Once again, November is threatening to derail Arsenal’s campaign after a promising start. Second on goal difference at the beginning of the month, the Gunners now sit in fourth, after an underwhelming draw in the North London Derby. Over the past ten years, our record in November, as has been heavily publicised, has been poor. Arsenal’s lowest average points comes in the eleventh month of the year.

There is no specific reason for the month’s failures, neither is there a mental block in the side. For the players, November is like any other month; indeed, in 2013-14 we won five out of six matches. The fixture list, however, does tend to take its toll around now. After a relatively calm start to the season, Champions League and international fixtures see the players playing every three or four days for the first time.

This week, the proliferation of playing time has taken its toll, and both Hector Bellerin and Alexis Sanchez have been hit by injury. Worryingly, two of our most important players could be out for the coming weeks, when difficult fixtures, notably Manchester United away and PSG at home could determine how our season pans out.

Bellerin’s ankle injury appears to be the worse of the two. Apparently suffered in against Spurs, the young Spaniard was subsequently called up for the Spanish under-21s, where he seemingly aggravated the injury in training. Had he remained at Arsenal, he would have been given time to rest and recuperate. Instead, a crucial member of our team, one who has bailed out his fellow defenders time and again, faces three weeks out. Right back is arguably the only position in the squad without quality cover. Carl Jenkinson is slowly recovering after a lengthy spell out, while Mathieu Debuchy has gone missing. Neither provides sufficient competition for Bellerin, as Keiran Gibbs does to Nacho Monreal on the left. This places a lot of pressure on Bellerin, who has played almost non-stop since breaking into the first team two seasons ago. His injury was to be expected.

Alexis Sanchez has also picked up a muscle injury in the past week. Though the damage seems less severe, Alexis’ mentality will leave Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans across the world praying that the energetic Chilean comes through the international break unscathed. As Wenger admits, Alexis’ love for the game means he will play through any pain: “he always wants to play and he’s always ready to play even when injured”. With Chile lying in fifth place in the South American World Cup qualifying group, just outside the automatic spots, he will surely do all he can to make the starting lineup for the crucial match against Uruguay on Tuesday, just three days before the Arsenal’s trip to Manchester.

Last season, November was a disastrous month for Arsenal because of injuries, not results. The month saw Laurent Koscielny, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez struck down, four huge absences that, by early 2016, had deeply affected our title chances. The build up to Alexis’ injury last season was worryingly similar to now: overplayed in the first couple of months of the season, the Chilean picked up a slight hamstring strain, admitted by Wenger to the press, yet insisted on his ability to play. The Chilean subsequently missed a crucial period of the season.

Alexis certainly shared a portion of the blame with Wenger for last year’s injury. A player should always want to play, yet he should admit to having a problem, rather than myopically refusing to rest. This week, it is largely out of Wenger’s remit. With the Chilean national side not reconvening until late March, it is in their interest to do the best for themselves in the short term, which is to win on Tuesday night. Hopefully, Alexis will act responsibly, recognise that he risks again missing a significant chunk of Arsenal’s season, and sit out on Tuesday.

The curse of November is of course a fallacy; there are no exterior forces undermining Arsenal’s campaign each year. Yet, just like last season, injuries are threatening to destabilise the team and undo all the good work of the first three months of the season.

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