It seems a touch premature to suggest that two games in the middle of December could shape a season for a side. After all, there are over five months of the campaign left, and teams that have topped tables at Christmas have found more than one way to throw a season away.
However, the magnitude of what Arsenal face in the forthcoming days lends weight to the fact that it immediately becomes a pivotal week in the life of Arsenal fans.
It is on two major fronts in which Arsenal will find out a lot more about their credentials this week—domestically and on the European stage.
Secure Top Spot in Group F and Make Life Easier
It all begins Wednesday night when the Gunners head to Naples to take on Rafael Benitez's Napoli side. As it stands, only a hefty defeat—coupled with Dortmund triumphing over Marseille—would see the Gunners fail to make it out of a group that many people wrote them off in when the draw was made.
Attentions will not be focused on merely trying to scrape through the group, though. Arsenal rightly occupy top spot after Robert Lewandowski's winner for Dortmund at the Emirates stands as the only blip on their Champions League campaign so far. To not finish at the head of the group would represent an all-too familiar scenario for Gunners fans.
Arsenal had the opportunity to finish top of their group last year, but a shock defeat to Olympiacos in the final round of matches saw them denied of first place. That meant they faced a tougher draw in the first knockout round, and they were eliminated by eventual champions Bayern Munich.
If they had finished top, they would have faced Turkish side Galatasaray instead. Finishing top is a must for Arsenal if they want to build a Champions League challenge.
Go Where No Team Has Boldly Gone This Season
Played seven, won seven. That is the phenomenal record of Manchester City at home in the Premier League this season.
However, look even deeper into the statistics, and you will see just what kind of a challenge Arsenal face Saturday. Per WhoScored.com, City are the most effective home team in all of Europe.
In those seven games, they have scored an astounding 29 goals. They have conceded just two.
Whilst City are inexplicably inconsistent away from home, at the Etihad Stadium, they are a dominant force that Arsenal must counter Saturday.
If Arsenal were to potentially get a result—be it a point or even three—it would send yet another firm reminder out that the Gunners should rightly be considered favourites for the Premier League title.
Many are starting to warm to that philosophy now as the Gunners constantly grind out impressive results. The few critics that remain may well be silenced should Arsenal take points away from Manchester at the weekend.
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