It hasn't been easy, being an Arsenal fan this season.
The team have been riding the roller-coaster of failure and success, scaling some dizzying heights and also plummeting to some gut-wrenching lows. The fans have been through the entire range of emotions already, and it would come as no surprise to me if some of them were to put their hands up and say that they've had enough for this season. Yes, even as early as November.
Even before the season started, the club and the fans were hit hard by the twin-departures of key men Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City. Then there was the disappointing loss to the New York Red Bulls in the Emirates Cup—the only trophy Arsenal have lifted with some consistency in recent years (there's my daily dose of gallows humor).
This was followed by the apparent inability to sign anyone who wasn't 19 and unknown. Then we faced current Serie A high-fliers Udinese in a tricky Champions League qualifier. And even though we did go through, it was a massive struggle, and was largely made possible due to a spectacular one-handed penalty save in Udine by Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
The Premier League season started with a flurry of red cards (three in three games) and defeats (two in three), and as of Oct. 15, the team had amassed a total of seven points in seven league games and found themselves just above the relegation zone in the league table. In the midst of all this, Arsene Wenger went berserk (in a good way) at the fag-end of the transfer window, and signed five new players (including no 19-year-olds) in a highly uncharacteristic three-day splurge.
However, the tide was to turn. Led by their talisman Robin van Persie, Arsenal embarked on their very own October-fest, winning five games on the bounce across three competitions, ending October in seventh place in the Premier League, top of their Champions League Group and in their ninth consecutive League Cup quarter final.
Having resurrected their flailing fortunes, the team must now consolidate. Arsenal are left with a somewhat tricky and highly important set of 12 fixtures in the last two months of this calendar year.
Here's looking at five of the most important games remaining in 2011. And although Arsene Wenger always says it is the most important, no, the next game is not on my list...