Prior to this weekend, the Premier League title race had been the most open race in a decade. Is it now just between Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, with champions Manchester United too far behind?
With champion Manchester United flailing early on this season, the re-emergence of Arsenal and Liverpool as potential Premier League superpowers and the managerial musical chairs and Chelsea and Manchester City, the title race had looked like anyone’s for the taking.
However, following this weekend’s results, there has started to seep in some separation – albeit small and perhaps seemingly insignificant – between the top three and the chasing pack.
The champions’ 2-2 draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane sees them remain in 8th place and Spurs remain in 9th whilst Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at Hull sees them drop down into 4th from 2nd. Chelsea’s win at home to Southampton sees them move up into 2nd and the Saints down to 7th and Manchester City’s home win over Swansea sees them up to 3rd.
Arsenal 7 point lead on Saturday (due to their earlier game) is now reduced to just 4 points with the Gunners on 31 points, Chelsea on 27 points and City two points behind with 25 points. There’s still not much in it as we head into the festive period this month.
Liverpool and Everton are still in the mix both just a point behind City, with United and Spurs now 9 points and 10 points behind the leaders, respectively. There are 25 games left to play and 75 points up for grabs for each team – anything could change in a week – but with Arsenal and Liverpool both facing Chelsea and City this month, the landscape of the title race is starting to take form.
The current top four will battle it out for the Christmas number one spot effectively this month and the victor will likely win by fine margins – an offside goal, a disallowed goal, a penalty decision, a red card, an injury, and even a misplaced pass in any one of those games or just one of those games could make or break the race. Such is football.
If Arsenal can avoid defeats to both the Blues they will be on course for the title, in the driver’s seat and in control, far ahead of the pack – the Gunners could have as much as a 7 or 10 point lead at the top by New Year’s Day if the results go their way.
Conversely, they could be shifted from poll position by the two Blues, if they suffer defeats or even one defeat and one draw from those two fixtures (as well as the third Blues of Everton) they could be second, third, or even fourth on New Year’s Day. City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton have perfect opportunities to gain ground and close that gap.
From what was an open title race, it now looks as though the usual suspects are breaking ahead of the pack and, whilst it’s still anyone’s title, the charge will most certainly be on come January. It could be all over long before the final sprint in the spring. The race can be won and lost in December and whilst the war is far from fought, the battles won and lost in the next few weeks are even more decisive now.
image: © edwin11