Beware the Sides of March: Arsenal’s Challenging Month

Julius Caesar faces a tough home fixture during the month of March long ago

By the time we play our first game in April (home versus Liverpool, as it happens) we could be sitting on Cloud Nine or wallowing in a trough of despond.

It all depends on how we do in our five matches during the month of March:

March 6th: Burnley (a).

March 11th: Olimpiacos (a).

March 14th: Tottering Hotspuds (h).

March 18th: Olimpiacos (h).

March 21st: West Ham (a).

We could enter April in the quarter finals of the Europa league, with an improved position in the Premier League (giving us a second shot at European football next season) and having defeated the noisy neighbours.

Alternatively… well, let’s not dwell on the alternative.

The Greek side have given us problems over the years in both the Champions League and the Europa League (they knocked us out of the latter on away goals in February last year). However, I sense that we are in a better place to play them this time round in terms of both personnel and tactics.

A year ago Mikel Arteta was still just getting his feet under the table and trying to fix the mess left by Unai Emery. His first job was to shore up our leaky defence, but it came at the cost of our effectiveness going forward. Against Olimpiacos we did not create enough chances and paid the price.

Fast forward just over a year and we are now playing a much more dynamic brand of attacking football, with multiple forward options emerging.

What’s more of a worry (to me at least) is the fact that we play the Spuds just three days after a long trip to Athens. The Spuds have their own Europa League tie on the Thursday night, but they’re at home against Dinamo Zagreb. Admittedly, when it comes to an environment that’s good for the soul, the Greek capital is a hell of a lot more appealing than the swamplands of N17 but there’s a fair bit of travel involved.

This raises a dilemma: the EL should be our priority for the rest of this season given our current league position. It’s our best chance of getting European football next year and our only chance of getting into the Champions League.

By that logic El Patron should play his strongest possible team against Olimpiacos, which probably means there will have to be some rotation when we play the Tinies.

It’s not an ideal scenario, but the result against Leicester on Sunday showed that if the squad players are in form they can get the job done. Against our neighbours we may well be relying on another good showing from Willian and Pepe. Too much to hope for? I hope not.

As for the other fixtures in March, Burnley will be a tough game and probably quite physical, but if we are truly progressing under Arteta it’s a game we ought to be winning.

That leaves West Ham, which – on paper – is the most challenging game of the lot (what strange times we live in: a pandemic shuts down the world and the Happy Hammers find themselves in the top four: it’s hard to know which of the two is the more unexpected). The Irons are having an excellent season under David Moyes but I suspect they are more vulnerable than their position implies.

They’ve just lost to Manchester City and face Leeds and Manchester United before they meet us. I would not expect them to be in the top four at that point and their confidence may well have taken a bit of a knock.

So what’s the minimum required from March?

On one level you could say it’s just qualifying for the next round of the Europa League. But if our Premier League form goes down the toilet it will have a knock-on effect on our momentum and the mood around the cub, so it’s vital we continue to progress there as well otherwise we’re sure to struggle in the later rounds of the EL.

My delusional, optimistic soul thinks there is at least a chance we’ll win all our games in March, but I’ll settle for knocking out Olimpiacos and taking seven points from our three league games.

What do you think?

RockyLives

19 Responses to Beware the Sides of March: Arsenal’s Challenging Month

  1. Sue says:

    Nice post 👍
    Ruben Semedo has been ruled out for 6 weeks, so will miss both legs – we need all the help we can get 😆 So, Big Sok Is bound to play now…

    The spuds can’t do the double over us, they just can’t!! Really nervous about that one!! West Ham won’t be easy either – one thing I definitely don’t want to see is Lingard’s dancing!!

    7 points and a win in Europe will do nicely, Rocky, I’ll go along with that 🙂

  2. LBG says:

    Happy Birthday Bernd!

  3. RA says:

    Hi Sue,

    What happened to Ruben? I find it difficult to believe he will recover from missing his legs in just 6 weeks.

    Are you saying he is just a low down bum of a player?

  4. RA says:

    A nice Post, Rocky, but I think you are worrying over much about the Ides of March, and the impact on sport — after all, it is not just about stabbing — it’s about coming together and stabbing as a team.

  5. RA says:

    Ceasar said that he did not like the Senate much – especially when they were twatting on twitter – cos they were just a bunch of backstabbers!

  6. RA says:

    I was OK at Latin at school, but the senate relapsed into Pig Latin when discussing tactics — pigs are soooo deep — if Caesar hadn’t been so snooty he would have known not to go for lunch on March XV.

  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    Et tu Brute?

    The eggs are in the Europa basket. That needs to be the priority. The top 4 is a long shot and it would take an enormous slice of luck to get close.

  8. RockyLives says:

    As JC said on pitching up at the White Cliffs of Dover: “Veni, Vidi, Vici… can I claim asylum?”

  9. LB says:

    Apparently Arsène Wenger tried to sign JC…….. couldn’t adjust to the climate, shame, with the constant bemoan of the lack of leaders at the time I think he could have been a game changer.

  10. RockyLives says:

    LB

    We did have Augustus (Gus) Caesar with us for a while…

  11. RockyLives says:

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if Fulham could do a job against the Spuds tonight.

    Unfortunately Bale seems to have remembered that he’s a very good player.

  12. LBG says:

    Rocky
    Gus Caesar, OMG, he was worthy of assassination.
    9 points, Olympiacos crushed, Partey, Saka, ES-R, KT pushing on. No Arsenal players on Interlull duty. Praise be the first month of Spring.

  13. Sue says:

    Howdy, RA 🤠 It had to be you, didn’t it? 😂 (Be a miraculous recovery wouldn’t it?! 😉)

    Hope things are well… still making me laugh, so they must be!!

  14. Pete the Thirst says:

    Gus Caesar – now there’s a blast from the past. Never forgave him for tripping over an invisible sod of turf at Wembley to let Luton score.

    When George signed Steve Bould his days were numbered.

  15. RA says:

    Hi Sue,

    I had my apology to hand in case I had offended you.

    Sssh!! Don’t tell the others on here I can make you laugh — they have had long lives, if you know what I mean, and prefer to say,

    “that blamed lanky no-good suffering crawfish of a pissant needs to keep out off my ****ing back yard –
    and he don’t make me laugh no how.

    You tell im to get his ass off my lawn, y’here me?”

    Wichita is calling me!! 😁

  16. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky. Again I say the EL is our biggest priority. I want us to finish the EPL league well but am not too focused on positions right now.

    We are currently in the top 4 since the Chelsea game so if we can maintain being one of the best 4 from that time we have something to be confident about next season. If that season could begin with a shiny EL trophy and CL football we will be in a great position.

    If you do a table of everyone above us and with all winning their games in hand then we will be this many points behind the following:
    City 25
    Utd 11
    Leice 10
    Eve 9
    WHU 8
    Che 7
    Liv 6
    Tot 5
    Villa 5

    I know it doesn’t work out that all win games in hand and some are playing each other but it does show that not only are there a number of points to claw back but it is with a lot if teams as well.

    Dont focus on it. Just continue to improve and finish one of the strongest EPL sides then go all out for the EL.

  17. Sue says:

    I hope you have your ruby slippers on, RA! What a mighty fine sight that’d be 😜

    Jeez, I just had a thought – Burnley can do the double over us also…. sheesh, how bloody depressing!! It can’t happen, Dyche will sound even huskier than normal 😄

  18. Sue says:

    😂

  19. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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