As the Premier League starts in earnest after a six-week break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the FA Cup, Arsenal find themselves in a strong position to challenge for the title. The team is currently five points clear at the top of the table, having only suffered one defeat in 17 games. This is a significant achievement for manager Mikel Arteta and his young team, and they deserve their place as leaders in the race. However, their impressive start to the season is now just a foundation, and the true test of their mettle is yet to come.
Historically, the team that sits atop the table on Christmas Day has an advantage in the race for the Premier League title. Of the 30 completed seasons since the league’s inception in 1992-93, 16 teams that were top on Christmas Day went on to become champions, while 14 fell short. In 2003-04, Arsenal were second to Manchester United on Christmas Day but ultimately emerged as champions. It is worth noting, however, that this season is somewhat of an anomaly due to the World Cup break, with teams having only played 14 games instead of the usual 17 at this stage. Therefore, it might be unfair to place extra pressure on Arteta’s team to live up to the “Christmas leaders” tag. Nevertheless, their strong start and consistent form have placed them firmly in the title race.
Reigning champions Manchester City remain the favourites among bookmakers, despite being five points behind the leaders. However, if Arsenal continue their strong form, Manchester City will have little margin for error. The biggest challenge for Arsenal, however, will be the loss of striker Gabriel Jesus, who is expected to be out for up to four months with a medial ligament injury sustained during the World Cup. Jesus has scored five goals for the team since his £45 million transfer from Manchester City in the summer and has brought a winning mentality to the squad. Without him, Arsenal will need to find a way to maintain the strength of their forward line.
The performance of defender Ben White, who left England’s World Cup squad early for personal reasons, will also be crucial for Arsenal. White’s versatility and reliability at both full-back and center-back have been key to the team’s success this season, and they will need him to return to his best form. On the positive side, winger Bukayo Saka had an excellent World Cup with England, and wide attacker Gabriel Martinelli is reportedly close to signing a contract extension with the club after returning from the World Cup with Brazil.
As the season moves forward, the pressure on Arsenal will undoubtedly increase as they fight for the top spot. However, the team has shown that they can handle pressure and deliver strong performances under pressure. With a solid defence and a dynamic attack, Arsenal has the tools to succeed in the race for the Premier League title. It remains to be seen whether they have what it takes to come out on top, but one thing is certain: Arsenal will not go down without a fight.
Next up, the Gunners will play Oxford United in the FA Cup followed by a trip to play mega rivals Spurs on January 15th.