Arsenal have had a record-breaking start to the Premier League, recording their best start to a season ever, winning 12 from 14 games. They are 5 points clear at the top heading into the Qatar Winter World Cup, something we have never experienced before, and everyone is wondering how Qatar will affect teams this season.
With the first day of no Qatar in two weeks, we look ahead to the Premier League title race that we have in store for when everyone comes home.
The big question on everyone’s lips is, can Arsenal beat Premier League powerhouses Manchester City to the title? The answer is usually “surely not...”
History has shown that Pep Guardiola’s machine-like City side are so difficult to beat, and it takes almost perfect results to escape them. Everybody expects Manchester City to win the league again, just like they have in the past, and even more so now due to the signing of Norwegian cheat-code Erling Haaland.
Haaland arrived at The Etihad in the summer for a fee of around £60m from Borussia Dortmund, which is a steal in today’s market, as he is expected to be worth anything more than £175m now.
The 22-year-old stands at 6’4”, and is a goal-machine, scoring 18 goals in 13 games so far in his first season in the Premier League. He is not going to the World Cup, maintaining fitness, and avoiding injury, so stopping him from firing will be an almost impossible task.
Despite this advantage that The Citizens will have when domestic football returns, Arsenal have a few small advantages too.
Arsenal have only played 6 games so far at the Emirates this season, in comparison to the 8 home games that teams around them have played. The Emirates has been a fortress this year, with Arsenal having a perfect home record with 6 wins than 6.
The Gunners have also played all the so called ‘big 6’ once (bar Manchester City), meaning that they only play these more difficult teams once more this season. Manchester City, Arteta’s biggest rivals in the title race, still have to play bogey team Tottenham, as well as Chelsea and Arsenal to play twice.
These will be high-pressure games for Guardiola’s side, as they must make up 5 points with harder games on paper than Arsenal. Pep will want a perfect run to catch up to The Gunners as quickly as possible.
Their Champions League history could suggest that they struggle with pressure, as they are clearly among Europe’s elite, but are yet to win a European Cup with one-off, high-pressure games being their downfall.
The World Cup itself, whilst being a nightmare for domestic football, could help Arsenal in a roundabout way. Rivals Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea all have more players going to the World Cup than Arsenal.
In fact, when you look at Arsenal’s squad, out the ten going, a lot of their big names won’t play. Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli, White, Saliba and Ramsdale are unlikely to start, and Tomiyasu, Partey, Xhaka and Turner are tipped to exit early on, meaning it’s only really Saka who could be affected by going deep into the competition with a large proportion of game time. Meanwhile, most of the Citizens play, and start, for major countries in this tournament.
Finally, Arsenal’s failure in the Carabao Cup could be key to their success in the Premier League, as it allows their fixture list to be more spread out. They also can rotate more easily as the Europa League competition doesn’t require as much quality than the Champions League, which Manchester City are part of.
Arteta has got his side playing beautiful football and has put The Gunners in the best position heading into the World Cup, and when they come back, he won’t have a better opportunity to win the Premier League.
Individuals like Xhaka and Martinelli in the Arsenal team are flourishing because of the team’s form, and they have seemed to find a new mindset this season, showing more grit and determination. The introduction of Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus could have inspired this, as they know what it takes to win the league from experience.
Manchester City will still be huge favourites heading into the second half of this season, but they will be pushed by Arsenal. The January transfer window after the World Cup could be a huge indicator of how nervous Pep Guardiola is, and it could be a title-deciding window.