Arsenal FC: Why the Month of November Will Determine Gunners' Title Credentials
It's difficult to imagine a better possible start to the month of November for Arsenal.
With doubts arising over whether or not the Gunners can perform in big games after home losses to Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, Arsenal swept aside Liverpool with a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
While there are some who might argue that playing Liverpool isn't considered one of the "big games"— considering they finished in seventh last season—there are few teams in the Premier League you'd rather play against on current form.
Brendan Rodgers' side have enjoyed a surprisingly good start to the season, sitting in third place after 10 games. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez are easily the most dangerous strike partnership in the league—they've scored 14 goals between them so far this season—so shutting them out is a feat in itself.
It must be said, though, that tougher tests lie ahead for Arsenal—starting with Borussia Dortmund away in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Gunners absolutely need a result in Germany after losing the home leg, as they are even with Dortmund and Napoli on six points in Group F. With Napoli likely to get a result against out-of-form Marseille, a loss to Jurgen Klopp's side would see Arsenal drop down to third place in the group—not somewhere you want to be after four games.
Just a few days later Arsenal will travel to Old Trafford, a place that doesn't evoke fond memories in recent seasons. The North London outfit were famously humiliated by Manchester United in 2011 with an astonishing 8-2 loss and have failed to get revenge since, losing 2-1 there last season.
Manchester United have struggled to kickstart their new season under David Moyes as the Red Devils currently sit in eighth place. However, they seem to finally be responding as they've won their past four games in all competitions.
Arsenal always have their fair share of doubters, but there will be few who can doubt the Gunners' title credentials if they leave Old Trafford with three points. And, while it may sound bold, Arsene Wenger's men are probably favorites against United due to the respective form of each club.
A week later comes a game which will be trickier in reality than it is on paper—at home vs. Southampton.
The Saints have been the surprise team of the season, boasting the best defensive record in the league with just four goals conceded in 10 games. Make no mistake, this won't be a repeat of the 6-1 drubbing Southampton received last time they visited the Emirates.
Arsenal's remaining two matches in November should be six points on paper, welcoming Marseille and travelling to Cardiff City.
Getting all three points against Marseille will be absolutely crucial if Arsenal are to have any chance of advancing from the Champions League "group of death," with Marseille clearly the weakest team in the group (no disrespect intended).
While the Cardiff game might seem relatively straightforward, don't forget that Manchester City were beaten in Wales, so the Bluebirds are certainly a team capable of causing an upset.
November hasn't usually been a month in which Arsenal fare well.
In fact, Daily Mail shows that on average the Gunners pick up just 1.55 points per game in November, making it their worst month of the year.
Are Arsenal genuine title contenders?
One way or another, the next five matches will reveal what this Arsenal team are really made of.
On one hand, if they pull a typical Arsenal meltdown and fail to perform when it counts, they'll be found out for it, and critics will revel in the Gunners' misery.
On the other hand, if Arsenal are still at the top of the table when December comes around, we'll know that they are genuine title contenders, and any remaining skeptics will surely be silenced.
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