It's February, and Arsenal are still first.
Given the last two seasons when the Gunners barely achieved top-four positions, it’s refreshing to see Arsenal on top of the table for majority of the season.
In the past, however, Arsenal have always had great starts only to collapse later on during hectic months, as we saw regularly from 2007 to 2011. Many predict the same will happen this season.
If anything, Arsenal have shown that they are mentally prepared and can bounce back from just about anything.
One just needs to go back to the opening day of the season when Arsenal suffered a shocking 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. With no major signings, many expected Arsenal to suffer another poor start to the season with a tough doubleheader against Fenerbahce in the Champions League playoffs.
Instead, the Gunners responded in style and routed the Turkish side, 5-0 on aggregate, before winning three league games in a row, including a 1-0 win over rivals Tottenham.
With Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini signed in the process, Arsenal continued their great form until a home loss to Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund in the group stages and a home loss to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup a week later.
However, Arsenal responded with a win over in-form Liverpool, who were two points behind, and an unforgettable away victory in Germany against Dortmund, which was crucial in getting out of the group of death and allowed the Gunners to gain revenge along the way.
Another loss followed, an away match against Manchester United with Robin van Persie scoring the winner. Would Arsenal finally be brought back to reality and slowly drop from first place?
Not this season. Arsenal proceeded to defeat high-flying Southampton and all but secure progress to the last 16 of the Champions League with a win over Marseille.
Arsenal's first big tests came in December, which brought their worst string of results this season so far—a draw at the Emirates Stadium with in-form Everton, a 2-0 loss to Napoli with qualification secured and a huge 6-3 loss to goal-crazy Manchester City. The Daily Mail asked whether Arsenal's season had just imploded right after the loss.
Maybe the Arsenal teams from a few years ago, but not this side.
Since conceding six goals against Manchester City, Arsenal are currently unbeaten in 10 games and have conceded only four goals in the process. A great display of Arsenal's powers of recovery, but what exactly is the reason for it? As reported by the Independent in January, Laurent Koscielny believes Arsenal are mentally stronger:
"Mentally we are stronger than ever. We have won some games this season that we would never have won last season. It [the spirit] was always there, but more perhaps towards the end of the season. We can feel this season there is something special in the squad. We have all understood that we can achieve something together."
The current unbeaten run could have even ended at Southampton where the Gunners just about drew 2-2 with Flamini getting sent off in the second half—a poor performance and a result which had them drop to second place behind title favorites City.
Negativity was slowly creeping in, but everything was forgotten instantly when Arsenal comfortably beat Crystal Palace, 2-0, to temporarily climb back into first this past week as if nothing happened. Arsene Wenger would have been more than happy, as he knows previous sides might have continued dropping points.
"Yes, we needed to get that out," Wenger spoke of the Southampton result to the official Arsenal website.
And to make things even sweeter for the Gunners, Manchester's City loss to Chelsea means they retain a lead at the top, this time by two points.