Another weekend packed with surprising Premier League results has seen Arsenal make ground on all of their main rivals. As the season approaches the half-way mark we have an intriguing title race on our hands and one that has the potential to go right down to the wire.
The Gunners themselves had to work hard for their three points against struggling Sunderland. Leading through Joel Campbell, any hopes that it would be a routine afternoon in North London, were quashed when Olivier Giroud contrived to put the ball in his own net on the stroke of half-time to level the game.
He made amends in the second half by restoring Arsenal’s lead just past the hour, but the Mackems had their chances and were right in the game until the third minute of stoppage time when Aaron Ramsey eased the tension at the Emirates with a killer 3rd goal.
The victory saw them climb from fourth up to second place by virtue of other results but they still trail surprise leaders Leicester, who won 3-0 at Swansea thanks to a Riyad Mahrez hat-trick, by two points. The Foxes have unquestionably had a remarkable start to the season but it’s still hard to view them as serious title challengers and a difficult run of games between now and the New Year could potentially derail their progress.
Serious cracks in their challengers’ armor
However the weekend’s football again demonstrated serious cracks in all the other expected title challengers and with doubts lingering about all of them, Arsenal fans might be forgiven for thinking this is finally going to be their year.
Manchester City are gripped by an injury crisis and were completely out-played and out-battled by an excellent Stoke side at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. In truth the margin of defeat could have been much greater than 2-0 and with the busy Christmas schedule around the corner, there could be further setbacks yet to their bid for a third Premier League title.
Across town and it was a case of more of the same at Old Trafford. Another uninspiring performance from Manchester United saw them draw 0-0 with West Ham and once again struggle to create meaningful chances or really test the visiting Goalkeeper.
The Red Devils have scored just six goals in their last eight matches and unless they can bring in major attacking reinforcements in January, it is hard to see them really challenging for the title playing the way they are.
Of the big clubs, Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool were certainly the form team going into the weekend, but slumped to a 2-0 defeat at struggling Newcastle to leave them nine points off the top and still with plenty of work to do if they are to bridge that gap.
Meanwhile Chelsea’s 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth has surely ended any faint hopes they might have still had of defending their title. The Blues are now incredibly 17 points behind Leicester and 14 points off the top four, a deficit that even beleaguered boss Jose Mourinho has admitted may now be too much to close.
Can the Gunners end their long wait for another league title?
Arsenal’s North London rivals Tottenham also dropped points against West Brom and are probably a little short on quality to make a genuine title challenge. So almost by a process of elimination, Arsene Wenger’s men have every chance of ending their 12 year wait for a Premier League trophy.
In the last two seasons they’ve finished with 79 and 75 points. Given there have been precious few adjustments to their squad or style, we can expect a similar return this time around and averaging 2 points per game so far, they are right on course for that.
Only this year, with no side looking like they are capable of really taking the division by storm, that could just be enough to land them the crown of English champions once more and while their rivals continue to struggle, there is at last plenty of reason for optimism at the Emirates.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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