Starting with tonight’s match versus Everton, four of Arsenal’s next five Premier League matches will be at home against sides in the lower half of the table.
Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Leeds all visit the Emirates on either side of the late-March Interlull while an away trip to Fulham and a Europa League double-header with Sporting Lisbon represents a busy, but relatively kind, schedule.
In theory, it’s a chance to step on the accelerator in the quest for a first league title since 2004 while also boosting our goal difference.
By and large, Mikel Arteta’s side have been strong at home this season, however, a recent run of one win in four games at the Emirates underlines why the boss is cautious about the tests ahead.
“Yes [it’s an opportunity], but bottom or not bottom in the league, for me, is not so important,” he said.
“We have had many experiences and a lot of teams have had already this season, experiences with that.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” was his message to the team. “Tomorrow [against Everton], we have to earn the right to win that game and that’s going to be tough.
“We are where we are because we’ve been really consistent home and away and we are going to have to continue to do that. The home form obviously has to be excellent to give you the best possible chance and we are going to have to continue to do that.”
Arteta isn’t wrong on the consistency; there’s very little difference between the club’s home and away form this season. As things stand, his side averages 2.36 points per game at the Emirates and 2.38 points per game on the road. Interestingly, while Manchester City and Manchester United have superior records at home, they currently average 0.73 and 0.75 fewer points away.
Things could get so tight in the run-in that Arteta even agrees that goal difference could be important. Second-place City currently have a 10-goal advantage on that front.
“Everything is important,” said the boss.”Obviously when you have that advantage that allows you an extra game sometimes or an extra flip but at the moment, it is what it is. We know that we have to improve that.”
At this stage of the season, the challenges are as much mental as they are physical for the players.
The games start to come thick and fast and when there are setbacks, the need to compartmentalise them and to move on quickly is fundamental to maintaining a forward trajectory.
Last season, the Gunners squandered the advantage they had over Sp*rs in the race for the Champions League. Again they are being chased and will need leaders on the pitch.
Mikel Arteta believes he now has a squad capable of dealing with the pressure.
“I think we have more vocal players, we have players with different mentalities, we have players with different willingness to win every single game.”