February and March look set to be the decisive months in Arsenal’s season.
There would have been plenty of Gunners all over England who would have groaned yesterday when the side was drawn against German and European champions Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League.
However, a good percentage of that group will also be very excited because by the time the last 16 ties in the Champions League come round, Arsenal could be staring down the barrel of a fantastic season.
The Gunners under Arsene Wenger have been the Premier League pace setters and despite a couple of poor results, they have played good, sensible football and proven they can match up against any of the big sides.
February and March throw up a daunting set of fixtures in the Premier League around that Champions League tie against Bayern Munich but it’s a two month period which could be a fantastic time to follow Arsenal.
February includes back-to-back matches against Liverpool and Manchester United in the league before the first leg of the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
If Arsenal are still at the top of the Premier League, there is a very good chance that those two matches will allow Wenger’s men to put themselves into an even stronger position.
As for the first leg of the Champions League tie, the aim will be to stay in the tie over the first 90 minutes and a repeat of the drubbing Bayern gave Arsenal in North London last season is unlikely.
The matches against Liverpool and United will be of such a high standard that Arsenal should be very sharp heading into the game against Bayern and if they have secured six points, confidence and momentum will also be sky high.
March throws up the second leg against Bayern Munich and there is no reason that a repeat of the win away at the Allianz Arena last season isn’t possible.
After that match, the ante is really upped for Arsenal in terms of the Premier League with away games at Tottenham and Chelsea before a home match against Manchester City which could be a title determining 90 minutes.
If Arsenal make it through that period, they could be staring at April and May with the Premier League crown virtually in the bag and a last eight place in the Champions League, when few would have tipped them to make it past Bayern.
It’s all hypothetical, but if the Gunners make it through February and March positively then the implications of what that would mean heading towards the summer are worth thinking about.
A new long term deal for Wenger, happy fans, a confident squad and the cash to go and strengthen even further in the summer.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald