The eight-game spell which could define Arsenal’s title hopes

Gunners' fixture list is inviting - but they face a New Year nightmare.

The disappointment of Arsenal's defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon is offset by the knowledge that the Gunners face an inviting fixture list before Christmas.

Certainly, the visit of Southampton after the international break represents a tricky challenge – the Saints are this season’s surprise package and sit third in the table after the weekend’s games.

But matches against Cardiff City, Hull City, West Ham United and Newcastle United can all reasonably be expected to yield points, and at the very least keep Arsenal among the front-runners.

However, it is after Christmas, and more precisely an eight-game spell between February 8 and March 29, which will present the real test of the Gunners’ title potential.

The first test comes at Liverpool, a ground where Arsenal have actually acquitted themselves well in recent years. Indeed, Wenger’s side have not been beaten at Liverpool since March 31, 2007, and have won there on three of their last four visits.

That is followed by the return against Manchester United, before a home clash with Sunderland and a visit to Stoke City, where Arsenal have not won in the league since February 2010.

Swansea City visit the Emirates in the next game, before three huge clashes follow in the space of 14 days, with visits to Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, and a home match with Manchester City.

It is a potentially season-defining run of matches, the true test of this young Arsenal side which showed the first signs of vulnerability against Manchester United at the weekend.

image: © Matt and Kim Rudge

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