There’s been a lot of talk recently about the remaining fixtures of the top three sides and how it might influence the whereabouts of this season’s league title.
Heck, I was in on the act almost three weeks ago, just before the Chelsea game, when I stated that Arsenal’s more generous fixture meant that at $10 they were a ridiculously good gamble for the title. We were six points behind at that stage, the same as we are now, yet somehow have shortened to $7.50. But I digress.
There are two factors that could influence our ability to accurately predict whether we win the title; predicting where our rivals will drop points and predicting where we might drop points. The first is a difficult and ill-advised process that would take a fair amount of guesswork and generalising, so I’ll steer clear. The second is much easier.
Anyone who has watched enough of Arsenal this season will know how predictable their results have been. Sure, we have won and lost our fair share of games, but they tend to be the same types of games.
This season has seen us lose six games; two at home to Manchester United and Chelsea and four away to the big two as well as Manchester City and Sunderland, who were both in good early season form. What is interesting is that virtually every time we have lost we have deserved to lose, the Old Trafford game an exception, and the opponents have played very well.
As well as the six losses we have drawn four matches; three away from home against Burnley, West Ham and Villa and once at home against a resurgent Everton that then went on to beat United and Chelsea. Two things stick out to me there; first that in three out of the four games (not including West Ham) we were lucky to get a point and second that the three teams we drew with away have significantly better home records.
All of this can be basically summarised as the following:
- We tend to lose to teams who are better than us
- We tend to beat teams who are not as good as us and destroy them when at home
- We tend to struggle more away from home against sides that have significantly better home records and are in good form
- When teams outplay us, we generally tend to get a result better than our performance deserves
The first three points are as obvious Alex Song’s armbands, but they tell us something very important. We are a team that tends to beat the teams we should beat and struggle when we should struggle. We lose the games you would expect us to lose, win the games you would expect us to win and draw games on tougher than average away trips against in-form teams. It’s not rocket science, but is revealing when applied to our season run-in.
Looking at our remaining fixtures that means:
- Stoke (A) – WIN (Stoke’s home record is nowhere near as good as people think, compare it with Blackburn)
- Burnley (H) – WIN
- Hull (A) – WIN
- West Ham (H) – WIN
- Birmingham (A) – DRAW (Although Birmingham’s form appears to be on the slide)
- Wolves (H) – WIN
- Spurs (A) – DRAW
- Wigan (A) – WIN (Massive potential for a banana skin on Wigan’s shoddy pitch)
- Man City (H) – WIN
- Blackburn (A) – DRAW (Another big banana skin, Blackburn have won 8 from 12 although we always tend to beat them)
- Fulham (H) – WIN (Despite a good season, their away record is awful)
In some ways that is a generous prediction (27 points from 33, no losses and an assumed win over City) but in others it is quite conservative. As I’ve indicated Birmingham are running out of puff after their terrific unbeaten run, we haven’t lost to Spurs in a decade and we usually beat Blackburn, good home record or not. In fact, we usually smash them.
The final thing to consider is the last point from the four I mentioned earlier: when teams outplay us we tend to get a better result than our performance deserves. That is the reason why our position on the table tends to be surprise to be many people and why we it has been suggested that our presence in the top three indicates that the standard at the top has dropped this season.
It’s funny, when the tendency to get points where it is not deserved is applied to Chelsea or United it is usually portrayed as a title-winning attribute. But with us it indicates a drop in the standard of the competition?
They won’t be saying that if we win the thing and judging by this analysis, we’ll go damn close.
Have your say on Arsenal’s run-in by leaving a comment.