Sunday’s trip to Huddersfield carries with it far greater importance for Arsenal than many have given it credit for.
Arsene Wenger’s final game in charge at the club after 22 years will be the focus of the match, and rightly so, but the reality is that the Gunners need to take at least a point from the match, and preferably three.
As we all know and are often reminded, Arsenal are the only club in English football’s top four leagues to fail to take a point away from home in 2018 and, frankly, that is disgraceful for a club of our stature.
Coming away from the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday with that ignominious title still in tact will be damning for the club and, more importantly, for the new manager.
Given how devastatingly effective we are at home, it would appear that our inability to take so much as a point on our travels in 2018 is, to a large extent, a psychological issue. That is to say, the players are hampered by something intangible when they walk out on any pitch that isn’t the Emirates.
There have been good performances away from home, without question, (I count the performance at Old Trafford among them) but there has always been that little something missing that has turned winning positions and hard-fought stalemates into defeats.
Psychological barriers have a nasty habit of lingering and, even with the departure of Arsene, I fear the block that sends the players into a meltdown when on their travels will only retreat temporarily before rearing its ugly head again early next season.
For a certainty, a point or a win in Yorkshire would mean that particularly monkey could be cast from our back, and the focus put entirely on buying into the new manager’s style and system.
Another defeat and the issue might well drag on into the new era, which is neither welcome nor wanted as we look to rebuild from amid the ruins of the Wenger Empire.
To that end, we must quickly cast aside the sentimentality of the occasion and put Huddersfield to bed as we did Burnley a few weeks ago. If nothing else, the players should want to send their manager off with a win, and given that the hosts have nothing left to play for, it would seem an opportune time to really turn it on.
I expect the manager to go full strength for the occasion and, as his teams have done for more than two decades, take the game full throttle to their opponents. I’m sure none of them wants to be part of the team that failed to take so much as a point away in 2018 and chalking up something tomorrow will see that looming label erased from the history books.
For the new manager’s sake, for Arsene’s sake, for all of our sakes – let’s get the job done one final time on Sunday and send us off on our summer holidays with something to smile about, instead of something to fret over.
The dawn of Arsenal’s new era doesn’t quite break tomorrow, but victory will make sure the clouds are clear in time for when the sun rises again.