Overall, the Gunners and the Toffees deserved to share the points this weekend – it was one of, if not the most engaging contests we’ve seen so far this term, fiercely fought and evenly matched for the most part.
The North Londoners now travel to Naples for their final Champions League group stage encounter with Napoli before returning to England to face a visit to the Etihad on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger’s side have lost just two games so far this season – their opening day defeat to Aston Villa and their defeat to champions Manchester United at Old Trafford last month – they have won eleven and drawn two of their 15 games so far.
However, Manchester City haven’t lost a game at the Etihad all season, their last defeat there was back in the Premier League was on the last day of last term to Norwich on May 19th. Not only are they undefeated at home this term but they’ve won all seven of their seven home fixtures scoring an incredible 29 goals and conceding just two.
As if that wasn’t a big enough ask of the Gunners, they then host Chelsea at the Emirates 9 days later – the Blues have won three, drawn two and lost three of their eight away games so far this season under Jose Mourinho although they are also undefeated at home this term.
Chelsea are five points behind the Gunners, level with Liverpool on 30 points with City a point behind them on 29. If the Gunners can win both games against the odds, they could put some real distance between themselves and the chasing pack as we head towards the New Year.
Of course it would be unfair to discount Liverpool this term but the pundits seem to qualify only Chelsea and City as real title contenders this term (however ignorant and baseless their assertions may or may not be) but if Arsenal can take three points from both of the Blues’, they would be eight points clear of Chelsea and nine points clear of City (assuming both win their other fixtures over the next fortnight).
That would be more than just a lead, that would be more than just a cushion or a gap – in the Premier League an eight or nine point lead is a gulf. At present five points is the biggest gap between any two teams in the table (Sunderland are five points behind Crystal Palace at the bottom of the table). Behind Arsenal, five points separates no less than five teams, and nine points presently separates Manchester United in 9th from the relegation zone.
It’s a big ask for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side to beat both the Blues this month but it’s not impossible. Arsenal have secured back-to-back wins in the league on no less than eight occasions already this season and whilst some expert pundits might say argue those wins have been against lesser teams than City and Chelsea, I would point out 5 of Arsenal’s 11 wins this season have been against teams that have taken points off Chelsea and or City (Sunderland, Cardiff, Southampton, Stoke, and Tottenham).
In fact every single team Arsenal have lost points against this season has also picked up points against either City or Chelsea too – Aston Villa beat Arsenal and Manchester City but lost to Chelsea, Manchester United beat Arsenal, drew with Chelsea and lost against City, West Brom drew with Arsenal, drew with Chelsea and lost to City, and Everton drew with Arsenal, lost to City and beat Chelsea.
Whilst the pundits may not fancy Arsenal’s chances over the two Blues this term, there is very little basis for this assertion – even the fact that the Gunners haven’t won the league in so long is a weak reasoning for this belief when Chelsea haven’t won the title in four years and City have won it just once in 46 years. Arsenal haven’t won the title in a decade but they’ve won it three times in Arsene Wenger’s 17 years in charge. That’s more times than Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini have won the title combined.
If Arsenal can win their next two games on the trot this month they would not only suddenly be considered genuine contenders for the title by the expert pundits but they would be favourites to win it in May, I'm positive.
image: © Crystian Cruz