While neutrals watched and Arsenal fans winced at the club’s All or Nothing documentary in August, any chance of the Gunners ploughing through the latter days of winter atop the table seemed as likely as Mikel Arteta becoming a professional illustrator.
Nevertheless, the Gunners are top of the Premier League as late as February for the first time since 2014. That season Arsenal imploded thereafter, recording chastening thrashings against title rivals Liverpool (1-5) and Chelsea (0-6).
Their Premier League title hopes did take a blow on Saturday when they were downed by Sean Dyche’s Everton, with James Tarkowski scoring the only goal of the game.
Here’s what awaits Arsenal in 2023, with a lofty bout on the horizon for the current vintage as well.
One of Arsenal’s most impressive performances of the season – and there have been a bundle – came in September’s reverse fixture. While muzzling Brentford’s threat, the Gunners teased open their hosts to the tune of a 3-0 win. The manner of the victory was so convincing Arteta gave 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri a debut.
Arsenal remain the only visiting team to pick up three Premier League points at the Gtech Community Stadium this season. Thomas Frank will lead his over-performing outfit to north London on Saturday 11 February at 15:00 GMT.
The Premier League’s leading duo face off at the Emirates under the lights on Wednesday 15 February at 19:30 GMT. Arsenal were originally scheduled to host their closest title rivals in mid-October but a rearranged Europa League fixture shunted this mouthwatering match-up post-Valentine’s Day.
The pair duked out a teaser in the FA Cup fourth round at the end of January. Pep Guardiola fielded a strong City side which edged a tight contest at the Etihad by a single goal. Arteta, by contrast, rested six first-team regulars.
Every resource available to both sides will surely be called upon in the latest edition of master against apprentice in the dugouts.
67 hours after kicking off against Manchester City, Arsenal will be lined up against Aston Villa, poised for a reunion with former coach Unai Emery. The 51-year-old Spaniard lasted 18 months at the Emirates before he was unceremoniously relieved of his duties in November 2019.
If revenge was ever on Emery’s agenda – which he has repeatedly denied – the chilled dish was already served two years ago. Emery’s Villarreal knock Arsenal out of the Europa League semi-finals with a 2-1 aggregate victory in 2021. The Yellow Submarine went on to win the trophy which eluded Arsenal during Emery’s time in charge.
Only Manchester United have a better Premier League points per game record than Arsenal in February. The Gunners close out the month against Leicester on Saturday 25 February at 15:30 GMT.
The Foxes were the first visitors to the Emirates this season, scoring twice in mid-August but still succumbing to a 4-2 defeat. Arsenal have beaten Leicester four times on the spin, scoring at least twice in each outing. In fact, Emery was in charge of the Gunners the last time they lost at Leicester’s King Power Stadium.
When the Gunners romped to a breezy 3-0 win away to Bournemouth in August, the booming chants from the travelling support dwarfed the meek offering of the home faithful, mirroring the yawning chasm between the two sets of players on the pitch.
Scott Parker still had his managerial stripes at the time but his replacement, Gary O’Neil, may be entering the final days of his own reign by the time Bournemouth travel to the capital. The Cherries have endured a dire return to top-flight football since the World Cup and face high-flying Manchester City and Newcastle before the league leaders.
Arsenal’s prize for finishing top of their Europa League group was a passage straight into the round of 16. The Gunners will face one of the winners from the play-off ties between runners-up in the Europa League group stage and third-placed Champions League clubs that dropped down a level.
Arteta’s side will be away from home for the first leg, with the advantage of the deciding second game at the Emirates the following midweek.