It’s no secret that November has traditionally been something of a dry month for Arsenal, in relative terms at least.
Fixture pile-ups and tricky trips to Premier League rivals have made for a series of forgettable runs for the Gunners in recent years, before things start to pick up again in time for Christmas.
Arsenal’s points-per-game average for November is 1.59 in the Arsene Wenger years, considerably less productive than the rest of the footballing calendar. In fact, in no other month does their average drop below 1.85 points-per-game.
Last season was a particularly lamentable one for the club, with just one win in five games played in the month, including a 5-1 crushing at the hands of Bayern Munich and a slightly fortuitous 1-1 draw against Tottenham at the Emirates.
Asked about the curse of November at his pre-Ludogorets press conference, Arsene said: “We have some very important games in front of us. But we need to continue to do what we’ve done until now by just focusing on the next game.
“The best way to prepare for that is for us to continue our strong run. It’s important to keep a good balance between vigilance and confidence.
“We’ve had in difficult Novembers in previous seasons, but we’ve also had positive ones in our history too,” the boss added. “The most important thing is to not live with the past, we have to live with the team we have at the moment.
“Our destiny lies in the minds of the players, how strong our focus is and how hungry we are. We need to be like that in every single game, starting tomorrow.”
And that’s just it. The success or failure of their upcoming fixtures lies in the minds of the players. If they read into the so-called November curse, talk about it, and start to cast a worrisome eye over the fixture list, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe that the team’s form is going to dip in November, it almost certainly will.
As much as Arsenal must prepare the players physically for the battles to come – and there are many – he must also prepare them mentally.
There is no escaping the facts; Arsenal don’t have a good record in November. But the results of the past have no bearing on their performances and results in the future. The events are separate and unrelated.
The key to overcoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – in which you actively begin to conform to people’s expectations of you – is to simply go against the grain.
For Arsenal, nothing will dispel the myth of failure in November better than winning.
They can begin that process tomorrow night with victory in Bulgaria against Ludogorets – a team who they thrashed in their first encounter in London a fortnight ago.
In some ways, it’s the perfect start for the team, the perfect opportunity for them to overcome their November jitters. Aside from a few flashes of good play, Ludogorets were, for the most part, pretty poor.
Home or away, Arsenal should have too much for their hosts and victory, should it come, will be the ideal boost going into the North London derby at the weekend.
What they must not do is slip up. To do so would really throw a spanner in the works and add unnecessary credence to the November theory. If the players start to believe it, it will play out exactly the way they expect it to.
So here’s to victory. A positive result will do both the players and fans the world of good and will all but see us through to the next round of the Champions League, where another curse eagerly awaits breaking.