Where will Arsenal stand on January 1st?

By Jad Chamseddine (Jad currently writes on europeanexpatfootball.blogspot.com/)

There has been much debate about Wenger’s tenure and whether his job is under pressure, but before analyzing the next month’s fixtures, it is safe to say unless Arsenal collapse and end up fighting relegation, Wenger will not be sacked in the middle of the season.  The man and his legacy do not deserve such an ending at a club that he helped build into one of the most respected sides in the world.  He may have not won anything in the past seven years and the football at the club has significantly deteriorated in the past year, but a midseason sacking is a harsh end, especially since no one really knows who calls the shots regarding the club’ transfer policies.  The constantregarding Wenger’s transfer kitty has left fans more confused and if Wenger has been working on a shoe string budget, then the club has been punching above its weight for years.  No club can realistically sustain the departure of its best players every season, and with Nasri, Cesc, Song and RVP, Wenger did not just lose talented world class players, but a footballing philosophy that is hard to recreate. With current results being nothing to boast about, fans and the club have to look into the future for some solace.

 

As Arsenal slump to a meaningless defeat in Greece (I question the importance of finishing first, unless we play Barcelona), they will be facing a grueling schedule, having to play 7 games in 24 days.  This run of games has to be taken advantage of by the Gunners, because all of these games have been earmarked as winnable games.  Despite West Brom’s high flying start, the Baggies come into this fixture after two defeats, and were taken apart by Swansea within the first 30 minutes.  Although the game is being played at the Hawthorns, Stoke came away with a win from there, and having rested the entire team, Arsenal will be approaching their opposition with fresh legs and a point to prove.  The midweek game could be Arsenal’s best chance to silence the fans wanting silverware, with a trip to lowly League 2 side Bradford City. Whether Wenger will let the same side take on Bradford as the one that played Reading is questionable, but for the sake of the league form, Wenger has to keep his faith in Chamakh & Co, afterall, Bradford City is a whopping 63 places below Arsenal.  Arsenal will then take on Reading and Wigan, both currently struggling in the bottom half. Reading’s record is abysmal, and although they are a free-scoring team as they showed Arsenal in the first-half of the Capital One Cup game, their defense is absolutely atrocious as they showed Arsenal in the second half of the Capital One Cup game.  In Wigan, Arsenal’s resolve may be tested, having lost last year to Wigan’s predictable end of season resurgence. /The Latics, though, have a defense that is as inconsistent as Arsenal’s and with Moses having parted ways with Wigan and Kone running out of steam, Arsenal will have to take advantage of Wigan’s 3 man defense.

 

Many will question the ability to get two wins out of the next two home games against West Ham and Newcastle, but with Newcastle having to travel to Old Trafford on the 26th, their resources may be hard-pressed against the Gunners three days later.  West Ham may have beaten Chelsea, but Arsenal ran out convincing winners earlier in the season, and a similar victory is possible.  West Ham may play the Allardyce way, which in any dictionary is the antonym to the Wenger way, but West Ham have recently been attacking sides, leaving gaps in the midfield, which were exposed by Arsenal at Upton Park and by Tottenham a couple of weeks ago.  As Arsenal’s form starts slipping, teams like West Ham will take more chances at getting forward, allowing players like Santi and Jack to carry the ball further down the field without being challenged.  Newcastle, last season’s surprise package, have just ended a streak of 8 games without a win against ten-man Wigan.  Their fixture list in December is daunting, having to play Fulham and the two Manchester clubs, hopefully their heads will have dropped by the time they arrive at the Emirates. With Ba and Cisse upfront, Newcastle are a formidable side, but they have been less stable at the back and recent form suggests that this team is in worse shape than Arsenal.

 

Finally, Arsenal will enter the new year with a trip down to Southampton and although Rickie Lambert may have started celebrating again, Arsenal’s previous thumping will remind us all what they are capable of against this promoted side.  Ideally Arsenal will have collected 18 points and progressed to the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, but we do not live in this ideal world and Arsenal…well they are Arsenal, so my predictions will be an unbeaten run, with a semi-final booked and 14 points collected.

 

Many of you reading this article will question an unbeaten run and quite frankly this is extremely optimistic, but Arsenal do have the players to achieve this goal and the teams they are facing are not particular difficult. With the group stages of the Champions League done and an easy fixture in the cup, Arsenal will solely focus on the league and the fixture list for this month is the perfect solution for the Gunners to bounce back. In order for Arsenal to collect this point total, it is clear that Wenger will have to make use of players like the returning Rosicky and the outcast Arshavin.  At the moment, there is something missing at Arsenal and continuing with the same players without rotating them could be problematic.  While Arshavin may not work as hard as Ramsey, Arshavin is more likely to stun the crowd with a beautiful assist or goal, while Ramsey has been wholly unimpressive, often times targeted by the opposition due to his affinity of giving the ball away.  Arsenal have the players to turn the season around, but these players have not been playing as a team, and have lacked fluidity.  A player like Rosicky will be vital in Arsenal’s resurgence, as he was last year.