Breaking Down Arsenal's Key Matches in November

Willie GannonSenior Writer INovember 5, 2013

Breaking Down Arsenal's Key Matches in November

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Arsenal beat Liverpool in the most dominant of fashions to cement their place atop the Premier League in their first game of what will be a very testing November.

    The Gunners then race headlong into a five-game storm that will take in the rest of the month.

    They face the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United and high-flying Southampton in a run of games that will test them to their very limits. These fixtures will also go a long way towards providing a real litmus test of the Gunners' Premier League and Champions League ambitions.

    Here, Bleacher Report breaks down Arsenal's key fixtures in November...

     

    All statistics provided by Who Scored unless otherwise stated.

Nov. 6: Borussia Dortmund (Away: UEFA Champions League)

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    First up is a daunting trip to the BVB Stadion Dortmund to take on last season's UEFA Champions League runners-up, Borussia Dortmund.

    When the two teams last met, Dortmund ran out convincing 2-1 winners. That victory was at the Emirates Stadium on October 22 and threatened to burst the bubble of optimism and hope that was dawning on the Gunners.

    Arsenal, however, bounced back from that little blip in the best of fashions and easily beat Liverpool 2-0 to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

    They now face one of the toughest, if not the toughest, matches of their entire season. Mikel Arteta summed the game up perfectly to Sky Sports when he said: "The Dortmund game is huge. We don't want to go to Napoli needing a win."

    Dortmund, under the charismatic and heavy metal-loving Jurgen Klopp, are one of the best footballing sides in the world. They are exciting to watch and possess danger players in every section of the team.

    Marco Reus is the undoubted jewel in Dortmund's crown and he is the man that Arsene Wenger will have to be most wary of. 

    The two managers share a great respect of each other and in the pre-match press conference, covered by Sky Sports, Klopp showed his great admiration for Wenger while comparing the two teams in the most unusual of ways.

    He is really something. I love him. He is Sir Arsene Wenger.

    But he likes having the ball, playing football, passes... It's like an orchestra. But it is a silent song. I like heavy metal more. I always want it loud.

    When I watch Arsenal in the last ten years it is nearly perfect football but we all know they didn't win a title.

    Who wins the title? Chelsea, but with different football. But this is the philosophy of Wenger. I love this but I cannot coach this as I am different.

    I love it when I read after the game that we ran more than the opponent. If somebody tells me after the game that we ran 10km more than the opponent, that's good.

    I want to fight with perfect defense, switching to offense, very fast, switching back to defense very fast.

    What I love, I do with all I have. I fight for justice. It's a very important point for me. You give all... there's no guarantee that you get all but if you give all maybe you can get something.

    Fighting football, not serenity football, that is what I like.

    No doubt about it, Arsenal face a very stiff test in Dortmund.

    Statistics:

    Borussia Dortmund (Home)—Arsenal (Away)

    Form: WWWWWWWW—WWWWDWDW                                  

    Possession: 59%—57%

    Passing: 81%—87%

    Tackles per game: 27—18

    Shots per game: 25—13

Nov. 10: Manchester United (Away: Premier League)

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Win, lose or draw, the Gunners don't have time to rest on their laurels as they travel to Old Trafford to take on David Moyes and Manchester United just four days after the Dortmund match.

    When the two teams last met on April 28, Arsenal were forced to give United a guard of honor as the Red Devils had just been crowned 2012-13 Premier League champions.

    There has been a lot of water under the bridge for both teams since the end of last season. Sir Alex Ferguson, so long Arsene Wenger's arch nemesis, has retired and been replaced by former Everton boss Moyes.

    On the team side of things, there has almost been a complete turnaround. Arsenal are now the team that many feel will challenge for the title and United best seen as also-rans after a poor start to the campaign.

    The Red Devils' form has picked up of late with four wins on the trot and they should add a fifth with what should be an academic win over Real Sociedad the night before Arsenal face Dortmund.

    The fact that United have an easier match—and an extra 24 hours' rest—than the Gunners should not be lost on anyone. The last time Arsenal were beaten by Dortmund, they struggled to overcome bottom side Crystal Palace four days later.

    Now they face the defending Premier League champions and a team fighting to get back to where they feel they belong.

    The key to almost any victory is in controlling midfield, but United have made an art form of using the width of the pitch and the creative genius of Wayne Rooney in the final third. These games are always bruising encounters and might not be what the doctor ordered, especially after travelling to Dortmund.

     

    Statistics:

    Manchester United (Home)—Arsenal (Away)

    Form: WDWWWLWWWW—WWWWDWDW

    Possession: 58%—57%

    Passing: 85%—87%

    Tackles per game: 17—18

    Shots per game: 15—13

     

     

Nov. 23: Southampton (Home: Premier League)

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Arsenal welcome high-flying Southampton and their highly-rated young manager Mauricio Pochettino after the international break in mid-November.

    The Gunners won't lose too many players to serious matches, but Mathieu Flamini—if he recovers from a groin injury in time—Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna could all feature for France in their playoff games.

    An injury to either key defender and this game could take on a different complexion completely.

    Pochettino is still only 41 and just beginning the fourth year of his managerial career. The former Argentine international has carved out a very good reputation in a very short period of time. His teams always play good football and always prove very difficult to break down.

    That is especially the case with Southampton this term as they have only conceded five goals in 12 matches this season.

    The secret to their success is the highly disciplined pairing of 23-year-old Morgan Schneiderlin and 22-year-old Victor Wanyama in central midfield.

    Both are defensively minded, Schneiderlin almost exclusively, and only come out when the need arises. They also possess two excellent central defenders in Dejan Lovren and the underrated Jose Fonte.

    The Saints take very few chances in critical areas of the pitch and rely heavily upon the creativity, pace and work rates of Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana up front. The spine of their team is extremely strong and they are capable of posing serious questions to any team.

    They have beaten Swansea City and Liverpool this term, and were unlucky only to draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford after dominating the game.

    This will be the kind of game that Arsenal will want the likes of Theo Walcott back to full fitness for.

    Southampton are capable of playing any kind of football from slugging it out to fencing for the ball in tight areas. They make central midfield a battleground and, for that reason, the Gunners may be better served going wide to Walcott or the impressive Serge Gnabry.

     

    Statistics:

    Arsenal (Home)—Southampton (Away)

    Form: LWWWWWLLW—WWLWDD

    Possession: 54%—54%

    Passing: 85%—77%

    Tackles per game: 23—22

    Shots per game: 15—12

Nov. 26: Marseille (Home: UEFA Champions League)

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    Marseille's visit to the Emirates will, according to most bookmakers, be a critical match as Arsenal are not expected to beat Dortmund in Matchday 4 of the Champions League.

    Should the Gunners beat Jurgen Klopp's side, as every Arsenal fan hopes, this game will still be a crucial game as their progress to the knockout stage depends upon it.

    Arsene Wenger's side overcame Marseille in a tightly contested affair in Matchday 1. In truth, however—and despite the 2-1 scoreline—the Gunners rarely looked under threat. It still took two late goals from Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey to turn the game in their favor, but they were well worth their victory.

    Marseille's loss to Arsenal came hot on the back of a defeat to high-spending Monaco and a draw with Toulouse. Since then, their season has gone from bad to worse.

    Wins over Lorient and St. Etienne followed, but they have not won in six matches, which includes five defeats in a row. Their chances of qualifying for the next round in the Champions League are null and void, and their chances of making the competition next season are very much in the balance.

    Arsenal should win this match comfortably as Marseille, who are already out, will be reluctant to lose anyone to injury.

     

    Statistics:

    Arsenal (Home)—Marseille (Away)

    Form: LWWWWWLLW—WWDDWLLD

    Possession: 54%—54%

    Passing: 85%—81%

    Tackles per game: 23—19

    Shots per game: 15—14

     

     

Nov. 30: Cardiff City (Away: Premier League)

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    The last, but not least, Arsenal fixture of November will see the Gunners visit the Cardiff City Stadium for the very first time.

    The Gunners last met the Bluebirds in 2009 when they won 4-0 in an FA Cup fourth-round replay, having drawn 0-0 at Cardiff's old ground at Ninian Park.

    Cardiff have come a long way since then. Bankrolled by Vincent Tan, Malky Mackay's side won the Championship last season and have proved a belligerent force in the Premier League this time around.

    Their opening day 2-0 loss to West Ham was swiftly followed by an outstanding 3-2 win over Manchester City in their second game of the season. Since then they have proved adept and awkward opponents for most sides.

    Everton drew 0-0 with them, Tottenham Hotspur scraped past 1-0 victors and they beat Swansea City 1-0 in the first-ever Welsh derby in the Premier League. To date, only Chelsea have taken them apart, but that came after Jordan Mutch had the temerity to open the scoring against Jose Mourinho's much-fancied team.

    Mackay favors defensively-minded 4-5-1 formations that push the two wide players into support positions behind a lone striker. However, Cardiff do not possess pace or any real creativity in midfield and they have struggled to score goals of late.

    I'd be telling a lie if I did not say that Arsenal will expect to win this game. They will be overwhelming favorites by the time Nov. 30 rolls around.

    This game against Cardiff and the following week's clash with Hull City represent something of a slight respite for the Gunners.

    After the Hull game, Arsenal will entertain Everton, Napoli, Manchester City and Chelsea in that order before they play West Ham and then travel to Newcastle in the three days over Christmas.

     

    Statistics:

    Cardiff City (Home)—Arsenal (Away)

    Form: WDLLW—WWWWDWDW

    Possession: 41%—57%

    Passing: 75%—87%

    Tackles per game: 20—18

    Shots per game: 7—13