Crunch time for Arsenal

The next six games will define Arsenal’s season, this much is clear. Over the next 540 minutes or so of football the club will being playing for their FA Cup aspirations, Champions League progress and face some of their closest competitors in league, in what might be billed as a pair of six pointers. Therefore within four weeks we should have a much improved understanding of Arsenal’s chances of success this season and the possibility of competing in the Champions League next season. There’s much riding on this period. Blackburn are the first this Saturday. The FA Cup was the…

Crunch time for Arsenal

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Andy

February 15th, 2013

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The next six games will define Arsenal’s season, this much is clear. Over the next 540 minutes or so of football the club will being playing for their FA Cup aspirations, Champions League progress and face some of their closest competitors in league, in what might be billed as a pair of six pointers.

Therefore within four weeks we should have a much improved understanding of Arsenal’s chances of success this season and the possibility of competing in the Champions League next season. There’s much riding on this period.

Blackburn are the first this Saturday. The FA Cup was the last trophy the club won before they entered the current drought, and there are many who regularly suggest this might be Wenger’s best chance of silverware. Wenger may well make changes to the side, but it is still likely to be a relatively strong one, as it is imperative that the club continue to compete in all areas.

Blackburn sit at eighth in the Championship currently, and though the club has been through difficult times since the buyout by Venky’s Arsenal need to ensure that a bought of brittleness does not occur this time round.

The first leg of the Champions League second round commences on Tuesday, and Bayern Munich may be a different type of test. The Bavarian club are in form and a very strong outfit. There are still questions as to who will play at left back after injury to Gibbs, a cup-tie for Monreal and the departure of Santos on loan. Vermaelen may be the most likely candidate if he is match fit, otherwise the team may be dependent on Ignasi Miquel against the dangerous wide players of Bayern.

Wenger might have preferred the first leg away from home, but at the Emirates Arsenal will have to make the home advantage count and not concede. German football is currently rising again, and as their most successful club Bayern always pose a threat.

League games against Villa, Tottenham and Everton are sandwiched between the two European legs, and these are just as crucial.

Most will focus on the latter two, as the direct competitors for fourth place this season. However, the Villa game will be an important proving ground, and three points will be required for the team to be in the best position possible going into the two key games.

Those matches will most likely set up the victors for a run into third or fourth place in the league, and the consequences of Arsenal not achieving Champions League football next season could have a long-term impact on the club. Meanwhile, in the short term the potential to attract new and improved players in the summer will be lessened, not to mention the financial impact.

This period defined Arsenal’s season last year, and inevitably will do so this time around. Ultimately the team must take one game at a time, maintain focus and aim to fulfil their potential. Blackburn will be the first test.

James writes about Arsenal on Arsespeak.com where you can find many more in-depth analytical articles on tactics, statistics and players.

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