We've all been here before, haven't we? Excite the fans in the pre-season, make the odd world-class signing, and then all of a sudden, there's the olid Arsenal, smelling of failure and parsimony. So far this season, it's been so Arsenal and on current form, matters don't seem like they'd improve anytime soon, not especially when no improvements are in sight, both defensively and offensively.
Liverpool are one team Arsenal should have eased past, given that they are challenging for major honours, but instead, they played out a goalless draw, one which could have gone either way had it not been for the goalkeepers of the respective sides, and the lack of finishing skills from Arsene Wenger's men.
It gets tougher from hereon in, as the FA Cup holders now travel to St. James' Park to face Newcastle United, who are on a high having drawn against Manchester United. From what we have seen thus far, the fixture is wide open with both teams in with an equal chance of winning. However, as is often said, if Arsenal are on-song, they would be too hot for any side in Europe, let alone Newcastle United.
It is not not even worth a discussion that Steve McLaren's side are going to rely upon counter-attacks, the best way to hurt Arsenal. What that means is that the guests just can't afford giving the ball away as easily as they did against Liverpool, while you just can't forget how egregious was the passing and the rhythm.
The biggest of all challenges, though, would be the defending for Arsenal as they aim to take full points. While it's easy to put all the blame on Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla for their side's draw against the Reds, it's almost idiotic not to single out Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista's uncertainities in whatever they did as the reason for the the horrors in the mid-field.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are both highly unlikely to start come Saturday, which leaves Chambers and Paulista as the options at the centre of the defence. One might hope that the talent they have, they may as well hit back at the critics, but that won't happen if they keep leaving wide gaps at the back. "Compactness", it's compactness they need to focus on more than anything while making sure that their decision making is more quick and confident than it was the last time around.
Newcastle United are no fools - yes - but the Magpies aren't a team to be feared either. It's more about how Arsenal start the game that'll affect their play, which makes it important for Arsenal to start the game well with all of their stars living upto the hype, Mesut Özil in particular, who, at times, just doesn't do enough on the ball. Surely, a bit more effort from German would be huge to his side's title challenge?
It's hard to see Wenger making a change to the line-up that started against Liverpool, even if a few of them didn't live up to the challenge. Mikel Arteta needs to start more games, the same goes for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but one can't see that happening this week.
Picking Arsenal as the favourites is an inevitability for obvious reasons. They haven't made the most of the quality they possess, but it's never too late.