Although we are only three weekends into the 2021/22 Premier League season, the alarm bells are already ringing loudly at the Emirates.
Thewidely publicised pre-season Premier League predictions that last season’s eighth-placed Arsenal will face an uphill task of returning into contention for a top-four finish this time around appears to be ringing true.
Despite forking out around £132.3 million to acquire the services of Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Martin Odegaard, the Gunners have started the new league campaign with a whimper rather than a bang.
Mikel Arteta has already come under heavy scrutiny after seeing his side suffer three defeats from as many top-flight matches without netting a single goal.
Following a brace of 2-0 losses to Premier League debutants Brentford and bitter cross-town rivals Chelsea, Arsenal succumbed to a dreadful 5-0 reverse away to reigning champions Manchester City last time out.
The first international break of the season may have come to Arteta’s rescue, giving the Spaniard a fortnight to rally his troops and try to bounce back from a horror start.
The fact that the Gunners failed to get on the scoresheet against Brentford and Chelsea could go down to the absence of several key first-team players, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
However, Saturday’s trip to the Etihad that saw Arsenal attempt just a single shot throughout 90 minutes gives Arteta no room for maneuver, given he had all of his star attackers fit and ready.
September Fixtures – Do or Die for Mikel Arteta
Must-win Norwich clash
The Londoners will return to action on September 11 in the wake of the international break as they welcome newly-promoted Norwich Cityto the Emirates.
Even though it will be a bottom-of-the-table encounter, the Gunners will be warm favourites to post their first Premier League victory of the season.
Tipped for a season-long dogfight against the drop, the Canaries remain one of just three clubs yet to claim a single top-flight point, alongside Arsenal and Wolverhampton.
But ulike their fellow relegation rivals, Norwich have at least found the net this term, courtesy of a 2-1 home loss to Leicester City last weekend.
Arsenal have won each of their last four home league matches against this opposition by an aggregate score of 12-2 and will be looking to maintain that streak now.
Awkward trip to Burnley
Arsenal’s visit to Turf Moor on the following weekend could be daunting despite the Gunners going unbeaten in their last five Premier League trips to Burnley.
Just like Arteta’s side, the Clarets are enduring a difficult start to the season, having returned just a single point from their inaugural three league fixtures.
With their winless top-flight run now extended to six, Sean Dyche’s men are likely to face another battle against the odds to avoid the drop.
You have to go back to January 27 to find Burnley’s last home Premier League triumph, with the Lancashire outfit going 12 home league games without a win since a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa.
The Clarets bagged one goal or less in each of those 12 matches, which sounds like a perfect opportunity for Arsenal to register their first clean sheet this term.
Ben White, who tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, will return to action in time to help Arteta plug his side’s defensive leaks.
Third London derby of the season
Low-profile contests against Norwich and Burnley will serve as warm-up fixtures ahead of Arsenal’s mouth-watering encounter against high-flying Tottenham Hotspur on September 26.
The Gunners will hope that the third time will be the charm after going down to Brentford and Chelsea as they take on Spurs in their third London derby this term.
Led by Nuno Espirito Santo, the Lillywhites went into the international break as the only Premier League side to have won all three top-flight matches his season.
A run of identical 1-0 victories over City, Wolves and Watford, coupled with Harry Kane’s decision to pledge his future to the club, must have filled Tottenham with confidence.
Despite winning this exact fixture 2-1 back last season, overcoming Spurs twice in a row will be a stern test for Arsenal as they last achieved such a feat in 2014.
Routine Carabao Cup task versus AFC Wimbledon
Arsenal’s 6-0 hammering of West Brom in their opening Carabao Cup tie back last Wednesday represents the only bright spot in an otherwise gloomy season so far.
With a top-four race in the Premier League already looking like a far-fetched dream, the Gunners will likely have to save their best hands for cup competitions if they are to win any piece of silverware this term.
League One side AFC Wimbledon will arrive at the Emirates on September 21 in the second round of the Carabao Cup after dispatching Northampton.
Given the considerable gulf in quality between the sides, Arsenal should have no problems reaching the next round, especially considering their tendency to dismantle lower-league opposition.
A victory over Wimbledon could be a significant confidence boost as the Gunners will meet Tottenham only five days later.
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