Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – Who has the easiest route to the Premier League title?

By Mark Peters IN Archive,General,Match Preview - 16:47 Jan 8th 2014

We have now moved just beyond the halfway point in the title race, with three teams starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

It would be a major surprise if one of the trio of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City were not crowned champions come May, but who will it be?

The fact that all three have lost at least once to a side currently in the bottom half of the table shows that nothing can be taken for granted, but who do the fixtures favour on paper?

ARSENAL

The Gunners have been ruthlessly efficient against the Premier League strugglers, winning all six of their matches against current bottom-five teams:

Arsenal-Bottom

Six of their remaining nine home games are against sides no higher than 13th, so there is plenty of scope for picking up points here.

Unfortunately for Arsene Wenger’s men, however, they must still travel to Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton before the season is over.

Furthermore, in addition to a tricky February that sees them take on Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich in the space of 12 days, they are then faced with this horror show in March/April:

Arsenal-Fix+

It is difficult to see this sequence yielding anything but misery, leading me to believe that Arsenal will ultimately have to settle for third.

CHELSEA

Jose Mourinho’s charges are a force to be reckoned with on their own patch, dropping just two points at Stamford Bridge so far this season.

Five of their remaining seven fixtures against current top-eight clubs come on home soil, so they have every reason to feel confident going forward:

Chelsea Results

Where the Blues really seem to gain an advantage, however, is in terms of their schedule. Seldom are they faced with back-to-back clashes against top-quality opposition, with these three double-headers being about as tough as it gets:

Chelsea-Fix+

Add to this the experience of their manager and I see no reason to change my pre-season prediction that Chelsea would finish the campaign as champions.

MAN-CITY

The Citizens have been simply sensational on their own patch this season, winning all ten of their Premier League matches.

It is difficult to see any visiting team avoiding defeat at the Etihad Stadium, though Chelsea would appear to stand the best chance of doing so.

Where Manuel Pellegrini’s men could run into significant problems, however, is on their travels, with trips to six of the current top-eight clubs still to be negotiated:

Manchester City Results

Unlike their main title-rivals, they are competing on four fronts. Furthermore, playing a team as comfortable in possession as Barcelona over two legs is sure to take it out of them in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Like Chelsea, their tougher fixtures tend to be kept apart, though they do face the Blues shortly after a trip to Tottenham:

Man-City-Fix+

If anyone has a squad capable of coping with such a gruelling schedule, then it is Manchester City. I cannot help feeling, however, that their remaining away fixtures will be their undoing and that they will ultimately have to settle for second place.

That is my verdict, but who do you think will finish first, second and third?

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4 Comments

  1. Tai Obasi, Lagos
    Posted January 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    As an Arsenal fan, I’m bound to have some bias but I’m not exactly keyed onto your analysis.

    First, Arsenal is the best away team in the EPL this season. At Cardiff where Manchester sides lost points, Sunderland, where City kissed dust, The Gunners came home with maximum spoils. At Newcastle where Chelsea were tamed, The Gunners garnered all points. Meanwhile, the bottom teams playing to avoid a 90 million-pound worth of drop, will be very deadly foes at their homes…Arsenal have cleared all such travels.

    Yes, Godison Park, Anfield are difficult grounds but when last did The Gunners drop all three at these dreaded venues? Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane could be tough territories but both are derbies…nothing like home ground, Mourinho or no Mourinho.

    On the other hand, Man City have very poor away form…and they will visit Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Emirates, White Hart Lane, Godison Park, St James’ Park! At least three loses, if not more! Only Chelsea will visit!

    Chelsea will visit Etihad and Anfield but then, matches against Man U, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton have never been easy at Stamford Bridge. Points must be dropped in majority of the games.

    It still boils down to which team that demolishes ‘weaker’ sides more. In this regard, Arsenal is clearly on top. Besides Aston Villa on the first day, Arsenal has been very ruthless with ‘weaker\ sides! Maximum points from the likes of Newcastle, Cardiff, Swansea, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, West Ham. Fulham have done The Gunners quest some good!

    My calculation tells me that if Arsenal follow the first half trend to demolish Norwich, Aston Villa, Southampton, Stoke, Hall … then deal decisively with the bottom teams at The Emirates, whatever happens at top venues would be evened out. Yes, Arsenal has a very tough February and Match…but then the run-in is seeming good. It’s neither here nor there! Apart from Walcott’s serious blow, The Gunners are good to go…but if Wenger handles the welcome news of Ox-Chamberlain and emerging Gnabry in a perfect mix, Walcott’s absence impact would be greatly reduced.

    With the presence of Ozil and coming of age of Szczesny, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Ramsey, Gibbs plus the assured presence of Sagna, Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere and workaholic Giroud, these Gunners won’t bottle it. I can bet on that!

    • Posted January 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Nice to receive such a well-crafted response. My personal view is that Chelsea and Manchester City will be more ruthless in the second half of the season. Arsenal are more than capable of beating the weaker sides, but playing all of the top teams at once is bound to hurt them.

      • Tai Obasi, Lagos
        Posted January 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Certainly but Arsenal will be meeting the tough sides in between Champions League second round against Bayern. That time, Man U will be battling too to qualify. Tottenham has a Thursday date to keep…and it will all depend on the first match against Bayern. If first leg at Emirates prove unfavourable, Wenger can play smart in the second leg. If Arsenal is knocked out, that means less matches than Chelsea! If Arsenal knocks out Bayern, that means added belief!

        In January alone, Man City will play three more matches than Arsenal and Chelsea…and have to play Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea within same period!

        One suspension, one red card in any of these big matches can be decisive. I have seen enough of the Gunners this term…they’re definitely no team that would easily bottle it! But then, we may decide to meet again by beginning of April.

      • Tai Obasi, Lagos
        Posted January 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        Just to add that Arsenal play almost all the big sides within Champions League games. It could be an advantage. A rested Newcastle, Liverpool, Wes Brom or even Sunderland could beat any side after a European mid-week game. But Arsenal will play Liverpool early Feb, then play Man U at home before Bayern come calling and face Newcastle without any European game sandwiched. Sometimes playing sides in Europe within such heavy schedule could be ready.

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