Arsenal started the season with high expectations after winning the FA Cup and Community Shield and they began the Premier League campaign on a good note with back-to-back victories.
However, they could not find the consistency thereafter and manager Mikel Arteta found himself in a precarious position last month after the club went winless for seven league games, picking up only two points.
The north London giants managed to end the dreadful run with a comfortable 3-1 triumph over Chelsea on Boxing Day and they have since gathered momentum by going unbeaten for six league games (five wins and one draw). The FA Cup fourth round exit to Southampton was the only blemish, but that came about from Arteta choosing a weakened line-up.
Excellent league form has seen them jump from 15th to ninth on the table in the space of six matches and they are now within seven points adrift of the Champions League spots and just three behind the Europa League places. While they have made good progress, there is still plenty of work to be done for the club to qualify for Europe next term. The odds of Arsenal winning the league are less than 1% (read non-existent) and some small betting sites in Australia have not even bothered to set a price on the outcome, but with the second-best form in the league and least goals conceded outside of Manchester City, Arsenal are a good outside bet to make it to the top six.
The club’s attacking displays have improved over the past few weeks with the added creativity brought about by Emile Smith Rowe, but the burden can’t be entirely placed on the youngster’s shoulders. Hence, the capital outfit have brought Martin Odegaard on a short-term loan from Real Madrid and it will be fascinating to see how he fares in the Premier League.
The Norwegian barely played for Los Blancos during the first half of the season, but he showed his quality on loan with Real Sociedad last term with seven goals and nine assists from 36 games. He should provide a boost for the Gunners during the backend of the campaign as they look to move into the top six and make the push for the top four, which seemed unlikely at one stage.
The Gunners are scheduled to face Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium this weekend and that should be a tough challenge for them despite the fact that they have not lost to the Red Devils for the previous five league games (three wins and two draws). Thereafter, they have the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Manchester City and Leicester City to face.
They were able to pick up only one point from the reverse fixtures against the quartet and can’t afford another run of a similar sort. The upcoming six games could make or break their prospects of qualifying for European football through the league.