Opinion: Successful November shows that Arsenal are capable of winning the league this year

Opinion: Successful November shows that Arsenal are capable of winning the league this year

Despite being Arsenal's bogey month, a strong showing in November this time around proved Arsenal's title challenge is stronger than ever this season.

Harry Wright

If there has been one month Arsenal could have done with avoiding over the past few years, it’s been November.

The Gunners have earned just 1.59 points per game under Arsene Wenger in the eleventh month on the calendar since the Frenchman took over in 1996.

Worse, the North London club have won just 1.55 points per game in November since their title-winning campaign of 2003-2004, and their record from November 2004 to November 2015 stood at 21 wins from 47 games, a win percentage of just 44.6%.

In comparison, Arsenal’s best month under Wenger traditionally is March, with 2.18 points per game. Since the invincibles season, the Gunners have taken 2.02 points per game in March with a win rate of 60.4%.

Arsenal’s best time in March came between 2009 and 2013 where Wenger’s men won 12 and lost just one of their 16 games, whereas from November 2008 to 2011 the Gunners lost eight of their 14 November matches.

Different season, different Arsenal?

However, November 2016 defied the norm for Arsenal over previous years. They went into November on the back of a 4-1 drubbing of Sunderland, sitting second on goal difference just two goals behind Manchester City at the top.

November started with a dramatic late comeback against Ludogorets in the UEFA Champions League, before steely draws against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United despite not being at their best, something often noted as the characteristics of champions.

That North London derby draw and the comeback point at Old Trafford were certainly points Arsenal could have easily thrown away in Novembers of prior years, but two important points led to an exciting 2-2 draw against PSG to make it four Champions League points from six in November.

November ended on a blip with Southampton’s 2-0 victory at The Emirates in the EFL Cup quarter-final, but that was far from enough to dampen Arsenal fans’ positive November. Their record coming out of it stands at two wins, two draws and that solitary cup loss.

That loss could have knocked Arsenal like we’ve seen on many occasions in the past, but oh how they responded. An Alexis Sanchez hat-trick led the three-time Premier League winners to a 5-1 demolition of an imploding West Ham United side.

What November did is show that Arsenal are up for the fight. What more for the Gunners, they may even go under the radar if they are to succeed in their quest for a first league title in 13 years come next May. Who’d of ever thought that could happen?

Gunners going under the radar?

Take the top of the Premier League. Manchester City have been in the spotlight for all sorts of reasons, whether it be the acquisition of Pep Guardiola and his tactics, Joe Hart being shown the exit door or mass brawls such as at The Etihad Stadium against Chelsea. Point is, they’re far more in the spotlight than Arsenal.

The same can be said of Chelsea and Liverpool. Both under flamboyant, exuberant new management, the media can’t get enough of Jürgen Klopp and Antonio Conte, with the Blues on a magnificent run of nine victories in a row and Liverpool’s free-flowing, high-press aura gaining plaudits from all around the world. That’s two more clubs in the firing line before Arsenal this term.

Manchester United can be added to the list, taking a front row seat in the spotlight too with ‘the Special One’ trying his best to prove he is anything but, spending more time in the stands after volleying water bottles down the touchline. That has ensured United’s media coverage is as high as ever.

Those factors combined mean that Arsenal are sliding under the radar and find themselves in pole position to give Chelsea the elbow at the top of the table, but how often have you heard Arsenal’s title chances discussed seriously this season?

It often feels like November was the month to take a back seat, watch Arsenal capitulate and laugh. However this season, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil running riot around the league, November’s results could well be the making of Arsenal’s season for a change.  

The Gunners are giving themselves an excellent platform for the remainder of the season, one that could be very successful provided they maintain their current momentum.