Plenty of gripes can still be had, but the Gunners has settled into a respectable groove and fairly decent form as we approach the midpoint of the 2018/19 campaign. The recent Southampton loss snapped a 22-match unbeaten streak for Arsenal across all competitions, and while there were a few too many draws in there to keep supporters completely satisfied, that sort of streak is always a good thing.
As many will agree, the club simply looks a bit tougher under Unai Emery than it had come to be in the waning years of Arsene Wenger’s tenure.
As a result of this improvement and the aforementioned streak, the Gunners is on the cusp of a return to the Champions League going by the current standings. Three points back of fourth place and just five back from third place and direct qualification, the club is in the hunt with plenty of football left to play. The top three, and a Champions League berth, should be the goal.
Arsenal’s upcoming fixture is against Burnley, the side with four away losses in their previous five Premier League games
As to what will indicate progress toward that goal, aside from simply watching match outcomes and the standings, keep an eye out for these signs.
1. Defenders In The Transfer Window For The Gunners
It’s not exactly a secret that Arsenal needs defenders in the transfer window. Up and down the defensive roster, the Gunners have been plagued by injuries, suspensions, and occasionally poor play as a result. The club’s goals allowed total to date is glaringly higher than that of any of the clubs Arsenal needs to catch, and more than anything some stability is needed on the back line.
In fact, it’s quite impressive for the club to be where it is today given all of this. So, should Emery upgrade defensively, it could be an indication of a push for, and good chance at, Champions League qualification.
2. Club Health
As mentioned, the defense has been plagued by injuries, and Arsenal has not been consistently healthy everywhere else either. While the primary attackers have fortunately been spared for the most part, there have been a lot of minor maladies across the board.
— Arsenal Till I Die (@gunnerarsenal4) December 16, 2018
Currently, Hector Bellerin is nursing a calf injury, Sead Kolasinac is healing a thigh, and Shkodran Mustafi has a bad hamstring, which as anyone who’s played the game before knows, can drag out a while. If Arsenal’s injury report clears out a bit in the coming month or so, however, it will be another positive side.
3. The Shifting Odds
It’s easier than ever to track odds these days, with casino and betting platforms supplying users with free play options and displaying basic numbers even for those who are just looking. So if you want the most accurate assessment of Arsenal’s chances, should they appear to be improving, you can simply mind the odds.
It goes without saying, but shortened odds for a top-three or four finish, or even for the league title (a long shot, but by no means mathematically out of the question) would indicate that the Gunners is even more in the hunt.
4. Form At Anfield
Arsenal’s forthcoming fixtures are a little bit up and down, so it’s difficult to say if there is a particularly hard or easy stretch on the schedule. One telling match in the near future though will be at Anfield on the 29th of December.
The Gunners managed to force a 1-1 draw at home against the league leaders, and while traveling to Liverpool is a different prospect altogether, Arsenal should also be a better team than it was upon the first meeting.
Nearly two full months will have passed, and if the Gunners are still improving under Emery, it should show in the form in this contest.
5. Form Hosting Chelsea
Arsenal will host Chelsea just three weeks after the Liverpool match, in what at least right now looks like the biggest event remaining on the calendar. The Blues have been quite tough on Arsenal in recent seasons, and got the better of them earlier this year as well.
However, a friendly crowd at the Emirates and a sense of possibility could well propel the Gunners to what would be a signature win. Given that the Gunners will also likely need to edge Chelsea out in any pursuit of the top three, the form in this contest will be extremely telling.