Morning all. Yesterday we spoke about how finishing 2nd would not be a failure for The Arsenal.
Whilst I maintain that finishing 2nd will represent a good season for us, that does not mean I do not think that we can not win the league. And there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful (and as we know, it is the hope that kills you).
Manchester City dropping off
As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, to win the league we need Man City to have an off-season. although for them, even an off-season will see them gain an incredible points haul.
In the last 5 seasons, Man City have averaged over 91 points a season. And only once have they failed to win the league.
That was in 2019/20, when they only got 81 points. The year Liverpool won it.
For Liverpool to win the title, they needed City to have their worst points haul in the previous 3 seasons (they won 100 & 98 points in the previous 2 seasons).Like Liverpool, we also need Man City to have their worst season in 3 years.
In the last 2 seasons, City have won 86 and 93 points. If City get 86 or less, than Arsenal are with a shout. And as it stands, Man City are on course to get around 86 points.
To hit 86 points, we need to win 15, draw 4, and lose 5 of our remaining 24 games. A tough task but if we quickly regain our form shown pre-World Cup, then 86 points could be on.
That means we could lose to Manchester City (twice), Liverpool (once), Tottenham (once), as well as lose 1 out of the 2 games against Chelsea and Manchester United at home.
Opposing fans have cried that we “played no one” as we built a lead at the top of the league. But in the final 24 games, we just have to keep beating those “nobodies”.
World Cup hangover
Some will try and paint Arsenal as the “big losers” from the World Cup. Gabriel Jesus being the most high profile player to pick up an injury.
The Brazilian is out until February, and that is a blow for the club.
However, Arsenal might have an advantage in the closing stages of the season due to how little action our stars saw in Qatar.
Prior to the World Cup final, our players had played the 5th most minutes of all the Premier League sides out in Qatar.
Whilst the “5th most minutes” does not seem much of a positive, the difference between us and Manchester City is huge:
We are unlikely to add to our total minutes (William Saliba is the only Arsenal man still out in Qatar).
Meanwhile, Manchester City still have one out there, Man U 2, Tottenham 3, Chelsea 2 and Liverpool 1. And all their players are likely to add a further 90 minutes to the total game time (note: this has been written prior to the final so I reserve the right to be wrong).
Man City players have played nearly 4,000 minutes more than Arsenal out in Qatar. And that could be huge come the business end of the season.
Likewise, Man U players have played nearly double ours, and Tottenham and Chelsea close to that. This means when we play those sides, our players could be fresher.
The fact so much of our squad remained in London for the World Cup will also be an advantage – whoever gets “back to speed” first as the games come thick and fast over Christmas could gain a huge advantage.
I41% of Arsenal’s first team squad (10 0f 24 players) were out in Qatar. 76% of Manchester City players were out there (16 of 21).
An early exit for Thomas Partey and Ben White meant they could join the squad out in Dubai for mid-season training.
This has enabled Arsenal to have 3 fairly competitive mid-season friendlies against Lyon, AC Milan and Juventus. Meanwhile Manchester City have had just a single game against Spanish Second Division (and City owned) Girona.
With Gabriel, Kieran Tierney, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah also starting against AC Milan, 6 of the 11 starters are expected to play against West Ham on Boxing Day.
It could be ‘advantage Arsenal’ in both bouncebackability and end of season squad fitness.
Home v Away
We have a 100% home record this season – including victories over Tottenham and Liverpool. The Emirates is becoming a fortress.
Our away form has also not been too shabby – 6 wins and 6 clean sheets.
But what is perhaps most interesting is we have dragged ourselves to top of the table whilst playing 8 out of 14 games away – and jsut the 6 home games.
Man City, meanwhile, are the opposite. they have played 8 home and just 6 away.
We spoke earlier about Man City being on course to get 86 points. This is based on the simple equation of their current total (32) divided by games (14) and mutiplied by 38. 86 points.
But should we also be taking into account home and away form? Man City average 2.65 points at home this season. And just 1.88 away. And they have 11 home games left to play against 13 away. This means there average points per game is likely to drop over the next 24 games.
Meanwhile,Arsenal (with the aforementioned perfect home record) are average 3 points a game at home, and 2.37 away.
Now whilst I do not expect us to continue winning every home game, have 2 extra home games to play could be a huge advantage. that could be worth 3 or 4 points.
Big 7 fixtures
As mentioned, a lot has been written about “Arsenal not facing anyone decent”.
Whilst the focus was on us, Man City have had an easier opening to the season and drifted through without the criticism we gained.
I mention Big 7 above, as Newcastle must be seen as a top side home and away considering their current Newcastle’s form and what they could do in January. I would not be surprised to see them finish top 6. Maybe even top 4.
Newcastle’s inclusion means that there are “12 tough opponents”, making the Premier League more competitive than ever.
Arsenal have played Man U (A), Spurs (H), Liverpool (H), Chelsea (A). We are yet to play Newcastle or Manchester City.
Man City have played Newcastle (A), Man U (H) and Liverpool (A). Theya re still yet to play Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea.
So Arsenal have played 4 out of 12 “tough games” whilst City have played just 3/12.
In the 3 tough games City have played so far, they have averaged 1.88 points per game. Arsenal averaged 2.25 points.
So we have more games at home to play and less games against other “top opponents”. Man City are more likely to drop points in these big games, as well as away from home.
Both sides will drop points against sides they really should beat (Aston Villa, Southampton already), but for now it is advantage Arsenal.
Strengthening in January
Finally, Arsenal are likely to strengthen in January. Manchester City probably will not.
City can probably not improve on their first XI, nor their squad, right now. The players they would need to improve would not be available until the summer. And even then you would struggle to come up with a long list of players who will improve them – beyond the Mbappe’s of this world.
Meanwhile, Arsenal need a defensive midfielder and further forward players (even before Jesus’s injury).
We will likely spend £120million over the next two transfer windows, and are looking to freshen up the squad with two January signings – Mykhaylo Mudryk and Danilo.
So whilst Man City stand still (and it football, if you stand still you go backwards), Arsenal will further strengthen.
So top of the tree, more home games to play, less games against Big 7 opponents, and January signings incoming. We can win the league (although I would still have City down as favourites).
But it’s still too early to talk about winning the EPL trophy. But top 4 is a must this season.