With just 17 games of their season remaining, Arsenal’s objective is pretty clear.
The Gunners failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in a quarter of a century this year and after being eliminated from the FA Cup at the third round stage by Nottingham Forest and beaten over two legs by Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final there is just one competition that they are still in.
While winning the Premier League is flight of fancy, qualifying for the Champions League places seems, for the first time in a while, a genuine possibility this campaign.
Mikel Arteta has got his side sitting sixth in the table at the beginning of February, just two points off the top four.
Unfortunately for them though, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea seemingly out of sight, it appears that there is just one place remaining that will grant Arsenal the chance to dine at Europe’s top table once more, with Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham all having designs on claiming it.
As a result this month promises to be key for the Gunners if they are to have any genuine chance of achieving their remaining goal for the campaign.
Here football.london takes a look at what they’ll be facing and how it compares to their rivals for the Champions League.
Initially it had seemed that Arsenal were going to have a very quiet February.
While the Champions League and Europa League gets back underway this month, the Gunners are set to be spending their midweeks resting up ahead of crucial Premier League matches.
On top of that Mikel Arteta’s men were due to face Chelsea and Liverpool over the next four weeks, but saw their clash against the former called off due to the Blues’ Club World Championship commitments, and the latter called off due to the fact that Jurgen Klopp’s men are playing the Carabao Cup final that weekend.
The workload has got one game heavier with their home game against Wolves – which was initially called off due to a COVID outbreak in the Bruno Lage’s side’s squad – being officially rescheduled to Thursday, February 24.
Aside from that Arsenal face the reverse of that fixture at Molineux, and host Brentford in what has to realistically be nine points if they want to gain ground on their rivals for the top four places.
Wolves (A) – Thursday, February 10th, 19:45
Brentford (H) – Saturday, February 19th, 15:00
Wolves (H) -Thursday, February 24th
It’s probably wrong to call West Ham a surprise package given that they were in and around these positions last season, but few would have been expecting them to replicate such good form this time around.
They are legitimate top four rivals who have taken the scalps of a few big sides, but as the busy festive schedule hit and injuries began to mount up, David Moyes’ men began to lose some of their early momentum.
They have two more games than Arsenal, one of which is in the FA Cup ahead of a run of four Premier League fixtures that they’ll be fancying their chances of winning.
Kidderminster (A) – Saturday, February 5th, 12:30
Watford (H) – Tuesday, February 8th, 19:45
Leicester (A) – Sunday, February 13th, 16:30
Newcastle (H) – Saturday, February 19th, 12:30
Wolves (H) – Sunday, February 27th, 14:00
February is going to be a busy month for Manchester United who play seven times in the space of 22 days as they play catch up for games missed over the festive period as a result of COVID.
They probably have the squad best equipped to cope with such a rigorous schedule, but with the lack of consistent form they’ve shown since Ralf Rangnick took over will be a concern.
Thrown in with a favourable FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough and five tricky Premier League games is a difficult Champions League round of 16 first leg away to Atletico Madrid.
Middlesbrough (H) – Friday, February 4th, 20:00
Burnley (A) – Tuesday, February 8th, 20:00
Southampton (H) – Saturday, February 12th, 12:30
Brighton (H) – Tuesday, February 15th, 20:15
Leeds (A) – Sunday, February 20th, 14:00
Atletico Madrid (A) – Wednesday, February 23rd, 20:00
Watford (H) – Saturday, February 26th, 15:00
Like Manchester United Spurs have a high number of games this month as they seek to make up for games missed in December due to Covid-19, as well as a trip to Burnley that was called off due to snow.
They begin the month with a visit from impressive-looking Brighton in the FA Cup before back-to-back home games and three away games in a row.
Arsenal will be targetting Antonio Conte’s side’s trip to Manchester City as a game where they’ll be hoping to create some distance between themselves and their local rivals, but Tottenham’s impressive record against Pep Guardiola’s men means that’s far from a foregone conclusion.
Brighton (H) – Saturday, February 5th, 20:00
Southampton (H) – Wednesday, February 9th, 19:45
Wolves (H) – Sunday, February 13th, 14:00
Manchester City (A) – Saturday, February 19th, 17:30
Burnley (A) – Wednesday, February 23rd, 19:30
Leeds (A) – Saturday, February 26th, 12:30