Arsenal are flying high but are they prepared for the challenge ahead?


Wouldn’t it be a fair point to say there are no real “heavyweight” fixtures in the Premier League, perhaps not with the whole league calendar in mind, but certainly with what’s currently on the table?

Manchester City can’t win away, Manchester United can’t win, and Chelsea have been dire for much of the season so far and have only managed to look like a good footballing outfit once Juan Mata returned to the line up. And yet Arsenal, despite being top of the Premier League and showing the “form of Champions” – you have to beat those ‘small teams’ – haven’t really been tested, according to some. A nonsense in itself.

What happened to the most competitive league in the world? What happened to everyone being able to beat everyone? I was under the impression that Swansea were a revelation in English football and something of a bogey team for Arsenal? What about Tottenham and how good they’re supposed to be, or does that only apply when they’re not on the receiving end of a defeat to their north London rivals? Arsenal may have been thrown into the group of death in the Champions League, but they’ve just wiped the floor with current Serie A leaders Napoli.

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It’s a constant spin that’s applied to anything Arsenal do. They’re not in the league of the biggest in European football because they won’t spend big, yet once they break the bank and their transfer record for Mesut Ozil, they’ve overspent, and on a player that they didn’t need, for those who are too short-sighted.

What about the injuries? There are some that still seem unable to accept that a good number of the Arsenal first team are out injured. The line that’s continuously peddled is that they’ll struggle when injuries hit. Well it really can’t get much worse.

Arsenal can only beat those who are put in front of them, and bar the forgettable opening day loss to Aston Villa – which, by the way, has been pushed into the backs of most Arsenal fans’ minds – the team have looked the part in every one of the games they’ve played this season, domestic and European.

There’s an added dimension to Arsenal’s play, both in attack and defence. There’s a calmness and togetherness about the backline, one where panic and mistakes look to be a thing of the past. The attack has developed in such a way that Arsenal don’t just have to walk the ball into the net anymore; as shown against Stoke, they can be dominant on set pieces too.

But is it enough? Probably not. Arsenal’s first set of “heavyweight” fixtures come at the start of November, with Borussia Dortmund sandwiched between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Now, Arsenal could drop points in those games, it’s very possible. But what if they come through unscathed? What will the spin be on those occasions? That Liverpool aren’t really a big fixture anymore, even though they’re currently second in the league? Or will it be that Manchester United are in such a mess that an Arsenal victory will be down to David Moyes’ shortcomings rather than the ability of Arsene Wenger’s team?

For much of the season and certainly against Napoli on Tuesday night, Arsenal have played some of their best football in years. It’s quick, decisive, attractive, and, importantly, effective. It’s brought the team results, where in the past the marriage of good football and winning football looked to be a rocky one at the Emirates.

Arsenal will be tested when the big fixtures come around, there’s no doubting that. But the difference this time is that they look prepared for the challenge. Arsenal are topping the league table on merit, and they absolutely should be praised for where they are.

Do Arsenal look better prepared for the big Premier League fixtures?

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