Things have gone well for us this season: probably better than most Arsenal supporters expected.
Top of the Premiership; top of our Champions League group (notwithstanding that recent slip against Dortmund); above the Spuds despite them having one of their best-ever starts to a season (if you call relying on dodgy penalties for points ‘best ever’); the capture of one of the best players in the world; and some moments of true footballing joy (blowing Napoli away, our own private goal-of-the-season contest against Norwich).
Those of us of a more positive bent see this Arsenal team as one that really has a chance to be there or thereabouts for the big prizes this year.
But others – quite sensibly – are sounding notes of caution.
We have not yet played a single one of our rivals in the Premier League and, as I mentioned, we came a cropper when faced with Continental opposition of genuine quality.
Which brings us to the month of November, which is bearing down on us like a dose of the ‘flu.
Our final game in October is a Capital One tie against Chelsea. I would be delighted if we were to win it, but I’m not overly fussed about that competition and I certainly hope we take the opportunity to rest players like Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey and Mertesacker.
Then we’re into November when, in rapid succession, we have the following fixtures:
Borussia Dortmund (A)
Manchester United (A)
The first four are undoubtedly tough fixtures (Southampton, let’s remember, are currently 5th in the table).
After that we should expect to beat Marseille and then we have a winnable away game in Wales. But our state of mind by the time we embark on those last two matches will be greatly affected by what has gone before.
This is why I feel we are at a tipping point in November.
Come through the games against Liverpool, Dortmund, Man Utd and Southampton in good shape and we really can start to dream about an end to our long potless run.
What constitutes good shape? I would say we need to at least draw with Liverpool, at least draw with Dortmund and beat both of United and Southampton.
We are more than capable of doing all that and more, but the one nagging doubt in the back of my mind is that November has not been a kind month to us over the years.
TS Eliot had it wrong about which month is the nastiest when he wrote:
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
Those lines are from his classic poem “The Wasteland,” (penned after a brief visit to N17).
If Eliot were around today surely he would be writing about the month of November and the terrible memories we Gooners have of that cursed four-week that comes round, annoyingly, at least once every year.
If the November gremlins strike again and results don’t go our way it won’t take long for the media pundits who have been singing our praises to start writing us off all over again; and, in turn, the minority of “underminers” among the fans base will pipe up (hasn’t it been nice to have a few weeks without that whingeing drone in the background?).
I certainly believe we are good enough to come through this period with flying colours, although it would be nice to have a few of the sicknotes back in action (I’m looking at you, Walcott and you, Flamini).
The more I think about it, the more important the Liverpool game looks.
They are flying at the moment and the bitey fellow is showing why Arsene was so keen to sign him up during the summer.
But we are playing them at our place and if we find our groove we can pass them to death and make Suarez realize what he’s missing.
Like us, Liverpool have had a fairly comfortable ride, fixtures-wise, in the early part of the season. Their only game against a traditional top four team so far has been a home match against a struggling Man Utd, which Liverpool won 1-0.
Southampton, meanwhile, beat Liverpool at Anfield.
So Arsenal v Liverpool should show us who is a contender and who is a pretender.
Win that one and I have a strong feeling that the rest of the month will tip nicely in our direction.