Arsenal’s matches in recent weeks have descended into bonkers, breathless affairs far too often for Mikel Arteta’s liking.
The Premier League-leading manager warned in the week: “We’ve played some really emotional games recently”. A first-half blitz ensured that the closing stages of Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Fulham on Sunday were devoid of any stoppage-time drama.
However, as the season draws towards its conclusion and the importance of each point ratchets up in the race for the Premier League title, there are bound to be plenty more emotional outings in the future.
Here’s what Arteta will have to steel himself for in the coming weeks.
Arsenal may rank as one of the favourites for the Europa League but they still have to navigate a way past Sporting CP after a full-throttle 2-2 draw in Lisbon. Arteta’s rotated XI were unusually slack in possession, particularly in their own defensive third.
Granit Xhaka’s cross fortuitously deflected off Hidemasa Morita to haul the Gunners level before Takehiro Tomiyasu’s substitution effectively nullified the contest as Arsenal settled for a point. However, Sporting will be without the suspended pair of Morita and captain Sebastian Coates for the upcoming trip to the Emirates, giving Arsenal a strong chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Since taking his last kick for Arsenal – which was the match-winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final – Patrick Vieira has returned to north London to face his former employers three times as a player and manager, failing to win any of them.
Crystal Palace have not earned a victory at any venue this entire calendar year, with that run extended to 11 matches across all competitions following a narrow 1-0 reverse against Manchester City last Saturday. In order to earn three points, Palace will have to break a three-game wait for a shot on target, let alone a goal.
In a match which was delayed for more than half an hour after a power cut two minutes after kick-off, Leeds were desperately unlucky to emerge empty-handed from their meeting with Arsenal in October as the hosts missed a glut of chances, the best of which was Patrick Bamford’s scuffed second-half penalty.
However, the omens are not promising for any revenge on April Fool’s Day. Leeds haven’t beaten Arsenal in any competition for almost 20 years, losing 11 of their last 13 meetings. Manager Javi Gracia’s personal record against the Gunners is even worse, watching his Watford side lose all three games without scoring a single goal.
Arteta has been to Anfield 12 times as an opposition player and manager. On the only occasion when his team recorded a victory during his playing days, Arteta had limped off while the score was still level. His only managerial success at the ground was earned thanks to a penalty shootout win after a goalless draw in the Carabao Cup fourth round.
It’s safe to say that Arteta’s personal struggles away to Liverpool have shrouded Anfield in a menacing mystique.
“The most important thing with Anfield it’s that emotionally you are in top condition to compete there,” Arteta feverishly told his Arsenal players last season. “To do that you have to know what is Anfield and it’s, believe me, very different to any ground you have experienced in the Premier League.” Arteta and his troops will experience that unique sensation once again in on Sunday, 9 April.
Arteta played more games under David Moyes than any other manager during in his senior career. Given their head-to-head records in opposite dugouts, Moyes seems to have taught Arteta a little too well.
Under the Spaniard, Arsenal have collected 16 points from a possible 18 against Moyes’ Hammers. The only blemish in this sequence could have been much worse as Arsenal trailed West Ham by three goals at the London Stadium in March 2021. However, Arteta’s side, inspired by future captain Martin Odegaard (who was only on loan at the time), rallied to salvage a 3-3 draw.
Fortunately for Moyes, it’s not as if Arsenal have been involved in any dramatic comebacks this season.
While it may be subject to change depending on Arsenal’s involvement in the Europa League, Southampton’s visit to the Emirates could be a rare Premier League match under the Friday night lights for the Gunners.
Arsenal have not played many top-flight games on a Friday (just 13) but they have often been successful. In fact, Arsenal’s Premier League matches on a Friday average more points (2.2) than any other day of the week. Up against a relegation-threatened Southampton, that ratio could improve further.