So here we are. The return of the Champions League always tends to mark the start of the most important part of the season.
It's this time where runs are started, leagues are won and lost, and teams can quickly climb up the league. We only have to look at last season to see what the significance of this area of the season can have. Our 5-2 victory against Tottenham at the end of February sparked a run of form that secured us top four, with us playing our best football of that season. In stark contrast, it set our North London rivals on a stuttering path of disaster as they started dropping all number of points, and, by doing so, handed us the coveted Champions League place we desired.
Whilst we're not playing Ze all-conquering Germans for another week, the point is still clear. We need to start winning, and forging a great team spirit that we can use to secure the fourth place we desire, and possibly pick up a trophy along the way.
Mikel Arteta was quick to focus on the next month. And particularly fight for the Champions League. Following the 1-0 victory at the weekend he said: “There’s been a big improvement in English football; there’s no other league in Europe where it’s as hard to get into the Champions League.”
The fight for the Champions league is as tight as any other league, but what separates the Premier League from the others is the quality of sides competing. The fact that only 2 teams out of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton will be in the Champions League completely underlines this.
Our next month contains 6 vital matches. The Blackburn game may not be getting the full attention as the upcoming Bayern match, but it still represents our only realistic chance of silverware this season. After Blackburn comes the Bayern Munich home game, before a Aston Villa make the trip to the Emirates in a game where nothing less than 3 points is acceptable.
But March is where the tougher tests lie ahead. What is looking like our most important game of the season at White Hart Lane is followed by a home game against other 4th place rivals. Next comes the return game against the Germans, before a tough trip to the Liberty Stadium against Swansea.
Arteta continued, stressing: “This next month is the month, it’s crucial, Everything can look brighter at the end of it or really, really bad.”
He's 100% right. We could either end up being in a great position in the league and FA cup, and who knows, we might even raise a few eyebrows in Europe, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we could have little or nothing to play for in just over 30 days time.
Some consistency has started the come through since the Chelsea defeat. We have managed to secure 4 wins in the last 5 games, and our performances have significantly improved. Szczesny showed what a great keeper he is some match-saving saves against Sunderland. Whilst the defence is struggling for injuries, we have even managed 2 clean sheets in the last 2 games.
It's also significant that we finally have a fully fit midfield, featuring the talent of Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta, Diaby, Ramsey and Rosicky. That depth which has been missing this season will be needed as the fixtures come thick and fast from now on.
With Giroud, Podolski and Walcott all on good form its also vital they continue to find the net. But there are signs that partnerships are starting to be formed which can really help our forward lines in securing three points.
The next month is crucial, and the players must start to strive for consistency.