How the Europa League could decide Arsene Wenger’s future

After nearly 22 years at the helm, Arsene Wenger has earned the right to a certain amount of power in north London. The Arsenal boss helped to drag the English Premier League into the modern era while transforming the Gunners into a team that was admired far and wide for their expansive and entertaining brand of football.

In the eyes of many fans, he should be one who decides when he steps down and it seems those in charge are reluctant to break this unwritten agreement. After all, if they fire him in the summer, they will bear total responsibility for the club’s immediate future. But if they wait until he walks and things don’t work out, they can claim their hand was forced. Wenger has another year to run on his contract and has insisted that he will honour those terms.

This impasse at the Emirates has been blamed for the club’s recent stagnation, which has seen them slip down the Premier League pecking order. They currently sit in sixth-place in the table, 30 points behind champions-in-waiting Manchester City and 13 points outside of the top four. However, they have won three of the last four FA Cup finals and are currently 5/2 at William Hill to win the Europa League, having already put one foot in the semi-finals with that 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow.

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This steady if unremarkable accumulation of silverware has so far been enough to keep the wolf from the door for the Frenchman. If he can add a European trophy to his haul, leading the club back into the Champions League in the process, there is no reason to suggest he will not continue his role.

While it may not be enough for some fans, a Europa League victory would once again put the board in a very difficult position. After all, how can you sack a loyal servant who is still delivering major silverware on a regular basis while running the club on a relatively strict budget? Last year, the North London club were one of only five Premier League teams to record a profit in the transfer window and this shrewd financial management has been a feature of Wenger’s tenure since the club moved into its new stadium 12 years ago.

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There has been speculation that if Arsenal win the competition, Wenger might still decide to step down, leaving the club with a major trophy and Champions League football to look forward to. It would certainly be a fitting way to end his time at the club – walking away on his own terms. However, much of this seems to be wishful thinking from those who are desperate for change at the club.

Wenger himself seems content in the role and has shown in the past that he is capable of proving his doubters wrong and will be keen to do so again. If he can lead the Gunners to European glory, the power to choose his destiny would remain in his own hands.

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Premier League Predictions: Week 3 – Liverpool and Arsenal to produce goals, while Spurs can finally end Wembley hoodoo

Premier League Predictions: Week 3 – The third weekend of action is upon us. The 2017/18 Premier League campaign is off to a flyer, with only three sides able to pick up maximum points through the opening two games. Manchester United are the early pace-setters but Huddersfield and West Brom have also won both games, without conceding a single goal.

The season’s first international break will come into effect after this weekend’s matches, so it’s important for teams to try and head into the break off the back of a positive result. There is also the small matter of transfer deadline day looming. Results this weekend could yet decide which clubs are forced to dip into the market before the window slams shut next Thursday.

The standout fixture this weekend takes place at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. Liverpool welcome Arsenal in what should be a great contest. That is one of four games on Sunday, with six taking place on Saturday. Bournemouth and Manchester City get the weekend up and running on Saturday lunchtime.

Read on for predicted scores in all ten of Week 3’s Premier League fixtures below…

Bournemouth 0-3 Manchester City

Many expected Manchester City to come out firing this season. Their 2-0 win at Brighton was comfortable. But their home opener against Everton was anything but. Pep Guardiola’s team looking stronger on paper, but must ensure they put games to bed, considering the number of chances they create. Bournemouth have started the campaign with back-to-back defeats. They have yet to score a Premier League goal and you’d expect Jermain Defoe to come into the starting lineup on Saturday. Regardless of if he does, City should bounce back with a win here.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Swansea

Crystal Palace haven’t started the season well. They have lost both of their opening games and are sitting 19th. They did however put in a strong performance last weekend, narrowly losing to Liverpool. Swansea are another side looking for their first win of the new season. They have one point on the board, but come into this one having suffered a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United. Low-scoring draw looks likely.

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Huddersfield 2-1 Southampton

Huddersfield have surprised everyone with the way they’ve started life in the Premier League. They’ve won both games without conceding a goal and look comfortable in the top flight. Southampton will arguably give them their toughest test yet, but there’s no reason why the Terriers can’t stay unbeaten heading into the international break. Southampton have looked far from convincing under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino. A 0-0 draw at Swansea was followed by a nervous 3-2 win over 10-man West Ham last week. A 2-0 home loss to Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night proved their vulnerabilities. Huddersfield could well make it three wins from three…

Newcastle 2-2 West Ham

The Toon Army have returned to the Premier League in unfavourable form. They have lost their first two and the problems for Rafa Benitez’s side are there for all to see. West Ham prop up the table having conceded a league-high seven goals. We expect both sides to pick up their first points of the season here and given that neither look capable of defending at this stage, expect goals.

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Watford 2-1 Brighton

Brighton have struggled in their opening two games, losing both matches 2-0 to Manchester City and Leicester. The trip to Watford offers them their best chance of picking up their first points of the campaign. However, the Hornets look good under new manager Marco Silva. They played Bournemouth off the park last Saturday. If they can play like that here, Brighton are unlikely to get up and running.

Manchester United 4-0 Leicester

It may look a bold prediction on paper, but why not? Manchester United have been in free goal-scoring form in their opening two. Jose Mourinho’s side look incredibly ruthless and morale is high in the camp. Leicester City have started brightly, but Old Trafford is going to be a fortress this season and United may well steamroll for their third 4-0 win in a row.

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Chelsea 1-1 Everton

Chelsea bounced back from their opening weekend loss to Burnley in impressive fashion. They defended well against Spurs and took their two chances well. It’s hard to know which Chelsea will turn up on Sunday, but Everton will be no pushovers. They impressed in their 1-1 draw at Man City on Monday. Ronald Koeman’s men look like a strong unit and will be desperate to break into the top six this season. A strong showing at the reigning champions would reaffirm those hopes.

West Brom 2-0 Stoke

West Brom are early season high-flyers. They have won both their games 1-0 and are one of only three who have not conceded. Stoke picked up a classy win over Arsenal last weekend but know this is going to be a tough game against a side brimming with confidence. We expect West Brom to continue their good run of form and remain difficult to breakdown at the back.

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Tottenham 2-0 Burnley

Tottenham’s Wembley woes continued with that 2-1 loss to Chelsea last weekend. Although Mauricio Pochettino was quick to dismiss claims the stadium is the problem. Spurs played well but must take their chances to prove that they can handle playing at their temporary home. Burnley have already enjoyed a trip to London this season. They stunned Chelsea on opening weekend but proved their vulnerable as they fell 1-0 to West Brom last week. This could be closer than many expect but ultimately Spurs should prevail.

Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal

The standout fixture of the weekend. Liverpool come into it having overcome Crystal Palace. They remain unbeaten but have conceded three in two. Arsenal have looked troubled in defence. While they have picked up three points they have shown similar weaknesses that Arsene Wenger desperately needs to address before the window closes. Expect goals in an entertaining game from two sides who need to improve.

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Premier League Predictions: Mourinho looking for Chelsea revenge, Arsenal looking to bounce back at Boro

The Premier League season is heading towards it’s finale but there is still plenty to play for. Manchester United welcome league leaders Chelsea to Old Trafford in the standout fixture of the weekend on Sunday, while the battle to avoid relegation intensifies.

Tottenham kick things off on Saturday lunchtime with the visit of Bournemouth, while Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal all have tricky away trips to Southampton, West Brom and Middlesbrough respectively. Read on to find out all of our Gameweek 32 predictions…

Tottenham 3-0 Bournemouth

Spurs are still chasing Chelsea at the top of the league. Their 4-0 win over Watford last weekend furtherdemonstrated their intensity and classy finishing. Bournemouth cannot afford to let Tottenham in early otherwise they could be on the receiving end of another rout. The Cherries look like they’ll be safe from relegation this season, they’re seven points above the drop zone but know they’re in for a tricky afternoon here.

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Sunderland 0-1 West Ham

Sunderland really are in the last-chance saloon. They are in huge trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table and haven’t scored a goal in over two months. West Ham’s season has been inconsistent throughout but they got a much-needed win against Swansea last weekend and should be able to follow that up with another narrow win against a team that looks destined for the drop.

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Stoke City 2-2 Hull City

Stoke’s season has become a little stale. They face relegation threatened Hull this weekend who have hit some form as they continue their fight against the drop. Mark Hughes will be expecting his side to win here and edge closer to that 40-point mark. Hull will be hoping results go their way to ensure they don’t drop back into the bottom three.

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Crystal Palace 2-1 Leicester City

Crystal Palace have turned their season on its head in recent weeks as Sam Allardyce has worked his magic once again. They have won five of their last six and could overtake Leicester with a win on Saturday. The Foxes have also turned their season around since a managerial change but they have a Champions League quarter-final to focus on and that distraction could see Palace take full advantage in this one.

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Everton 2-1 Burnley

Everton stunned Leicester with an impressive attacking display last weekend but still showed their defensive issues. Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League’s top scorer and he will be looking forward to causing the Burnley defence problems here. Sean Dyche’s side have conceded 44 goals this season but look comfortable in mid-table.

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Watford 1-2 Swansea City

If Swansea stand any chance of staying in the Premier League they need to win games like this. A loss at Watford on Saturday would leave them in huge trouble, but Paul Clement has a team good enough to get the job done. Watford got battered at Spurs last week and look like a side that’s season is already over. They’re effectively safe from relegation and don’t need this as much as Swansea.

Southampton 1-3 Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s side face a tricky away trip to Southampton on Saturday evening. The Saints will be looking to take a positive result here as they continue to apply pressure to West Brom above them in 8th. Manchester City cannot afford to drop points, they will potentially let Arsenal and Manchester United back into the race for the top four and miss the chance to go ahead of Liverpool by winning their game in hand.

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West Brom 1-1 Liverpool 

These are the sort of games Liverpool have struggled to win this season and they can expect another tricky test at the Hawthorns. They might have produced a comeback at Stoke last week but the Baggies are a tougher unit to break down and proved their threat with that 3-1 win over Arsenal a few weeks ago. Liverpool can’t really afford to drop any more points if they are to secure a top four spot, but they might have to settle for one point on Sunday.

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Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea

Jose Mourinho welcomes league leading Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. He has faced his former employers twice already this season, losing both games. Antonio Conte’s side cannot afford to get complacent at this stage of the season as they are pushing for the title. United are on a 21-game unbeaten run and a draw looks a likely result this weekend.

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Middlesbrough 0-1 Arsenal

To call this the biggest game of Arsenal’s season might seem a bit farfetched, but a defeat at Middlesbrough could see their top four hopes all but ended, depending on results over the weekend. Boro are in trouble themselves and look set for relegation. They have struggled to find goals all season but will be giving it their all against the Gunners on Monday night. Arsenal have the quality to stroll past Middlesbrough but it depends which side shows up. If it’s the one that lost 3-0 at Palace last week, then they’ll be in big trouble.

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Premier League Predictions: Liverpool set for derby glory, City to pile misery on Arsenal

The international break is over. Premier League football is back and what a weekend we have in store, starting with the Merseyside Derby on Saturday lunchtime and ending with a huge game at the Emirates as Arsenal welcome Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.

There are also crucial clashes at the bottom of the table, with Swansea hosting Middlesbrough on Sunday after Watford face struggling Sunderland on Saturday afternoon. It should be another thrilling weekend of action so read on for all our Gameweek 30 predictions…

Liverpool 3-2 Everton 

The Merseyside Derby is always a big occasion and that will be no different on Saturday. Liverpool need to win this to keep their top four hopes alive and should be able to edge past an Everton team who have only won one of their last five away games in the Premier League. The Toffees are unlikely to end their 18-year winless run at Anfield here.

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Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace 

Premier League leaders Chelsea are ten points clear of the chasing pack. They face a Crystal Palace side who are looking to grind out results to ensure their survival. The Blues know what they need to do to win the league from here on it and Antonio Conte will expect nothing less than a win.

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Burnley 0-1 Tottenham 

Burnley have made Turf Moor a fortress this season. They have the fifth-best home record in the top flight but are facing a Spurs side that are still fighting for Champions League football. Tottenham haven’t been great away from home, winning just two of their last ten on the road in the Premier League but should be able to win by the odd goal here.

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Hull 2-2 West Ham 

Hull City come into this tie off the back of a 4-0 thumping before the international break. West Ham are going through a difficult patch so Hull will see this as a game they have to pick up points in. Unless The Tigers can put a string a positive results together they look set for the drop. Score draw.

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Leicester 3-0 Stoke

Leicester have been resurgent since Craig Shakespeare took over from Claudio Ranieri and the Foxes don’t look set to slow down here. They have won four in a row in all competitions and have rediscovered their goalscoring form. Stoke on the other hand can’t seem to score on the road, having failed to do so in their last three away games. Should be a routine home victory.

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Manchester United 2-0 West Brom 

Jose Mourinho knows his side have to win this game. West Brom shocked everyone before the international break with a stunning 3-1 win over Arsenal but a winning two on the bounce is a big ask. United are still pushing hard for a top four finish and they look capable of doing so.

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Watford 1-1 Sunderland 

This is a massive game for Sunderland if they are to keep their survival hopes intact. They need to start winning games to have any chance of pulling off another great escape but they haven’t scored in four games and are taking on a Watford side that have only lost one of their last five at home. It should be tense and we can’t see either side leaving with all three points.

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Southampton 3-1 Bournemouth 

Southampton host Bournemouth in a south-coast derby on Saturday evening and will be looking to keep their unbeaten home record against the Cherries going. Bournemouth have lost four of their last five away games but having been scoring goals. The Saints won the reverse fixture 3-1 and the same scoreline could well be on the cards here.

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Swansea 2-0 Middlesbrough 

This is a huge game at the bottom of the league. Swansea are working their way towards safety under the guidance of Paul Clement but there is still plenty of work to be done as they are just three points above the drop zone. Middlesbrough look destined for a return to the Championship unless they can turn their fortunes around. They’ve won the least amount of games in the league this season, just four.

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Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City 

The pressure is on Arsene Wenger to deliver in this one. His Arsenal side have lost four of their last five Premier League games and face a continually improving Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side are 12 points off the top and will be looking to keep chasing with a win here. They haven’t conceded in their last three away league outings.

Arsenal should do everything possible to sign these players to help their defensive issues

Gameweek 29 saw another weekend of frustration for Arsenal fans. Their 3-1 defeat away to West Brom continued to heap pressure on underperforming players and Arsene Wenger. Regardless of whether Wenger stays at the end of the season the Arsenal defence is in need of some serious changes. These three defenders could certainly improve their solidity at the back and help to provide a core to ensure they are able to challenge on all fronts once again…

Alessandro Florenzi

Arsenal have lacked world-class fullbacks throughout the last decade and they are still trying to find a solution for the position. While Hector Bellerin has been consistent going forward, he is susceptible to defensive errors at the back. Alessandro Florenzi has been impressing at both club and international level with Roma and Italy. At just 26 he is now regarded as one of the best right-backs in Europe and would be a welcome addition to any Premier League title-challenging side.

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Layvin Kurzawa

Left-back is definitely a position Arsenal need to address. Kieran Gibbs has been playing at a steady level for some time but he hasn’t shown any signs of taking that step up to elite. Nacho Monreal has been a good squad rotation player but there is little chance he would make it into many of the best clubs in Europe. Layvin Kurzawa has been continuing to improve at Paris Saint Germain and possesses good qualities both offensively and defensively. He is fearless into challenges and confident on the ball. The Premier League may well appeal to Kurzawa and he certainly be a step in the right direction.

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Aymeric Laporte

Arsenal are not a million miles away from getting their centre back partnership right. Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi have put in some excellent performances as a paring but it’s depth that has let Arsenal down. Per Mertesacker and Gabriel do not fill the fans with confidence when called upon and again, would struggle to make it into the first team for Europe’s elite clubs. Laporte would offer good cover and could potentially strike up a good partnership with Koscielny as a fellow Frenchman.

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Whether or not Arsenal will go in for any of these three defenders remains to be seen but they are in desperate need of reinforcements at the back. Their transfer policy is still clearly to work within a budget and with that in mind they should be able to afford at least two of these three.

Would these three defenders improve Arsenal? Should they be targeting anyone else?

FA Cup Quarter-Final Predictions: Big guns to deliver, another tough Chelsea return for Jose’s United

The FA Cup quarter-finals take place over the weekend with six Premier League clubs battling for a spot in the semis. Middlesbrough host Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime, while Arsenal face a non-league side once again in Lincoln City later on in the day. The remaining two games are spread over the following two days as Tottenham host League One side Millwall on Sunday and it’s another Chelsea return for Jose Mourinho with Manchester United heading to Stamford Bridge on Monday night.

Read on for all four of our FA Cup quarter-final predictions…

Middlesbrough 1-3 Manchester City

Middlesbrough had to wait to find out who their opponents were in the quarter-final due to City’s replay against Huddersfield. It’s fair to say Pep Guardiola’s side made light work of reaching the quarters at the second attempt with their 5-1 win. Boro will have to work extremely hard to progress here considering they have won just three games in 2017 but City will be aware all of those wins have come in the FA Cup. However, the depth of Guardiola’s squad should see them through comfortably this weekend.

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Arsenal 4-1 Lincoln City

Arsenal face their second non-league side in a row in the competition with the visit of Lincoln after the away side stunned Premier League outfit Burnley with an astonishing late winner in the previous round. Arsene Wenger simply cannot lose this game, the pressure has continually mounted on him this season and if he is to depart at the end of the campaign he will wish to do so with silverware. This is Arsenal’s last chance of a trophy this season and they should progress into the semi-final without too much difficulty.

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Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Millwall

Spurs face off against League One side Millwall on Sunday afternoon in a game that is expected to be hotly contested both on the field and in the stands. Harry Kane comes up against another of his former clubs at which he spent time on loan and with the incredible form the Spurs striker is in it is difficult not to see him finding the back of the net once again. Dare we say there could be another Kane hat-trick at White Hart Lane?

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Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United (A.E.T)

This is clearly the standout fixture of the quarter-finals. Jose Mourinho endured an incredibly tough return to Stamford Bridge earlier in the season in that 4-0 loss and he will make sure his side are not humiliated again. This looks a tie likely to reach extra-time, since there are no longer replays in this round of the competition. The game is going to be a battle, United are without their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Antonio Conte will be expecting his side to do what they’ve been doing all season and get the job done. Chelsea to edge it.

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Could these three players be leaving Arsenal as well as Alexis Sanchez?

It’s no secret that there is some trouble behind the scenes at Arsenal. Once again their fans are having to deal with mid-season struggles as well as some discontent in the squad. This summer could mark the biggest changes at the club in recent history, with the possibility of Arsene Wenger leaving and a number of players who could be departing the club.

There has been plenty of uncertainty over the future of Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean has looked a lifeless figure at times, not helped in part to his attitude according to fans and pundits alike. If the goal-machine does decide to ply his trade elsewhere it could spark an exodus from a number of other members of the Arsenal side. But a possible departure of Sanchez may not be the only reason these three players decide to knock their time in North London on the head…

Mesut Ozil

The German playmaker is one of the most talented players in the Premier League, whether or not he puts in enough effort and does it on a consistent basis is another question. He has appeared very happy since joining the club and has a good relationship with Wenger. If both Sanchez and Wenger were to leave Ozil’s mind may be swayed. He is 28 now and Arsenal’s chances of winning the league have all but passed for another season and they’re heading out of the Champions League barring an astonishing turn-around. Ozil is a winner and another season without the top prizes could prove to be too much for him.

If another high profile European club came in for his services Ozil could be convinced to leave the club. He will want to continue to compete at the top and there are no guarantees that Arsenal are going to finish in the top four in what looks like the tightest race for the European places to date.

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Santi Cazorla

Cazorla has made just 11 appearances in all competitions this season due to a long-term injury. The Gunners have definitely missed his influence on games and other players have suffered from his work-rate being absent from the side. The Spaniard’s contract is up this summer and a new one has yet to be confirmed.

While we’re not suggesting Cazorla is definitely going to depart, he may decide to call it time at the end of his 5th year at the club in favour of a change up and a better chance of silverware. At 32 he has a lot to offer still and many clubs would be interested in his abilities.

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Jack Wilshere 

When talking about Wilshere it’s already looking like a case of ‘what could have been’ – the Englishman has had absolutely no luck with injuries, but it’s worth mentioning his time at Bournemouth has seen him play on a more regular basis. The loan move to the South Coast was a bit of a strange transfer at the start of the season and although Wilshere hasn’t necessarily had the number of assists expected from him, he has looked happier playing week in, week out.

Whether Wilshere and Arsenal decide to part ways at the end of the season remains to be seen, but if he has any feeling that a return to club entails time spent on the touchline he may just fancy the chance at another Premier League club.

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Could Arsenal afford to lose all three of these midfielders as well as Sanchez? Is it time to revamp the squad in a bid to win the Premier League again?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Chelsea vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Chelsea vs. Arsenal 

Venue: Stamford Bridge – Saturday, February 4 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Chelsea 10/11 – Draw 5/2 – Arsenal 29/10

Match Preview 

It’s a huge game in the Premier League title race as Chelsea welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the standout fixture of the weekend.

If Antonio Conte’s side win this one they will be 12 points clear of Arsenal at the top of the league, which given Chelsea’s form, would almost certainly put The Gunners out of contention for the title.

Chelsea come into this one having drawn 1-1 away at Liverpool in midweek. It was a solid point but they’ll be ruing a missed opportunity to have extended their lead at the top of the table as results went their way on the most part. Diego Costa’s penalty was saved in the latter stages of the game, he’ll be looking to make up for that in this one.

There will be an added hunger for Chelsea to win this game as they were hammered in the reserve fixture, 3-0 early on in the season, many have dubbed that the game that won Chelsea the league, as it inspired Conte’s changes and sparked their tremendous winning run.

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Arsenal have to win this game. They lost in midweek at home to Watford a game which has dealt them a significant blow and they need a response.

Arsene Wenger’s side found themselves two goals behind in the first 15 minutes of that game, if their defensive struggles are repeated in this one they will be in for a long afternoon.

The Arsenal squad are going to need to step up here, they cannot afford to allow Chelsea to gain any momentum. What worked so well for them in the reserve fixture was a highly intense start, but they’re all too aware this is a different Chelsea side altogether.

Just five points separate second and fifth place in the table, if results go against Arsenal this weekend they could find themselves outside the top four.

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Team News  

There are no real injury concerns for Chelsea heading into this tie. David Luiz and Eden Hazard are expected to start the game despite picking up slight knocks in midweek.

Arsenal are expecting to be without Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy and Aaron Ramsey through injury, while Grant Xhaka is suspended and Mohammed Elneny remains on international duty.

Key Points 

Chelsea’s form: W/L/W/W/D

Arsenal’s form: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: Chelsea have won their last eight home games in the Premier League.

Key Player: Eden Hazard – The Belgian had a quiet game against Liverpool but if plays to his usual high standard he will cause the Arsenal defence problems.

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Score Prediction

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – Chelsea to come through a difficult week of fixtures unbeaten and land a heavy blow to Arsenal’s season. This has the makings of a tight affair and it is a game that has a history of boiling over as emotions run high.

Why Chelsea could have the Premier League title wrapped up by February 4th

Chelsea moved eight points clear at the top of the Premier League following Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hull City, following a weekend in which four of the chasing pack dropped points.

The Blues have won back-to-back games without conceding following that 2-0 loss at Spurs in early January and look like a side ready to clinch the Premier League title, even if it is only January.

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It does seem to be a case of ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if’ when discussing Chelsea’s title chances, and it’s difficult to question their credentials given their form this season under the magnificent Antonio Conte.

The Italian’s tactics have taken the league by storm, with the 3-4-3 formation impenetrable more often than not, while his handling of the Diego Costa issue over the past week or so has proven that he is just as good a man manager as he is master tactician.

The Blues are top of the table with 55 points after 22 games – it’s only the fourth time that tally has been reached at this stage in Premier League history – but they are now preparing for arguably the biggest two weeks of their season.

After their home FA Cup tie with Brentford next weekend, Chelsea travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool in what is an enormous game for both sides on Tuesday, January 31. That comes just four days before the Blues then take on Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

If they can win their next two league games, Chelsea will have at least one hand on a fifth Premier League title.

Both matches present stiff tests, with Liverpool and Arsenal desperately hoping that can close the gap to the league leaders over the next two weeks, but Chelsea have gone about their job in an impressively professional manner this season and it’s difficult to imagine them losing back-to-back games, no matter the opponent.

Six points from their next two would leave Chelsea at least 11 points clear of Arsenal and 13 in front of Liverpool – margins that would all but rule both sides out of the title race with 14 games to go.

Manchester City and Manchester United are already 12 and 14 points behind, respectively, so wins in their next two would leave Chelsea primed for glory.

They might not be crowned champions on February 4, but the Blues could well be on the home straight by then, if they are not already.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Sunday, December 18  – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Man City 11/10 – Draw 13/5 – Arsenal 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad on Sunday afternoon in what is a huge Premier League clash between both sides as they look to go into Christmas in high spirits.

City have been far from the side they looked when they won ten-straight games to start the season. They did beat Watford on Wednesday night but had lost back-to-back league games prior to that.

Pep Guardiola is facing the toughest test of his managerial career and will be looking to get past a fellow title rival in Arsenal to alleviate some pressure in the club’s final game before Christmas.

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City will once again be without Sergio Aguero though, and that could cause them problems. They will need Kelechi Iheanacho to lead the line against a Gunners defence that looked sloppy in Tuesday’s defeat at Everton.

Arsenal arrive at the Etihad knowing a win would move them back to within six points of league leaders Chelsea but also know that a defeat would see them fall behind City into fourth place.

This is a huge game for Arsene Wenger. He watched his side throw away three points at Goodison Park in the week and will need his players to remain focused on the tough task at hand if they are to keep their good recent record against City intact.

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Arsenal are unbeaten in six games against Manchester City, with their last defeat coming three years ago, but Wenger has only managed to beat Guardiola in two of their previous eight clashes.

Team News

Manchester City remain without suspended duo Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho here, while Vincent Kompany has been joined by Ilkay Gundogan on the sidelines. Fabian Delph is not yet fit enough to be involved but John Stones should return after being rested during the midweek win over Watford.

Arsenal still have a long injury list to deal with. Chuba Akpom, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi are all still sidelined, as is Danny Welbeck although the striker has returned to training. Aaron Ramsey is still a doubt.

Key Points

Man City’s last five: W/W/L/L/W

Arsenal’s last five: D/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: There have been 24 goals in the last six games between these two sides – an average of four per game.

Key Player: Alexis Sanchez – The Arsenal striker has been in excellent form this season, scoring 12 league goals. He has now contributed to 27 goals in his last 27 Premier League games and will hope to be the difference-maker on Sunday.

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Score Prediction

Man City 2-2 Arsenal – Goals are expected on Sunday as both sides have shown frailties at the back in recent weeks. City know they must avoid defeat here to keep their title hopes intact but Arsenal will be looking to avoid back-to-back league defeats for the first time in two seasons, so a score draw looks likely in what should be an entertaining game.