Crucial festive fixtures: Arsenal’s redemption quest and key battles against Liverpool, West Ham, and Fulham

Arsenal relinquished their position at the Premier League summit following last weekend’s gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to high-flyers Aston Villa.

John McGinn’s seventh-minute strike proved to be the point of difference as the Gunners saw their six-match winning streak across all competitions grind to a halt, allowing Liverpool to snatch the top spot.

One disappointing result followed another as Mikel Arteta’s heavily rotated line-up were held to a 1-1 draw at PSV Eindhoven in their midweek Champions League contest.

However, the match-up bore no significant consequences as both sides had already punched their tickets to the knockout phase, with Arsenal emerging as Group B winners.

Nonetheless, Arteta would be eager for his side to string more than a couple of wins together, but it won’t be easy with a handful of tricky games coming thick and fast.

With the festive period on the horizon, Arsenal find themselves preoccupied with a crucial run of fixtures that will test the mettle and resilience of Arteta’s troops. 

The twinkling lights of Christmas, accompanied by a congested Premier League schedule, sees the Gunners take on a series of pivotal fixtures that can shape the trajectory of their campaign.

Liverpool have reinforced Anfield’s status as a fortress, but Arteta and his troops will travel to Merseyside looking to succeed where a handful of others have failed this season.

While we’re still at the midpoint of the 2023/24 campaign, the battle at Anfield has the capacity to significantly influence the title race, with both sides going toe to toe for the elusive crown.

Arsenal’s trip to Merseyside precedes their home clash against West Ham United – a side that significantly contributed to their futile title pursuit in the back end of the 2022/23 campaign.

The Hammers are likely to be met by a hostile Emirates Stadium crowd, and you can join the action when you buy Arsenal vs West Ham tickets from Seatsnet.com at competitive prices.

From one London derby to the other, Arteta’s squad then travel to Craven Cottage to take on Marko Silva’s high-scoring Fulham side on New Year’s Eve.

These fixtures won’t be a walk in the park, but Arteta will back his side to pick up crucial points that could set them on the path to an enthralling second half of the season.

While Arsenal are firmly in the mix for the Premier League crown this season, it’s too early to predict the outcome of the campaign given their capitulation at the tail end of last season.

However, navigating the tough run of fixtures during the festive period could be advantageous to Arteta’s troops as they bid to end their Premier League title drought this season.

Liverpool v Arsenal

Arsenal head to Anfield to take on table-topping Liverpool on December 23 in one of the most highly anticipated fixtures of the festive period.

The Reds also played their part in Arsenal’s unsuccessful title bid last term, holding the Gunners to a 2-2 draw in the corresponding fixture. 

Brazilian duo Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus provided the goods, handing Arsenal a two-goal cushion inside the opening half an hour.

However, just when the north London heavyweights thought they were cruising to victory, Liverpool pulled a cat out of the bag with Mohamed Salah notching one back before half time.

The Egyptian goalscoring phenom had a chance to level matters from the penalty spot but failed to hit the target from 12 yards out.

He was offered a reprieve late in the game when Roberto Firmino snatched an all-important equaliser for the Reds to deny Arsenal maximum points.

Seeing as the draw at Anfield kickstarted the Gunners’ capitulation at the crucial stage of the campaign, Arteta’s side will have several scores to settle with Jurgen Klopp’s troops.

Failure to see out a win in last season’s contest also extended Arsenal’s winless record at Anfield to ten Premier League games – a record that could provide extra motivation for the Gunners.

You’d have to go back to September 2012 for the last time Arsenal triumphed over Liverpool at Anfield. 

Despite their revenge plots, their chances of victory are slim at best. But after ending their longstanding voodoo against Manchester City earlier this season, they’d back themselves to pull off another historic feat.

However, Anfield has become an impregnable stronghold for Liverpool this term, and we anticipate leaving Merseyside with a point in the bag could be the best-case scenario for the Gunners.

Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal

Arsenal v West Ham United

Arsenal’s final Premier League game of 2023 features an all-London showdown against West Ham at the Emirates Stadium on December 28.

The last time these two faced off was in the Carabao Cup fourth round where the Hammers ran out 3-1 victors against a lacklustre Gunners side.

An own goal from Ben White preceded second-half goals from Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen, rendering Martin Odegaard’s last-minute strike only a consolation.

West Ham also held the Gunners to a 2-2 draw in their final clash of the 2022/23 campaign, derailing their title charge, so once again, vengeance would be the theme of the park.

Arsenal would be keen to sign off the year in style and would fancy their chances of swatting aside their capital rivals, particularly after a formidable streak of seven consecutive home league wins against the Hammers.

However, after getting stung in the League Cup at the London Stadium, Arsenal would be well-advised to approach the unpredictable Hammers with cautious optimism.

Nonetheless, buoyed by the ever-vibrant home crowd, we’d expect Arsenal to emerge victorious on home turf.

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham

Fulham v Arsenal

After battling a capital rival on home turf, Arsenal travel to the home of another, trading tackles with Fulham at Craven Cottage on New Year’s Eve.

The Gunners have been impressive in 2023, and ending the year with a win at the home of another London neighbour would be a fitting way to drop the curtain on an unforgettable 12 months.

Arsenal are unbeaten against Fulham in their last 11 meetings (W8, D3), although their last defeat against the Cottagers came in a 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage in January 2012.

Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw in their most recent meeting with Marko Silva’s side at the Emirates, but they thrashed the Cottagers 3-0 at Craven Cottage last term.

Leandro Trossard stole the spotlight with a hat-trick of first-half assists, laying the groundwork for the Gunners’ overwhelming 3-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Gabriel Magalhaes, Martinelli, and Odegaard.

There’s no reason why Arsenal shouldn’t repeat the feat when they take on Fulham at the end of the year, and heading into 2024 on the back of a win could be monumental for dressing room morale.

Fulham 1-3 Arsenal

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