Arsenal’s hit and miss Premier League season continues. The recent trip to Old Trafford ended with a valuable win against Manchester United. It was the first league victory at the venue since 2006. However, a lacklustre 3-0 reverse against Aston Villa followed. Can Mikel Arteta’s side draw inspiration from their win over United as we head into a packed festive schedule?
The 1-0 win in Manchester is a definite cause for optimism. Most elite teams have struggled at points this season, but United are capable of beating the very best on their way, as Champions League finalists PSG found out in October. Arsenal fans will hope that this long-awaited win means upcoming visits to the league’s biggest teams are more successful.
The Jekyll and Hyde performances continue to hinder their chances of domestic success for now though. Fans looking at reliable betting sites like bet365 can find Arsenal at 66/1 to win the Premier League, having begun the season at just 25/1. Perhaps more importantly, bet365 now go 4/1 that the Gunners make the top four this term. Furthermore, some bookmakers such as 888Sport are odds against about a top-six finish at 11/10. The prospect of a season without European football should be a major concern.
Defeats to Manchester City and Leicester shouldn’t be a huge surprise by now though. Recent campaigns have been littered with disappointing results against teams that go on to finish in the Champions League places. 2017/18 saw Arsene Wenger’s side lose all of their trips to teams who finished in the top four. 2018/19’s away games against teams who finished in those places yielded just a single point, while last season there were two draws and two defeats.
As it stands, the Premier League table incapsulates Arsenal’s recent struggles perfectly. They are perfect against teams below their 11th place standing in the current campaign with four wins. However, against teams sitting 10th or higher, the Gunners have failed to take a single point thus far. The season is only eight games old of course, but these are familiar issues for the fan base, even with games being played behind closed doors.
It’s worth noting that the fixture list has dealt Arsenal a tough hand in the opening stanza. The six league games following the international break include hosting Wolves, Burnley and high-flying Southampton, plus trips to Leeds, Everton and the North London derby. That should give a more accurate barometer of what the unpredictable season has in store.
While Arsenal face a struggle to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish, the Europa League offers an increasingly viable alternative. The Gunners have made a perfect start to Group B, and that may allow Arteta to rotate his team if a qualification is assured with games in hand. While wins over Molde, Rapid Wien and Dundalk are a midweek fillip, it could pay to prioritise this competition if the league form fails to improve in the new year.
Online bookmaker bet365 make Arsenal second-favourites at 7/1 to win the Europa League after their impressive opening trio of matches. Spurs currently head the market with AC Milan, Leicester and Napoli amongst the more fancied teams at this stage.
Tougher tests await in the competition, but the Gunners have proved that they can mix it with the best in recent seasons and that’s an exciting prospect. Having lost to Chelsea in the final two years ago plus a semi-final defeat in 2017, another deep run certainly shouldn’t be discounted, especially with a seat at the Champions League table on offer for the victors.