With the first few fixture dates for the remainder of the 2019/20 Premier League season revealed, the initial excitement Arsenal fans had to finally see their team take the pitch again diminished when they remembered that Manchester City are first up on the schedule.
A match that was just hours from going ahead prior to Covid-19 bringing the top flight to a standstill is now less than two weeks away, and the panic has set in again.
Although, perhaps panic isn’t the right word. Arsenal have improved drastically in 2020, but panic implies there is something to worry about, and at the moment most supporters are looking ahead to next season – with Champions League football a mere pipe dream.
Way off the pace – but still not out of the race entirely – the rest of the Premier League campaign is more like a case of building towards the future under Mikel Arteta, with a top four (five) place a secretive hope that fans won’t give up on, but certainly aren’t expecting.
Apart from the opening clash, there are still nine other games left and what points tally Arsenal could accrue is anyone’s guess. On this occasion, it’s my guess. So here we go.
As already touched on, it’s the reigning champions on their own patch to kick proceedings off. Arteta will go head-to-head with his former mentor, Pep Guardiola, and the club he spent over three years with as a coach.
Daunting doesn’t quite cut it, but if Arsenal are to make a final surge towards a Champions League spot then winning their game in hand with a statement victory over City will go a long way towards achieving that.
Were this to be played at the Emirates then there is scope for the Gunners to earn a positive result, but even if City have been off the pace slightly this season, they’re still City, and they’ve still got one of the best midfielders in world football in Kevin De Bruyne to contend with.
A win would build momentum and confidence.
It’s not happening, though.
Points Tally: 40
A Brighton side on a poor run of form would have posed a far more enticing opening to get back into the swing of things.
It can’t be overlooked that they’re scrapping for their lives, though. Backed into a corner and in dire need of points to avoid dropping into the second tier means they’ll sure put up a fight. Not to mention they won at the Emirates this season.
But with no home crowd to help push the side to another level, it could be a case where the added quality will prevail. On paper that’s a battle Arsenal win, especially with the superior attacking players they possess.
Points Tally: 43
Considering this will be the Gunners’ third away clash on the trot, how that works for them mentally will be interesting to see. It may prove a blessing to continue playing away from home, with the mental barrier of turning out in an empty Emirates avoided for while, or, they may struggle to cope with the lack of home comforts.
It’s tough to call, especially since Ralph Hasenhuttl has managed to turn a corner with his Saints team since their 9-0 thrashing to Leicester, and they’ll be boosted by the news that he recently signed a new long-term deal on the south coast.
Where Southampton will be in the table by the time this fixture comes around could impact the result, but they’re not one of the three worst teams in the league and maybe, just maybe, they’ll take their foot off the pedal slightly.
Points Tally: 46
By this time Arteta’s side will have played four matches away from home consecutively (as Sheffield United await in the FA Cup), but the lack of familiarity shouldn’t have a bearing on this result.
Norwich look dead and buried already, something that could be even more conclusive by the time these two meet.
Of all the games left to play this season, none – on paper, at least – look more assured of three points.
Points Tally: 49
Can Wolves sneak a top five spot this season? It’d be foolish to discount them. They’re solid in defence, boast flexibility in their formation and are clinical in front of goal. Really, there is nothing to suggest they can’t achieve what Arsenal are in such desperate need of.
With that in mind, this could very well be the end of the road for the Gunners’ hopes of a top-five spot. They’d be practically extinguished already following the City loss, but this would be curtains for sure.
Could they put in a solid performance? Absolutely they could. Unfortunately, the reality is that Wolves are too strong at home and will bully Arsenal (in the right way) off the park.
Points Tally: 49
A wobble since the turn of the year has seen Leicester’s relative comfort near the top of the table falter, and there are concerns of being dragged back into the top-four race – as if they hadn’t already.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have a fairly comfortable run of fixtures leading up to their trip to north London, which may reaffirm their top three status, but that doesn’t make them any less of a threat.
They know Arsenal’s weaknesses and will expose them, meaning this one could be tough to split.
Points Tally: 50
They don’t get any easier, do they? A frightening run of four fixtures moves into its third instalment, with the Gunners taking on Spurs for their first-ever match at their rival’s new north London stadium.
Derby matches between the two have become far trickier to predict over recent years, and given both sides’ inconsistent form this season and blatant frailties, it makes it even more of a lottery.
The only real certainty is that Harry Kane will score, so, other than that, a draw probably sits well. Yet, if Eric Dier and Serge Aurier play there is always a chance…but the same could be said in retort for a large number of Arsenal players too.
Honours even it is, then.
Points Tally: 51
And to conclude the toe-tingling, heavy-sweating and fear-inducing quadruple of fixtures is Liverpool at home. Yay.
For those who thought Arsenal had a sniff of reaching the promised land this season, they clearly hadn’t glanced at the fixture list, because it’s terrifying.
It would be something of a miracle to secure maximum points from these four games, but if they do, then Champions League football poses a far less bleak and distant mirage.
But, it’s Liverpool, and they’re streaks ahead of everyone, let alone Arsenal.
Points Tally: 51
Both sides may be in a position where they’ve little to play for at this stage. Aston Villa could be out for the count, and Arsenal middling in mid-table.
The respective predicaments of both clubs at the time could impact either sides’ performances, so working solely on the quality of the starting lineups, it’s an away win.
A gander at Villa’s remaining fixtures demonstrates the size of the task they have at hand, so the Gunners should leave victorious as they (probably) chase a Europa League spot. Sigh.
Points Tally: 54
It all comes crashing down with a home clash against Watford. Sky high pre-season expectations, a club-record signing and three managers later, Arsenal’s 2019/20 campaign concludes.
At least put on a show for the fans? Oh yeah, there are none of them.
Let Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wave goodbye to the supporters in what could be his final game for the club? Oh yeah, there are none of them.
End Arteta’s part-season in charge with a win? Probably won’t.
Points Tally: 55
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