Arsenal Have Perfect Set Of Fixtures To Build Momentum?

I just glanced at the upcoming fixtures list and was pleasantly surprised by the remaining games in January. I knew there were Cup ties with Leeds and Ipswich followed by a game against West Ham but hadn’t realized the next two games after that were at home against Wigan and Ipswich.

In effect, out of the next five games, three are against Championship sides and two against relegation candidates. Three of these five are at home. With due respect to the opponents, I don’t think Arsene could have put together this list if he’d been given the chance to line up some easy (at least relatively) games. These games will also provide the likes of Arshavin and Rosicky the chance to find some form.

Obviously, the players can’t just turn up and expect to win but if they can continue with their recent form these games are eminently winnable. In this topsy-turvy season the Gunners have been able to string together a run of five wins only once before. That included wins over Birmingham, Shakhtar (CL), City, Newcastle (CC), and West Ham. These fixtures are certainly much easier than those, no?

I feel building a winning momentum will be extremely important if Arsenal have to challenge for the Premiership title. United have four points and a game in hand. Arsenal need to make that up with 17 games remaining. I have a feeling anything less than 12 wins out of those 17 (over 70 percent win ratio) will not be enough. Tough ask (currently Arsenal have 12 wins out of 21, 57 percent win ratio) but it’s possible, especially given that we’ve already played away to most of the major teams.

At this level one of the factors that goes into a winning run is unflinching belief among the players. It can prove to be the difference between a draw and a win in a tight game. This isn’t a rational thought, but when the players have that extra dollop of confidence the ball tends to miss the post and goes in instead. This belief cannot be generated via external factors and can only come through a string of results on the pitch.

These five games are spread over 18 days and are coming on the back of the last 4 that were within 9 days. Clearly, rotation will be a must and the second eleven, or the B-team as some like to call it, will have to deliver. That bunch struggled in supposedly easy away games. The visit to Ukraine was tough but the performances and results against Braga and Wigan, while somewhat unlucky, were largely disappointing.

In recent past, at home, Arsenal have done well in the Cup ties against lower division opponents even with Carling Cup sides. So I’ll be really surprised (and annoyed) if a decently strong second eleven struggles against a good Leeds side fighting for promotion.

It seems to me that the tricky games will be away to Ipswich (12th) and West Ham (15th) with just two days separating the fixtures. Some might say that winning away in the League Cup semi-final is not mandatory but I think it’ll be extremely beneficial from a confidence point of view. I don’t expect the first team to be involved in the League Cup but Wenger will have to find the right balance between youth and experience.

Rotations are never easy but I hold the opinion that Arsene struggles on this front when compared to other top managers. It’s difficult to explain this but when I see a side with Eboue as left back, Arshavin in front of him, and the defensive midfield comprising of Denilson and Diaby, just to mention one instance, it makes me wonder if the manager has a weak spot in terms of finding the right balance.

I understand the arguments that at times the team is unlucky with decisions and often the choices available to the manager are limited by injuries, but over the last few years there have been too many games where the results haven’t been satisfactory with the lack of balance seeming like a key factor.

Looking at the next five games I can’t see any reason for Arsenal to miss out on five wins even with rotations. Of course, that’s easy for me to say from my armchair but the manager gets paid to win such games and based on his oft-repeated confidence in his squad, I feel the fans have a right to demand big performances.

It won’t be set in stone but at the end of January we will know a lot more about Arsenal’s title credentials.


35 Responses to Arsenal Have Perfect Set Of Fixtures To Build Momentum?

  1. w12mcee says:

    hopefully rambo can get some playing time. gonna be good to play against s.watt

    • desigunner says:

      Yeah I’d love to see him get 15-20 mins on a couple of occasions just to see how he feels on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt again. Given the way Arsene is handling RvP and Djourou, I don’t see him rushing Ramsey but some cameo appearances gradually building up playing time should be good.

      • messi says:

        I don’t see Ramsey playing any part of those games at all and wouldn’t want to as his not fully fit or mentally prepared for tough games like those. Even Arsene said himself that he won’t play a competitive game until the end of this month.

      • desigunner says:

        Well, I don’t see why Ramsey would go on loan to get minutes and then come back at Arsenal and not play for a whole month.

        I agree there is no point in rushing him but surely he has to get some minutes, gradually increasing over the month?

      • santori says:

        I think he’ll give Ramsey a run or two.

        The blokes been in and out at Forest already and could do with the playing time particularly against the likes of Leeds and Ipswich.

        + as good as Wilshere has been, the lad must be absolutely knackered by now. It will be good to have someone rotate in his position (other than Diaby or Denilson)

  2. RockyLives says:

    Very good piece. I agree wholeheartedly. Momentum is important in sport and this is a chance for us to go into the games after the ones you list above with commentators referring to our nine game unbeaten run. Boosts our lads, frightens the opposition.

    Off topic – but knowing that you like cricket, what about that Ashes win?

    • desigunner says:

      I really enjoyed the atmosphere created by the Barmy Army… wish we could borrow some of them for home games 🙂

      The cricket was quite good as well although it did seem that Australia were in the same kind of situation that Chelsea seem to be right now. Some senior players are gone and the lack of depth is being woefully exposed.

      England have an nice balance to the team but their big tests will come against India and SA.

  3. Phil23 says:

    The bes thing about these fixtures is the state of fitness we will come out in. I’m certain that all first team players will be sufficiently rested of those 5 games. Can we say the same for United?

    Man Utd v Liverpool

    Tottenham v Man Utd

    Man Utd v Birmingham

    Blackpool v Man Utd

    Man Utd v Aston Villa

    • desigunner says:

      Well United don’t have the Carling Cup fixtures so they’ll only be playing four – one extra for the Blackpool game they have in hand. Since they are playing roughly once a week for the next three games it might not be so tough. But I’m seriously hoping someone can burst this undeserved unbeaten bubble they have.

      • santori says:

        United will take some catching.

        Funny how everyone is saying that they are yet to hit top gear.

        As good as we have been of late, we have several more gears to go I feel to hit our best.

        Fabregas is just coming into good form and finding his passing range, RVP has yet to fully lace up his shooting boots and Vermaelen is yet to return to action.

        More to come from us.

        If we can mantain the kind of off ball work ethic which we have exhibited over recent games, I think we will be going up a level or two shortly.

        But if we get complacent and slack off, it will be back to square one and almost certainly bye bye title.

      • desigunner says:

        I guess most importantly … no more injuries please … at least half a season with the big guns all playing

      • santori says:

        Yes. PArticularly at the back with Djourou and Kos.

        They are coming into a good understanding.

        Song’s the other big concern but doesn’t his new look befit the monster role he has been playing for us? He’s taken peroxide to a whole new level.:P

  4. SoCal_Gun says:

    It looks good, but it seems like whenever there is the expectation of victory the team tends to struggle (Wed. vs Citeh, earlier at ManUre, home vs Spuds….) and when they’re playing as the under dog (home vs Chel$ki) they win.

    A lot of bad habits have been broken this year, hopefully it Can continue…..

    • desigunner says:

      I hope to see a return to the early part of the season. Wins over Braga, Shakhtar, Blackpool, and Bolton at home were quite impressive.

  5. santori says:

    This is the exact string of easy games for us to fall prey to compplacency.

    Whilst there is definately a case to rotate some of the younger/reserve players into the Carling/FA Cup fixtures, I don’t think we should take too many chaces (changes) with our PL fixtures.

    West Ham and Wigan have been poor but if there is anything to go by with this season, is that you cannot take anything for granted (particularly teams on the cosh of relegation)

    Afterall, Chelsea may be on a poor run but no one was expecting them to be upended by the likes of Wolves.

    OTOH, the current first team line up is starting to gel perfectly and I don’t think putting a door stopper in this continued development is a particularly good idea.

    Therefore some rotation yes but in moderation (no 8 player wholesale change please), not for our PL matches anyway.

    BTW, funny to see Roy Keane in the stands at the match against City. What he would have gathered from watching us is beyond me, since we will hardly field quite the same side coming up against him.

    He would have been proud of Sagna though I tell you that much.;)

  6. santori says:

    +Catch MOTD anyone?

    Hansen is now tipping us to push United all the way.

    How things change. 😀

    • desigunner says:

      Pundits changing their tune halfway through the season … now where have I seen that before! 😀

      • santori says:

        Did you see Hansen’s face when commenting on the Blackburn match though? Ouch. Poor geezer.

        Dixon’s too much of a gent, he should have rubbed a bit of salt into it. 😀

      • desigunner says:

        I hadn’t seen it earlier, just saw it 🙂

        I was happy Hansen acknowledged he never had it in him to be a manager. It’s easy for these guys to criticize. I’d certainly prefer good managers as pundits rather than ex-players or at least a good balance.

  7. Aniruddh says:

    But if you consider our run-in towards the end of the season we’ll certainly be up against
    Liverpool(h)
    Bolton(a)
    United(h)
    Stoke(a)
    Villa(h)
    Fulham(a)

      • Miranda says:

        Also possibly Spurs. If we progress in the Carling, which seems likely, that game will have to be moved to later in the season, the date depending, I guess, on how both clubs fare in CL and FA Cup.

        Spurs are so excited about the CL and so desperate to qualify for next year I suspect they’ll want out of the FA Cup at the earliest opportunity. I for one hope we do the same. I hate those those horrible replays against teams like Wolves or Stoke and I get the impression the players hate them even more.

        Who among the big clubs cares about the FA Cup any more? If we used it to give experience to the kids, like we used to do with the Carling, fine, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but after this week most of the B players will have gone out on loan so staying in the comp will mean risking injuries and exhaustion to Cesc, Nasri etc., when we need them fit for the league. And fit for the CL, of course, all fingers a hundred times crossed. Well, we MIGHT do it, at our very best and with all our key players rested and fit and if Barca have a slightly off day… Oh just imagine the glory!

    • talia says:

      I disagree. By then we’d have a far better idea of where we are and how to manage our resources.

      By then we could have a Carling Cup. But equally, we could be out of the Champions’ League. With a run in the FA Cup our only other distraction we could field our A-team match after match which could mean a hefty sack of points from these games.

      The important games are still Sp*rs away and MU at the Ems. The rest is just noise.

  8. Bergkamps nephew 81 says:

    I agree we gotta keep up this momentum

  9. Arsenal4 says:

    I haven’t this upbeat with this Arsenal team for quite a while … even willing to wake at 4AM in the morning to watch the past few night games … I hope the next 5 games will be a jolly good time for the team. on paper we are more than capable to do win all. Even, in a bigger picture we can roll any team in PL. It’s good that the team have the confidence to take any team to our game (Bar Man U game at OT last month).. despite a potential 7 points gap .. it will be no surprising that we will become champion at the end of month. The same can’t be said last year, where we’re in the touching distance but got rolled over by Man U & Chelsea even losing to the smaller team in the closing stage. Gunners for champion!

  10. IncredibleG says:

    I’m concerned that Arsene might underestimate these fixtures. There are a couple of player combinations in our squad which seem to inspire a lackadasical approach in our play. I don’t believe that this is a question of quality so much as a combination of immaturities.
    It seems that Wenger’s selection has been mentality-based for the latter part of 2010, the first string being our most industrious players as opposed to those with the most ability. It makes sense because it forces the reserve players to stand up and be counted but it also leaves us exposed if nobody does take that initiative.
    We MUST stay in all competitions through to our CL clashes. The longer we are competing for everything, the stronger our self-belief when we come up against Barca. Belief will be EVERYTHING in that game. Barca are unbelievably coherent in their attacking coordination but I am certain that we have more options than they do and that we have more experience of dealing with dangerous opponents and of playing from behind.

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting point about player combinations. It seems to me that the passing game doesn’t work when some players are on the pitch at the same time. Whether it is a matter of mentality, lack of hard work, or just a technical misfit is difficult to say. At a general level I feel the balance is not there but it’d be necessary to get into the specifics. Hopefully, Arsene is doing that after every game where it doesn’t work.

  11. THE GONGON says:

    This is our year!Lets guard against complacency,strategise match after match especially when we have enormous talents and if God bless us with no injuries we are taking at least two cups this season! Amen

  12. ugandan goon says:

    sorry to be the odd one out, i like your brain and i think you are certainly “up there” with the best arsenal blogs, however i do take exception to questioning the manager on matters football. we all think we can do better but with your obvious intelligence, it is lazy and a bit self indulgent to critisze without the full facts to hand, no one has as much information about the footballing facts as the manager yet some would have had us risk losing to city and birmingham by playing a full squad against wigan. eboue did well in the CL at left back and gael clichy was recovering from injury and gibbs was out . who would have played there? whatever you think of abou diaby he is a fantastic player when he is on form, he needed playing time, so does denilson. we have to try to see this with a bit of perspective cl, pl fa cup, cc all competitions we have to be competitive in. remember the end of last season? playing barcelona away with essentially 3-4 of the first team. then getting swung all over the place by all and sundry in the PL? i dont mind an ian wright coming out with that rubbish but you have the brains and passion for our club, lets keep it goonerish!

    • desigunner says:

      I appreciate your honest views. The point of this article is not to pretend that I know better than the manager. I have always acknowledged that I don’t know of any other manager who is better than Arsene.

      That said, I also acknowledge that Wenger is as much a human being as we are. He is bound to make mistakes. The idea is to discuss what we can based on the facts we have. I fully acknowledge that I don’t know even a small percentage of the details that Arsene knows. But that doesn’t mean I should have blind faith. I believe I have a right to a different opinion and to question the manager even though he is the best.

      Just like I say Mourinho is a master tactician but his style is very boring and promotes anti-football, I feel Arsene is a brilliant manager who plays attractive football but has some weaknesses of his own.

      I hope that explains it better. I understand why you might get frustrated. There are a number of people who criticize the manager without even acknowledging some basic facts or even realizing the difference between facts and opinions. I try not to fall into that category but would not want to sacrifice my right to an opinion.

  13. ugandan goon says:

    ps the rest of the article was up to your usual high standards

  14. IndianGunner says:

    If we win the game against Ipswich then the fixture against Spurs would be moved(Since the Carling cup final is next day after this fixture). That would mean we only have Barca as a tough fixture in Feb. All the more good for building up momentum as this also ensures we have Vermaelean match fit for our crucial run of games. Slowly we are getting better defensively and that is a good sign

    I believe Manu are still inconsistent and i don’t see anyone that they are missing that would fix their away form. They are bound to lose and we have to capitalize when that happens. The away wins they got were lucky to say the least and they still have to play Chelsea, Us, Spurs and Liverpool away. I believe if we are consistent from now on we will win the title.
    Nobody expected Chelsea to lose a match after 5-6 games at the beginning of the season but look where they are now. I believe Manu could also go the same route if they lose one game
    Any’s it’s making a wonderful season for all to enjoy

  15. […] Arsenal Have Perfect Set Of Fixtures To Build Momentum? I just glanced at the upcoming fixtures list and was pleasantly surprised by the remaining games in January. I knew […] […]

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