Just as the League was dawning

Spring was confusing, a little bit scary
Summer was much of the same
By Winter you run with the night, never came home.

Big Business – Just as the Day Was Dawning

As the Premier League prepares to enter November, three teams have played 10, won 7, drawn 2, and lost 1: Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Three teams with a 70% win rate. If that pattern continues then there will be three teams at the top of the table on 87 points this spring. A spring that seems like an eternity.

And just behind the three teams in the lead are Chelsea, Tottenham, and Everton. With all six teams within touching distance of each other that means by my count there are six teams fighting for four spots.

Of the six teams, only three have European games; Arsenal, Man City, and Tottenham. Mid-week distractions that take the club to far flung places like Bulgaria. The other three teams get a week off. A week to rest and prepare for the next big game.

That’s the sum of it. Three teams at the top each need to have the depth to play two games a week for the next 28 weeks and the other three can just concentrate on the Premier League. The extra rest is a huge boon to Liverpool, who play a high tempo pressing game and need the extra rest to play their style of game, and who must be favorites to win the long race that is the Premier League.

Scream bloody murder, the mountains are listening
Vultures mistook you for dead, bloody
How can you sleep when you can’t pull the teeth from your eyes?

Big Business – Just as the Day Was Dawning

Depth is a favorite Arsenal keyword. Along with depth we also have “mental strength.” These are not by any means the only two phrases that crop up over and over again with Arsenal but they are the two most prominently in the news today.

Arsenal showed depth and mental strength this weekend. Leading for the majority of the match, Petr Cech conceded a penalty and let Sunderland draw level. It was a familiar scene for many Arsenal supporters: little club, struggling to win games, gets a break, and suddenly Arsenal are under a huge amount of pressure to win and prove they are a title contender.

You can understand the pressure. With the title race in a three way draw, any little slip means a mountain to climb to get back to the top. If Arsenal had gone on to draw that match, they would have dropped to 4th. Of course a slip now doesn’t mean the title race is over; as Jurgen Klopp so wonderfully put it “I’m pretty sure [the Premier League] was never decided at the end of October.” But dropping down the ladder means that all the teams above have to drop points in order to get back to the top.

For weeks now, you run and you talked in your sleep
You shook me awake to announce, you’re never alone

Big Business – Just as the Day Was Dawning

So, the pressure is real. The players and manager know that they have to stay level on results with the teams around them and hopefully capitalize when City or Liverpool slip.

Wenger responded, he brought on Olivier Giroud and told Ozil to feed the beast. With his very first touch of the ball, Giroud scored what is now a typically Giroud goal, a shot from a crazy angle, and sent Arsenal back into the lead. He then scored a second, a perfect header off an Ozil corner looped past the scrambling hands of the keeper and into the corner.

Then Alexis, a man who looks as wide as he is tall and who plays like a little bull, finished the match off with a neat little clean up in the 6 yard box, sending the keeper to his left and finishing right.

Bringing Giroud on was the perfect response and proof that Arsenal do have depth. There was even more evidence of depth in the fact that Arsenal started Elneny for Coquelin and that Wenger was able to start Gibbs, who looked outstanding, for the injured left back Monreal. And the team sheet showed Aaron Ramsey, another creative midfielder/chaos agent for Arsenal, returned from injury and got the assist for Alexis’ last goal.

November has been one of the cruelest of months for Arsenal, with Wenger’s men averaging just 1.59 points per game through that period. And this November is no different, as Wenger’s men travel to Bulgaria on Tuesday for a Champions League match against Ludogorets and then return to face the old enemy, Tottenham, on Saturday.  After that, Arsenal face Manchester United and then Paris Saint Germain before a tough match against Bournemouth and then finishing the month with a League Cup tie against Southampton.

That November is going to be a month full of daunting obstacles is a fact that Wenger admitted in his post match presser: “We now have some difficult games coming up, we have a difficult November, so by the end of November we’ll know more about ourselves – but the desire and mentality is great in this side. We have a great togetherness and we have quality as well. They are good ingredients.”

Arsenal have the ingredients. But will the ingredients stay fresh or will they spoil in the dark and rainy days of November?


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