It’s become common practice in the past month or so to assume, more or less, that the Premier League race has already ended. The EPL standings currently show Chelsea with only a five-point lead on second place Manchester City (and a nine-point edge over Arsenal). However, one must take into account the recent postponement of the Blues’ match with Leicester City—presumably an eventual win, and an extra three points of padding for Chelsea. In all likelihood, the common narrative is true: the EPL race is all but over, even with 10 matches to go in the season. But the intrigue lies in the runner-up spot, and the outside chance that someone gives Jose Mourinho’s squad a legitimate scare. And if anyone’s going to do it, it might just be Arsenal and not Man City.
Of late, the Gunners have been a tricky team to get a handle on. After a disastrous first leg of its Champions League round of 16 tie with Monaco—a 1-3 loss in London—Arsenal promptly turned around and knocked Manchester United out of FA Cup contention Former Man Utd. player Danny Welbeck was the hero for the Gunners. Although BBC Sport quoted Welbeck with saying it was difficult to knock out his former club, it was nevertheless a triumphant statement for Arsenal. And in some ways, the up-and-down journey through non-domestic competitions is representative of Arsenal’s form throughout the EPL campaign as well: they’ve been brilliant at times, capable of elite football, but unable to sustain lasting runs of success.
With that said, the Gunners currently sit just four points out of second place, with 10 matches to go and a relatively easy slate ahead. At betting.betfair’s football news section, analyst Joe Dyer recently took a look ahead at the six teams vying for the three spots (below Chelsea) that will result in Champions League qualification. And in the analysis, Dyer points to Arsenal as having a pretty easy road ahead. Specifically, he notes that the club’s recent form has been second only to Liverpool, as well as that six of its last 10 games will take place at the Emirates in London. The four road matches, meanwhile, are against Newcastle, Burnley, Hull, and finally Man Utd. at Old Trafford. It’s fair to say only the Man Utd. match looks particularly scary for Gunners fans. Also, as
stated, Arsenal just had a strong win against Louis van Gaal’s squad.
A look at Manchester City’s remaining fixtures reveals a much trickier outlook, though. Five of the remaining 10 games are away from home, including a trip to Old Trafford and to White Hart Lane to play a pesky Tottenham club that may still have hopes of a top-four finish—and therefore a great deal to play for. City also has to host Southampton, which spent much of the season in the top-three, in the final match. It’s not a devastating lineup, but given City’s relatively uncertain form of late, it’s also hard to find many sure victories.
Add that all up, and it actually seems relatively likely that Arsenal can overtake Man City for runner-up status in the Premier League. And in all likelihood, that’s as much movement as we should see in the top-three. Barring a significant collapse, Chelsea has the cushion to coast to a title. However, Arsenal’s remaining schedule sets up a very strong finish despite the club’s inconsistency. Furthermore, Chelsea is sure to be somewhat preoccupied with a tight tie against PSG in the Champions League, and potentially deeper rounds to come. If the Blues do advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, the tables show that they’ll play a match on April 22—just four days before an EPL visit to the Emirates to play Arsenal. If Chelsea begins to slip at all and Arsenal takes advantage of improving form and a soft schedule, that could begin to look like a pivotal match.
Again, the likeliest outcome by far is that Chelsea wins the EPL with several points to spare. Anything else would be a significant surprise at this point. But if there is a threat, it’s not coming from Man City—it’s coming from Arsenal.