November is upon us and that can only mean one thing – as we continue to mend our shattered Arsenal hearts, it’s time for the dreaded Arsenal curse to kick in and rob us of every single shred of optimism we’ve managed to claw together since the season started.
Too much? Perhaps, but it has been a tough couple of years for Arsenal fans, spoiled as we are. To string together 13 results that haven’t involved a single defeat, no matter the opponents has been like a dose of penicillin combatting the festering sore things had become at the club.
On the face of it, a draw against Crystal Palace and a wobble against Blackpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night doesn’t seem like the best preparation for a game against Liverpool. Certainly, losing Matteo Guendouzi to suspension for two harsh yellows is far from ideal, but would you really feel better coming into this game on the back of 13 straight wins? Aren’t you glad that the team, and manager, have been reminded that this is not a done deal, and that there are, in fact, quite a lot of things still to fix? The defence being one of them.
November is, historically, an awful month for Arsenal. We’re usually long enough into the season that injuries have started to bite hard while the fixture calendar seems to hold some sort of personal grudge against the Gunners. Or maybe it was just Arsene Wenger.
This November Arsenal will play Liverpool (h), Sporting (h), Wolves (h), Bournemouth (a) and FC Vorskla (a). Last November we played Red Star (h), Manchester City (a), Tottenham (h), FC Koln (a), Burnley (a) and Huddersfield Town (h). The November before was even worse with games against Ludogorets (a), Tottenham (h), Manchester United (a), PSG (h) and Bournemouth. Compared to previous seasons, this November looks a cake walk.
The first game -against Liverpool – is the ‘proper test’ pundits tell us we must face before any positive declarations can be made about Unai Emery’s revolution. It doesn’t matter that the 13-game unbeaten streak contains a number of sides that Arsenal would have lost to last year, nor that they have won five away games in this sequence when we could only manage eight last season in all competitions.
It’s entirely possible that Arsenal will ‘fail’ this test on Saturday, letting the pronouncements begin. Losing to Liverpool on top of Chelsea and City defeats already in the bag wouldn’t be a great look, but when we couldn’t beat Brighton away from home last season are we really expecting Emery, in five months, to magically transform us into a side that can claim it’s first win over Liverpool since the 4-1 in April 2015?
After the Liverpool game is out of the way, there is no reason Arsenal can’t put together another winning run, cleaning up their remaining fixtures for the month and leaving them at the end of November with a record, at worst, that reads P20 W16 D1 L3. You are a liar if you say you wouldn’t have happily taken that before the season started.
Of course, there’s no reason to think Arsenal will lose the game against Liverpool. Arsenal’s record at the Emirates is pretty solid, and a win, or even a draw, would lift the entire club further. Nobody, beyond the most deluded fan, is expecting to achieve great things this season, but a win over Liverpool on the back of 11 wins in a row and 13 games unbeaten would be hard for even Paul Merson to ignore.
The display against Palace last weekend, quite possibly Arsenal’s worst of the season, saw them come away with a draw. Last season we would have lost that game – possibly quite badly. There is a steel in this side that was long lacking in Arsene Wenger’s latter teams.
Demon months should no longer have the same hold.
We shall see on Saturday if that’s the case.
This article was written for Paddy Power.