The November international break is over and the next line of event is back to Premier League action. Arsenal face Southampton at the weekend in a bid to get back to winning ways and whatever outcome would go a long way to define the dynamics of Arsenal’s season – which coincides with Emery’s fate at the helm of affairs.
After the Gunners face Southampton at the Emirates, they finish the month with another home tie against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. On paper, both games are “should wins” for Arsenal but as we’ve seen this season, you never know just what to expect from the Gunners lately.
Even the Emirates, which has been something of a fortress in recent times has become a venue where Emery’s side can only scrap points and manage unconvincing draws. The last time Arsenal won a League game at the Emirates dates back to the first week of October, where David Luiz’s headed goal from a corner kick was enough to secure all three points against Bournemouth.
The period where things get interesting for Arsenal and Emery alike is the incoming December period. This period is generally loved in English football due to the influx of fixtures that literally leaves fans with action almost all of the time.
For some clubs, it’s a time to tap into their squad depth and give room to some fringe players due to the congested fixture list. For some, it’s time to show their resilience, fitness levels and maintain a positive run of results.
For Arsenal, it’s a time to dread what has historically been a bad period in recent years. For Emery, it’s a crucial period that is key to how his side might finish the League at the end of the season.
December has not been friendly to Arsenal in recent times
Whether it’s a mentality issue or down to unlucky injuries or simply bad luck, the last month of the year has not been “merry” for the Gunners over the years. The congestion of fixtures for everyone doesn’t help the narrative but this time, a lot more could be at stake. Potentially.
Emery himself would be well aware of the falls that has plagued Arsenal in this period. Last season, Emery lost his first two league games in charge to City and Chelsea but never looked back after those defeats.
Emery proceeded to a 22-game unbeaten run (17 wins and five draws) in all competitions. It seemed to be a fairly good start to his Arsenal career till Southampton (who were bottom at the time) came around midway in December (16th) and ended that run with a 3-2 win that was clouded by lots of defensive shambles.
Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the Gunners lost their next game against Spurs in the League cup and things seemed to be falling apart quickly. The month then ended in the worst possible way with a 5-1 trashing from Liverpool.
The rest is history as the season ended in yet another disappointing fashion but that fragile period seemed to be the start of Arsenal’s problems.
In terms of injury, the most typical déjà vu Arsenal period goes back to the 2015/16 season. A time where Leicester did the impossible and many felt that was Arsenal’s real chance to have won the League.
Arsenal were top two in the League up until December. A 1-1 draw against Norwich saw the Gunners lose one of their most influential players at the time in Santi Cazorla to a three months injury.
To think that wasn’t enough, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscienly also struggled to finish that game with injuries of their own with the former eventually missing three weeks of action.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta, Francis Coquelin, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere also went on to suffer injuries of their own later on. Once again, the rest is history as Arsenal “bottled” the League in typical fashion.
December 2019 holds much importance for Arsenal and Emery
Switch back to the approaching December period of 2019 and it’s hard to see how this month wouldn’t be as consequential for Arsenal as others have been over the years.
As per Skysports, Arsenal play eight games in the space of 31 days which translates to a game less than every four days. Meaning Emery must try and maintain a balance of rotation and getting results in the process.
Dani Ceballos as it stands is already ruled out till mid-December at least and Emery can only hope none of his other players follow suit to the sidelines as well.
Moving to the fixture list, Arsenal start the month with a trip to Norwich which is followed up by a home fixture against Brighton and the first half is rounded up with their final group stage fixture of the Europa League campaign with an away fixture against Standard Liege.
The second half of the month is where things get interesting. Last season, things took a bad turn for Arsenal and Emery starting the 16th of December (against Southampton) and this time it doesn’t look any better.
Arsenal face Manchester City on the 15th December and would then go on to face Everton, Bournemouth and finish the month against Chelsea.
It’s hard to point any of these games that won’t be problematic for Arsenal and how they could give further insight on Emery’s fate at the club.
The board has given the Spaniard total backing till the end of the season but too many losses in this period could change everything in a split second.
As it stands, Arsenal are already eight points behind fourth-place Manchester City and any more losses could see them in danger of a totally meaningless season – in the League at least.
When you further consider that asides City and Chelsea, all of the other sides Arsenal play are within four points of their 17 points tally (Skysports), It makes it all the more interesting to see how one loss can affect the league standings.
Realistically, Arsenal and Emery would have to win about 60% of those games to be in close distance to top four or perhaps the top four itself come the end of the year.
December approaches and could be make or break for Emery. Hopefully it won’t be a December to remember for the Spaniard.