Once more on BBC’s Match of the Day, the question came from Gary Lineker to his guests – Danny Murphy & Les Ferdinand. “Can Arsenal win the League?” And as if he was the son of Alan Hansen, Murphy answered no, giving the same reason as many pundits before him.
“That Arsenal can not win the league as they have not yet played anyone of note.”
We are now 13 games in to the 2013/14 season and it does not take me to tell you that Arsenal are 4 points clear. They have already played Liverpool, Manchester United & Tottenham, 3 of the 4 ‘Top 6’ as the press seem to have relabeled them (although can sides who have not won the league in 20+ years be considered a big side?)
The reasoning is starting to get predictable and boring. Especially when it is becoming evidently clear that this years Premier League title will go to the side who loses the least points against those ‘smaller’ sides, then those who gets the most points against those members of the ‘Top 6’.
Take Cardiff as an example. This season they have beaten Manchester City and drawn with Manchester United. Yet Arsenal beat them 3-0. That means that Arsenal could effectively lose to Manchester City and Manchester United, and only 1 point will separate the 3 based on the mini league. It does not matter how many points you gain when playing a title contender if you continue to drop points at those lower in the league. Arsenal’s lead is due to how few points we have dropped against those sides who are not a member of the Top 6. Just 5;
Arsenal – 5
Chelsea – 7
Man U – 7
Spurs – 8
Liverpool – 12
Man City – 11
If the theory go’s that ‘Arsenal have not played anyone yet’ then surely by proxy, our opponents have played against each other more. And therefore, they have had less opportunity to lose points against those outside of the Top 6.
Arsenal are top of the league, not because of their ability to beat those around them (although 2 wins from 3 against Top 6 rivals is good), but due to their ability to not drop points against those who are mid table and below.
As Liverpool showed this weekend, it is important to beat those teams outside of the Top 6. Liverpool could have got to within 4 points of Arsenal had they beaten Hull. They did not, and now sit 7 points behind. Their title challenge is over.
If Arsenal continue to beat those smaller sides, it does not really matter what happens in the match’s against the bigger sides. There are more points available against the smaller sides than the Top 6, so if they continue to win, and others continue to drop points, Arsenal’s gap at the top of the league table will only grow.