Arsenal's Premier League challenge derailed after familiar dip in form


November slump, January slip-ups... Arsenal's Premier League challenge has once again been derailed by a recurring trend, writes Adam Smith.

Arsenal's season is following a familiar pattern. After recovering from a slow start to show title-winning promise in September and October, Arsenal were knocked back in November and December, regained some momentum, before key defeats left them off the pace two months into the New Year.
It's a series of peaks and troughs which have occurred with striking similarity for the Gunners over the past four seasons, although it remains to be seen whether they can replicate the strong finishes which have boosted their final standings in recent years.
Arsenal's latest setback, a 3-1 defeat at Premier League leaders Chelsea, also sparked a recurrence of the calls from some fans for manager Arsene Wenger to leave his post. The Frenchman, though, has continued to deliver - with the regularity of his team's ups and downs - consistent top four finishes and guarantees of Champions League football.
Here are Arsenal's recurring roller-coaster campaigns explained...
SLOW START
"We were not mentally prepared." That was Wenger's assessment of Arsenal's sluggish start during their 2-1 defeat to Watford a week ago - and a lack of readiness applies to the Gunners' lacklustre start to recent seasons.
They lost at home to Liverpool on the opening day of this campaign and in the last five seasons, Arsenal have only recorded one win from their first Premier League fixture. In fact, they've won just twice on matchday two in that time, three times on matchday three and four times on matchday four. Arsenal don't burst from the blocks.
NOVEMBER DIP
Arsenal were flying in early November this year but back-to-back draws against Manchester United and Tottenham ended a six-game winning streak, before they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Southampton.
Last season, the Gunners were going strong as they entered November with five straight wins, before a draw to Tottenham was followed by a 2-1 defeat to West Brom and then a 1-1 draw against Norwich.
In 2014/15, Arsenal suffered back-to-back 2-1 defeats to Swansea and Manchester United during November.
JANUARY BLUES
Arsenal's January blip came right at the end of the month this year, with a shock loss at home to Watford, which was followed by a disappointing defeat at Chelsea, meaning they have won just three of their first six Premier League fixtures of 2017.
Last season, the Gunners had won four out of five games in December, but January delivered just one win, two draws and a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Arsenal had recovered from their November dip in 2012/13 with four successive wins - before drawing 1-1 at Southampton and losing their next two games in January.
SPRING BREAK?
Last season, Arsene Wenger's men had recovered from a poor January with back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and eventual champions Leicester but defeats in spring to Manchester United and Swansea followed.
Arsenal were thumped 6-0 by Chelsea in March 2014 after beating Tottenham 1-0 at White Hart Lane - two draws and a defeat followed before winning their final six games from mid-April onwards.
STRONG FINISH
As if to make amends, Arsenal typically finish strongly. They won eight of their final 10 Premier League fixtures in 2012/13 and five successive games at the end of 2013/14.
Last season's second-place finish was perhaps more down to Tottenham's capitulation than Arsenal's reversal in form but they did go unbeaten through the final stages to capitalise on Spurs' slip-up.
The end-of-season spike in form is clear - a trend that exists since 1888.

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