Can Arsenal’s title push be sustained, or will exhaustion and injury take their toll?

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By Creative Media News

When the breaks start going your way, it is a good sign. Aaron Ramsdale knew it, based on his fist-pumping reaction to Patrick Bamford’s missed penalty kick at Elland Road, and Mikel Arteta very surely did, based on his apparent joy at seeing Leeds denied another penalty attempt in injury time. For the second time in 72 hours, Arsenal relied on luck to navigate a difficult away assignment, and with each potential stumbling block they avoided, the sense that they are on the verge of something spectacular grew.

This perception is supported by nine victories in ten premier-level games. It is Arsenal’s best start to a Premier League season, surpassing the 2003 Invincibles by one point, and their best overall in 118 attempts.

Even the most jaded members of their group can give themselves a twinkle in the eye. Arteta is asked every week to set the hare in motion and declare that his team is in a title race; as a careful public figure, he will never do so, but if they maintain this form, the question will become superfluous.

Can arsenal's title push be sustained, or will exhaustion and injury take their toll?
Can arsenal's title push be sustained, or will exhaustion and injury take their toll?

Can they manage? A four-point advantage can be overcome within a week, but it seems plenty for discussion. October always appeared to be a month that would set a realistic tone for Arsenal: nine games presented an outrageous schedule, and Arteta, who was usually more forthright on this subject, emphasized that it would require careful management. But to date, they have won all five, laying down the necessary marker by excitingly defeating Spurs and Liverpool, and the end of the tightrope is in sight.

The World Cup break is an appropriate time for a thorough evaluation. Arsenal will have played only four more Premier League games by then, and if they have maintained this pace through 14 games, they will no longer be flying under the radar.

Southampton and Nottingham Forest will have little to fear over the next two weeks, and Wolves, their penultimate opponent until Christmas Day, may be viewed similarly unless a manager change in Molineux instills confidence.

The visit to Stamford Bridge on November 6 could be where things get interesting: if Arteta can beat Graham Potter, a kindred spirit who is several steps behind the Spaniard in his reshaping of Chelsea, Arsenal will have answered the majority of pertinent questions by the time attention shifts to Qatar.

One uncertainty will persist into next year. Arsenal was originally slated to visit Manchester City on Wednesday, but a rearranged Europa League match against PSV Eindhoven took precedence.

They may not need to defeat Pep Guardiola’s team this season if the present form holds, but reality will not be that simple: Arsenal should have prevailed when they met at the Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day, but instead reverted to modern-day form and fell short. It’s been seven years since they’ve won that league matchup, and it feels like the final hurdle before possible greatness.

Arteta will not mind the postponement, even though his players would have thrived in the environment that, contrary to popular belief, has turned their home a bearpit. While Arsenal is playing scintillating football, with Martin Odegaard weaving lethal passes to Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka on each side, while Gabriel Jesus establishes a rattling tempo up front and a resurgent Granit Xhaka controls the midfield, their manager is well aware of the team’s flaws.

He complained about having only 16 senior outfielders available for Thursday’s match against Bod/Glimt, but he could not point to an extensive injury list. Jesus was excused from the voyage, but Arteta would have preferred to leave others behind as well. The required minutes of senior players are accumulating, and exhaustion increases the risk of errors such as William Saliba’s handball that gave Bamford his opportunity.

A visit from City could have uncovered the flaws that Leeds failed to repair. Few teams can work at full capacity when forced to perform twice per week, and it is feared that another month of the same will be too much if they are already struggling.

It would be advantageous if PSV could be defeated so that Arsenal’s final group stage match against FC Zürich may be played by the hopefuls. For once, they are endowed with remarkable defensive strength, but the rest of Arteta’s starting eleven picks itself: remove a couple of the front six for an extended period, and their tightly wound style of play may unravel.

This can be remedied on the transfer market in January, where finances will be made available to provide Arteta with the depth he requires if the top reward becomes possible. Perhaps, through talent and luck, he and his conditioning staff will be able to navigate the season with no notable absences other than that of Emile Smith Rowe.

If they can achieve this, it seems that anything is possible. Numerous championships have been won by a combination of luck and talent; Arsenal may rely on the latter but must hope their supply of the former remains abundant.

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