It's that time of year again. Every Arsenal fan for the last 8 years dreads it. February. The season has generally gone reasonably well. Into the knock out phases of the Champions League, late rounds of the FA Cup, and a decent shout at a top 3 finish, with the possibility of this being our year still tangible. Then, in the space of a couple of games, capitulation. Almost every year.
So what of this February? Doom prophesiers and naysayers alike look at the schedule and see only the same outcome on the horizon. Liverpool (twice), Manchester United, and the small matter of Bayern Munich, current European Champions, await Arsene Wenger's side, with the month rounded off by a Sunderland team who've recently put Man United out of the league cup, and have an aggregate goal tally of scored 10, conceded 3, from their last 4 league games.
Daunting stuff or is it? Let's look again, but this time from a more positive perspective.
Of the 5 games in February, 4 are at home. That would be the ground where in the last 11 games, Szczęsny, Mertesacker, Koscielny and co, have only conceded 1 goal, including games against Chelsea and Tottenham. They have also already beaten a Liverpool team earlier on in the season, who had the Suarez and Sturridge partnership together at the time, keeping a clean sheet to boot!
While the home and away games against Liverpool, who sit only 7 points behind Arsenal in the table, will doubtless be hard, the game against Man United, should, looking at the table, be nothing like the test that used to be expected when the Red Devils visit. United have so far failed to win as many games this season as they've had victories. 12 wins from 24, and 15 points behind an Arsenal side who've lost only 3 times, puts David Moyes's men very much in the underdog position, and as Stoke proved on the weekend, having Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney back, is no longer a guarantee of success.
Beating a team that sits mid-table, no matter that team's name or history, is imperative if you wish to maintain a credible shout for the league title. Beating Bayern Munich, may be one step too many though. In theory Arsenal are still on for a treble. People talk of Manchester City doing an unprecedented quadruple, yet they sit behind Arsenal in the league, having lost 2 more games, and play Barcelona in the Champions League, a prospect just as daunting as anything Arsenal have waiting for them.
Realistically, Wenger must prioritise. The League and FA Cup provide a far higher chance of success, and with a Champions League place all but secured for next year, Arsenal have a real chance of breaking the trophy drought that's been hanging over the club for so long. Win at home against the Germans though, and perhaps. just perhaps.
So, forget the lack of signings. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski have come back from injury, and both scored twice in recent weeks. Cazorla is finding the net again, Giroud still keeps scoring, and Arsenal's defence gets meaner by the game. February this year is an opportunity for Arsene's team to show just how far they've come. As a fan, I just hope it's far enough.