Big Week for the Gunners

Following Saturday’s underwhelming performance against a Crystal Palace side heading (at this point, at least) for relegation back to the Championship, the Gunners face back-to-back fixtures with the two sides right behind us in the Premier League table. With a trip to Old Trafford also on the horizon (and despite their troubles this season, I never feel comfortable about success at Old Trafford), this week will go a long way toward making clear if Arsenal is the top title contender or if we’re going to be fighting for a top-four finish again. Still, three points against Palace are three points, and ensure that we are again top of the table.

To me (and seemingly most Gooners), the match against Liverpool is the more important of the two, as a loss would push us into second or even third, were Chelsea to win at St. James Park (given Newcastle’s lacklustre performance this season, a likely outcome). Ideally, a draw between Spurs and Everton would keep us out of a tie for fourth were we lose (though we’d still be third on differential, unless Spurs go completely insane — an outcome no Gooner wants to ponder), but points versus our age-old nemeses from Anfield seems critically important, as we push ahead into the winter with title hopes and Champions’ League aspirations on our minds. What’s been mostly unsaid is how the results of these three matches could impact our winter transfer goals. And there are two schools of thought: if we can down Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in a span of two weeks, Arséne *could* conclude that our squad is fine as is, and resist the urge and calls from the Gooner faithful to try to splurge on a high-priced striker (a certain mercurial forward from Liverpool comes to mind, for instance). Or, winning could persuade him to go for the throat, pick up that striker (not necessarily *that* striker, mind you) and defensive help we need in the backfield. 

Now, I’ve yet to mention that Chelsea match, which is in not so many hours from now; that’s because it’s a League Cup tie, and no one cares about the League Cup anymore. I think that’s a mistake in this particular instance; there’s the obvious issue of our desperate need for silverware, but more importantly in this case, I think this is an equally important match for one reason — strategy. As well as Liverpool have played so far, I think Chelsea the far better-equipped team to challenge our EPL title hopes in the long run. Outside of Sturridge and that previously-mentioned striker, I really don’t fear anyone on Liverpool, and — while I do think this side is top-four quality — don’t see them keeping up this torrid pace. Chelsea have depth in all eleven and on the bench, and will be the more formidable opponent in the months to come. I’m aware neither side will be playing their top eleven, but it’s important to see what Arséne and Mourinho throw out their, to gauge both their strength and ours. You know the boss is thinking seriously about this tie, as it will influence his decision-making when the Premier League matches against CFC come around. Even though it’s a League Cup game, I think it’s a mistake to dismiss its potential importance.

(This in response to tweets from @petchary —

~ by Benji on October 29, 2013.

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