Arsenal’s premature Europa League exit has been lauded as both a blessing and a dangerous slackening off but one thing is for certain; it makes the closing stages of the season brutally straightforward.
In the wake of Thursday’s penalty shootout defeat to Sporting CP, Martin Odegaard declared that the club had “11 finals” to end the season. After swatting Crystal Palace aside with a 4-1 victory on Sunday, there are just ten showpiece events left for the Gunners.
With battles against relegation scrappers, London derbies and a top-of-the-table showdown all to come, here’s what lies ahead for Arsenal in the next six of those finals.
Leeds United earned only their second away win of the Premier League season against Wolverhampton Wanderers before the March international break. The Yorkshire outfit return to top-flight action in April with a daunting trip to north London.
Arsenal have never lost to Leeds in the Emirates Stadium, last tasting defeat in the capital against the Whites in May 2003 when Mark Viduka nabbed an 89th-minute winner. As they have repeatedly shown this season, Arsenal are far more likely to score a last-gasp goal than concede one at the death these days.
Arsenal have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League since Mikel Arteta was patrolling the midfield rather than the technical area in 2012.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been consistently inconsistent this season but the Reds have maintained their dominant home record this term, losing only one home league game (to Leeds, incidentally). Ominously, Arsenal will be the first visiting team to arrive at Anfield since Liverpool mauled Manchester United 7-0.
Arsenal’s European exploits may have been put on ice until next season’s rather daunting reintegration into the Champions League but West Ham remain among the continental elite – well, the Europa Conference League.
The Hammers are scheduled to host Arsenal three days after duking out the first leg of their Conference League quarter-final with Gent in Belgium. However, unlike some of the club’s travelling support, West Ham have not suffered a European hangover this season.
David Moyes’ side have averaged a point per game in Premier League matches immediately after a continental encounter compared to a ratio of 0.89 points per game otherwise. Nevertheless, Arsenal will certainly pose a headache.
Arguably the worst time to face a side sitting at the foot of the table is towards the end of the season when the blend of hope and desperation forges a feverishly competitive team.
During Ruben Selles’ brief reign, Southampton have already taken points off Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham. Arsenal were held to a draw at St Mary’s when Ralph Hasenhuttl was still at the helm and will have to be wary of becoming yet another scalp in Southampton’s scrap for survival.
Since Arteta masterminded a famous FA Cup semi-final victory against his former employers behind closed doors in July 2020, Arsenal have lost seven straight matches to Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s team are the only club Arteta is yet to defeat in the Premier League as a manager but Arsenal’s wretched record against the Sky Blues stretches long before his tenure. The Gunners have lost each of their last 11 league games against City, scoring four goals and shipping 29 in the process.
Arsenal only scored the one goal but the Gunners boasted a suffocating stranglehold of the contest when they last faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November. Arteta’s side limited their hosts to just five shots in a 1-0 win, a tally which remains Chelsea’s joint-low in a Premier League game this season.
Chelsea could conceivably line up with an entirely different attack at the Emirates – a misfiring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was flanked by Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount in west London – in a bid to cause Arsenal a bit more trouble this time around.