Arsenal’s desperation for a Premier League title has increased to almost unmanageable proportions. With Arsene Wenger’s tenure finally nearing its end, becoming champions of England represents a potential glorious finale. One thing the Gunners have always had restricting their annual title push is a winter curse. A curse that cripples performances, injures players and brings about some abysmal results throughout the chilliest months of the year.
The month most haunted by such a ludicrous decline is November. Often after a sparkling start to the season – just like this one – a slump after Halloween sees the Gunners drift away from contention.
Everything seems to go wrong at this time of year for Wenger. It might not be something even remotely explicable, but Arsenal have a significant mental block preventing them from producing a run of success in the depths of the British winter. The tail end of the Champions League group stage heightens the pressure and adds extra miles into the legs of the players. This year, however, the Gunners have a squad with sufficient quality in depth to rotate and avoid such fatigue issues.
In November, Arsenal face both Tottenham and Manchester United. Their bitter local rivals followed by another glaring match-up with Jose Mourinho will, yet again, make this a pivotal month in Arsenal’s season. The manager’s legacy could be determined by November and history suggests it will not have a positive impact.
Last weekend Arsenal looked like they had hit a wall. After a run of flowing, exciting performances, they looked exhausted, disjointed and in trouble against a floundering Middlesbrough side. The sort of display that would be fitting of November saw the Gunners lucky to come away with a 0-0 draw. With a week of rest, the upcoming clash with Sunderland should be a comfortable victory. ‘Should’ being the key word of course. A return to their form pre-Middlesbrough and the match will be forgotten, another damp squib and concerns will be afoot ahead that the November curse could wipe out Arsenal’s title hopes yet again.
Momentum is key at this point of the season with a hectic schedule looming. The result and performance against Middlesbrough last weekend will have raised eyebrows and concerned many a Gunner. Sunderland’s utter disarray makes them the perfect pre-November opponents for Wenger’s immensely talented squad. Anything out of this game would be the most unexpected of bonuses for the Black Cats, while failure to win, and perform well, will suggest yet another typical mid-season failure from Arsenal. Sunderland have little to lose at this point – their big games will come against the teams around them – but Arsenal cannot afford to slip up after their alarming draw last weekend.