It’s been 12 years since Arsenal last won the English Premier League. Every year since, Arsenal fans have been teased by their club with hopes of winning the title but every year the season comes to an anticlimactic end. The team usually starts relatively strong and then fizzles out by December/January; often because of sub par performances, defensive mistakes and injuries. So consistent are these collapses that football fans and pundits have a name for this phenomenon: “Pulling an Arsenal”. This season however things seem different; Arsenal have had their usual injuries but the replacements have put in consistently strong performances and they now have the third best offense and defense in the league. The Gunners find themselves top of the Premier League in January (Leading by Goal Difference), with a solid team and key players returning from injury. The players are playing with a belief that they can go all the way this year.
What makes this season different for Arsenal? This season is different because there is no Chelsea. The defending champions were precariously hovering above the relegation zone for much of the first half of the season. Their shockingly poor start to the season saw The Special One – Jose Mourinho sacked and replaced with Gus Hiddink.[The last time Arsenal won the league (2004) was coincidentally Mourinho’s first season in charge of Chelsea.] I am sure Arsene Wenger and Arsenal were glad to see Mourinho leave.
Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal is a shadow of their former self and realistically can’t challenge for the title. The only realistic challenge Arsenal are facing for the title this year is from Manchester City – who are now sitting third in the table (One point separating 1st and 3rd place). Manchester City can never be ruled out as long as Aguero is healthy. They have the pedigree and experience on their side having won the Premier League twice in the last four years. Then there is Leicester City – The surprise leaders for majority of the first half of the season. Leicester City are currently second in the Premier League behind Arsenal only by Goal Difference. I find it surprising that many pundits have Leicester City finishing outside of the top four with sixteen games to go based on the performances they have put in so far. I don’t expect Leicester City to win the Premier League but if they did it would be a great story.
The Premier League from this point on is really a two-horse race between Arsenal and Manchester City. Arsenal now lead Manchester City by 1 point and face a resurgent Chelsea team in their next match, while Manchester City face West Ham. Check out the remaining fixtures for both teams below. Do you think Arsenal have what it takes to fend off Manchester City or do you think they will “pull an Arsenal”?
Arsenal’s Remaining Fixtures
Manchester City’s Remaining Fixtures