A harrowing 14 day period spanning between February and March last season saw Arsenal crash out of three cup competitions with their league title hopes also grinding to a halt. The talk of the quadruple was no more as Arsene Wenger’s men capitulated in the most heart-breaking fashion possible and the highly-anticipated losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to their biggest rivals could see Gooners around the world having their sadness compounded.
Nonetheless, there is reason for some optimism for Arsenal fans ahead of the new season. Departures for Nasri and Fabregas are nowhere near being completed. Gervinho has come in as too as has Carl Jenkinson in an effort to shore up a leaky defence. And a rejected bid for Phil Jagielka shows that Wenger realises where his team’s faults are as he seeks to correct them in a bid to end their trophy drought. The imminent arrival of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will add to competition in the squad and the return of Thomas Vermaelen could prove massive as they launch their bid to win the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2004.
Arsenal open their campaign away to Newcastle United on the 13th of August as they will try to banish last season’s memories of letting a 4 goal lead vanish. They will then welcome Liverpool to the Emirates on the 20th in their first major clash of the season. A visit to Manchester United on the 28th finishes off their affairs for that month in what is likely to be a titanic battle against the champions.
September is a subdued month fixture-wise as it begins with Swansea coming to north London followed by an away fixture to Blackburn before taking on Bolton at home.
October 2nd signals the first north London derby of the season as they make the short trek to White Hart Lane and take on Tottenham Hotspur. Home matches against Sunderland and Stoke City prepare them for a gruelling trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on the 29th.
November is a relatively quiet and cushy month with just an away trip to Norwich sandwiched between home games against West Bromwich Albion and Fulham respectively.
December is filled with no less than six games as the turn of the year in this month is sure to shape the Gunners title challenge. Arsenal face difficult away fixtures against Wigan, Aston Villa and Manchester City on the 17th as they welcome Everton, Wolverhampton and QPR during the holiday month also.
2012 begins with visits to Fulham and Swansea in consecutive weeks before indulging in a possible title-defining battle against Manchester United at the Emirates on the 21st of January. The month’s proceedings are wrapped up by an away visit to Bolton. February starts with a home match against Blackburn, travelling to Sunderland next and finally taking on Tottenham at home on the 25th in an eagerly-anticipated clash of the north London outfits.
March begins with a tough away trip to Anfield on the 3rd to take on Liverpool with further away trips to Everton and QPR also in that month. Home fixtures against Newcastle and Aston Villa complete the fixture list for that month. April starts with a huge match against Manchester City at the Emirates on the 7th, with Wigan and Chelsea, on the 21st, also coming to the home of Arsene Wenger’s side. Tough away trips to Wolverhampton and Stoke finish up a busy month of football as May looms on the title hopefuls.
A home game against Norwich and an away match versus West Brom on the 13th complete Arsenal’s domestic affairs for another year as they bid to finally end their trophy drought with England’s finest prize on offer.
It remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger’s charges can sustain a season-long title challenge and finally wrestle the Premier League trophy off Manchester United. Their runs in three cup competitions last season, especially going all the way to the League Cup final, tired them out before they reached a crucial stage of the season. Add that to their rearguard problems and it is no wonder that their title hopes fizzled out in such dramatic fashion that they finished ending up below Manchester City in 4th place.
However with the maturing of their young squad gaining another year of experience, Wojciech Szczesny seemingly ending the horror years of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski with some promising displays last season and Vermaelen’s comeback, their trophy drought could end this season. Add this to the inspired signing of Gervinho who will give another dimension to their already superb attack and the magnificent Jack Wilshere dominating games in midfield, there is reason for Gooners ahead of the 2011-12 season as Wenger finally seeks to show that you can win with kids.
Patrick Devaney writes for Soccerlens.com.