup against West Ham in a match where pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. That was followed up by a Premier League loss to Newcastle mired in controversy. Mikel Arteta’s heated post-match diatribe about the shameful officiating on display has now placed him firmly in the crosshairs of pundits, who have been tripping over themselves to attack Arteta and come to the defense of the poor, little PGMOL.
But, as the old saying go, winning cures all. The Gunners welcome Sevilla to London for a Champions League match that has weighty implications for Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for the knockout round of Europe’s elite club competition.
Five points ahead of the match:
Locking it Up
The Gunners have a chance to potentially punch their ticket to the knockout round of the Champions League with a win over Sevilla and a Lens victory over PSV Eindhoven. Not only that, but it has the added benefit of making the following group stage matches far less consequential, which means more rotation for marginal players and rest for important ones. Arsenal are in the driver’s seat, and a win all but wraps up a spot in the knockouts.
On the Front Foot
Arsenal’s attack has been severely lacking since their 5-0 throttling of Sheffield United, as the Gunners have totaled 1 goal over their last two matches across all competitions. It has been a symptom of this season overall, and understandably so - the midfield and attack have been riddled with injuries and inconsistency. The injury to Gabriel Jesus in the away leg two weeks ago means that the Gunners will once again need to find a way to get goals without their starting striker. Who will step up?
Check your Head
The controversy surrounding the last match feels like the sort of thing that can linger and have a knock-on effect if the club isn’t careful. Arteta’s comments were celebrated by some and derided by others, and it has become a lightning rod of sorts that has shone a very frustrating light over the state of Premier League officiating and its impact on the game. Much of the media coverage surrounding the club has focused on it, and it takes away from the task at hand, which is to win football matches. Whether it has affected the players remains to be seen, but a win will go quite a ways to moving on from it.
Between the Sticks
The officiating debacle may have dominated the dialogue about the Newcastle match, but lost in the larger discussion is the David Raya debate. The goal and ensuing VAR issues aside, it was his inability to cover the cross due to aggressive positioning at the near post that led to the bundled goal, marking the second crucial goal he has conceded from a similar circumstance in two weeks. Is it time for Ramsdale to be given runout, or was his unfortunate performance against West Ham in the Carabao Cup the final nail in the coffin for Arteta’s faith in the English shot stopper?
Make it to the Break
Following Wednesday night’s match, Arsenal have one more league match before another international break puts the Premier League on hold. The name of Arsenal’s game right now is health. The injuries have piled up, and Mikel Arteta’s side is in dire need of some rest. The fixture list in December will be dense and unforgiving. The best case scenario for the match is for Arsenal to score early, hunker down, and make changes to it’s key players to limit injuries.
The wiggle room that exists in the CL group stage is there, but it is in no certain terms guaranteed. The only way Arsenal can guarantee their CL future this season is to get the win. They will be back at the Emirates following two road losses with a prime opportunity to put themselves into a great group stage position, as well as in position to put some of the lingering doubts about this team to bed.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Sevilla
WHEN: Wednesday, November 8th, 3:00pm EST/12:00pm PST/8:00pm GMT
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming live on the Paramount+ app.