With a 2-0 win against Bournemouth in the last game of 2015, Arsenal went top of the Premier League.
One victory in the five Premier League games since (a tight 1-0 success against Newcastle United) has seen us drop down to fourth, five points from the summit heading into the weekend and two behind Manchester City in second place.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s opponents have signed former Arsenal man Benik Afobe and won two of their last three games. The Gunners can’t afford to let him loose on Sunday, or Arsène Wenger may just be left regretting the decision to sell the striker to Wolves 13 months ago.
Relaxed and confident in Friday’s press conference, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger claimed as many as five or six teams remain in the hunt for this season’s Premier League title. His side have a tough schedule up ahead, but he remains optimistic they can turn around their recent poor form to make up ground on Manchester City and Leicester.
“We are in a position where we have to come back first – to win games – which we haven’t been doing recently,” said the boss.
“We want to get back to winning and then look at the results of the others. Look at yourself and get back to what you want to do, and to do that you have to win your next game.”
So Arsenal definitely aren’t out of the title race yet? Not according to Wenger. Three goalless Premier League games – Arsenal’s longest run since February 2009 – also doesn’t concern the Frenchman too much.
“Against Southampton, we created the chances and couldn’t finish them off. I believe overall, we should not be alarmed,” he said. “Finishing is cyclic and if we create the same amount of chances we will score.”
Arsenal will be without Tomas Rosicky for 2-3 months, and there’s truthfully little more to add. Danny Welbeck played 60 minutes for the u21s on Friday and is nearer a return than ever.
Francis Coquelin should be able to start his first Premier League game since February, so expect him to be put back into the side. Wenger will also have to choose between Gabriel, who is struggling for form, and Per Mertesacker.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Campbell, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
Sunday’s hosts play a really nice style of football, adapting their positional play to harry their opposition off the ball before trying to play it patiently along the ground.
All eyes are on Afobe, who has scored three goals in four games since his £10m transfer. The Arsenal academy graduate has a point to prove against his old club.
Winger Junior Stanislas was also in good form but hasn’t played for two weeks. If he misses out, Matt Ritchie will definitely play on his favoured right wing and will be a danger cutting inside onto his left foot.
Dean Court will be jumping, so we need to keep the fans quiet. Don’t give them any hope. They’ve already beaten Manchester United there this season and would love to claim another scalp.
Possible XI: Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Surman; Ritchie, Arter, Gosling, Pugh; Afobe.
The reaction to the 0-0 draw with Southampton on Tuesday may have been a little over the top. Arsenal do need to get back to winning ways, though, and quickly. The title race will be out of reach before long if we don’t stay in touch now.
So, on Sunday, no matter how we do it, we need all three points.