Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City: Every Premier League title-race fixture analysed


The Premier League remains a European outlier this season.

Everywhere you look around the continent, title races have become virtual processions. Paris Saint-Germain are 10 points clear in France’s Ligue 1, Bayer Leverkusen are 16 ahead and one win away from winning the German Bundesliga title, while PSV Eindhoven have a nine-point cushion at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid lead by eight points in Spain’s La Liga and Inter Milan are 11 ahead of city rivals AC Milan with a game in hand in Italy’s Serie A.

In England’s top division, however, things are a whole lot tighter. With seven games remaining, just a point separates table-topping Arsenal from third-placed Manchester City, with Liverpool sandwiched between, in second on goal difference. Since the Premier League was launched in 1992, there has not been a season like it.

So, after Liverpool dropped points at Manchester United on Sunday, who looks most likely to get their hands on the Premier League trophy on May 19 as things stand?

According to data provider Opta, City have regained the edge as the most likely champions, a triumph that would represent an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title for Pep Guardiola’s men. Arsenal’s chances were boosted the most from the weekend’s results, rising by nearly eight per cent. Despite Mikel Arteta’s side being in first place, they are currently third-favourites — although the differences between the three teams are paper thin.

Using Opta’s own Power Rankings, we can also assess how difficult each team’s remaining fixtures are.

According to that calculator, City have the ‘easiest’ run-in of the three would-be champions, with their only remaining ‘difficult’ game coming away against Tottenham Hotspur, who are currently fourth — with that fixture still yet to be rescheduled as City continue to fight on three fronts domestically and in Europe.

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But how do these run-ins break down, game by game? We asked three of The Athletic’s club experts to assess their side’s remaining matches for potential pitfalls.


Arsenal

Sunday, April 14: Aston Villa (H)

Opponents’ league position: Fifth
Last five results vs opponents (oldest first): WWWWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Three

With Arsenal hosting Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals tomorrow (Tuesday), this is when their squad could be tested. Arteta has trusted his squad in recent games, rotating his starting line-up notably against Luton in midweek before travelling to Brighton on Saturday. With Villa in European action themselves on Thursday, the strength-in-depth of the sides could be vital. Arteta has faced Unai Emery’s Villa twice, winning once and losing once. Both were fairly tight affairs, so ensuring as many factors are in his favour this time is key.

Saturday, April 20: Wolves (A)

Opponents’ league position: 11th
Last five results vs opponents: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Arsenal tend to fare well against Wolves, having beaten them in five successive meetings — but it is worth noting that this game comes on a Saturday night after Arsenal have travelled to Munich on the Wednesday for a second leg against Bayern that may require extra time and perhaps penalties. Gary O’Neil has overseen a real improvement in his debut season as Wolves coach, so this may be a match where Arsenal’s mental approach is as important as ever. They have shown intent against sides they ‘should’ be beating lately and have been rewarded. Staying in the moment and executing should be the name of the game.

Tuesday, April 23: Chelsea (H)

Opponents’ league position: Ninth
Last five results vs opponents: LWWWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Postponed because of Chelsea’s progress to the FA Cup semi-finals, this match falling days before the north London derby could be crucial. Chelsea are inconsistent and should not pose Arsenal a real threat, but tend to play to the level of their opposition, which could be dangerous. This game feels like a major one for Arsenal’s momentum with it coming in midweek. It could give them a confidence boost at just the right time, or prove to be an unwanted pit-stop. As above, Chelsea may be coming off extra time at Wembley in their semi against Manchester City three days earlier.

Sunday, April 28: Tottenham Hotspur (A)

Opponents’ league position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponents: WLWWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Four

Second-half-of-the-season trips to neighbours and arch-rivals Spurs used to have a foreboding feeling for Arsenal, but last season’s 2-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium should reassure the players before this meeting. Spurs will come into the game not just wanting to dash Arsenal’s title hopes, but to boost their own Champions League qualification chances, too. How Arsenal deal with the intensity of this latest north London derby will be vital, but they have shown they can ‘live’ within these types of games well.

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Arteta celebrates Arsenal’s win at Spurs last season with Bukayo Saka (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Saturday, May 4: Bournemouth (H)

Opponents’ league position: 12th
Last five results vs opponents: DWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal are in the Champions League semi-finals)

Similar to Wolves, this could be a game where Arsenal’s mental state dictates what happens. Last year’s dramatic 3-2 win over Bournemouth created special memories, but gifting goals to teams cannot be a returning trend this year. David Raya becoming more confident in goal should help in that regard, but the outfield players need to be fully focused on the task at hand, too.

Saturday, May 11: Manchester United (A)

Opponents’ league position: Sixth
Last five results vs opponents: LWLWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal are in the Champions League semi-finals)

Arsenal have not played at Old Trafford since early last season, when they played well but lost 3-1. It is too early to say whether an element of wanting to make amends will play a part there next month. Without an away win against United since November 2020, however, this could be a match where their pressing intensity makes the difference. Despite an entertaining draw with Liverpool, Manchester United struggled to show any real control in the game. They could not pass through midfield, and struggled to track runners. If these themes remain against Arsenal, Arteta’s side should punish them more. The threat that individuals like Bruno Fernandes, Kobbie Mainoo and Marcus Rashford have will always need to be kept in mind, however. This game may be moved to another day on the May 11-12 weekend for live TV broadcast.

Sunday, May 19: Everton (H)

Opponents’ league position: 15th
Last five results vs opponents: LWLWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Seven

Arsenal will hope Everton’s fate is already sealed when they travel to the Emirates on this the final day of the Premier League season, whether it be safety secured or relegation confirmed. Their last two home results against them are 5-1, on the last day of the 2021-22 campaign, and 4-0, as they often make use of the extra space of the Emirates Stadium pitch compared to the tightness Everton are used to at Goodison Park. Arsenal have also won on the final day of the league season for the past 11 years, with a 2-2 draw against Fulham in 2011 the last time they dropped points.

Art de Roche


Liverpool

Sunday, April 14: Crystal Palace (H)

Opponents’ league position: 14th
Last five results vs opponents (oldest first): WWDDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Palace are rarely the easiest opposition for Liverpool at Anfield, given their quality on the counter-attack. They have lost some of that prowess, particularly Wilfried Zaha, who scored their goal in the 1-1 draw there at the start of last season. A first leg against Atalanta in the Europa League quarter-finals on the previous Thursday might see Jurgen Klopp rotate, but crucially there will be no further travel involved with the two games at home as players hope to stay as fresh as possible.

Sunday, April 21: Fulham (A)

Opponents’ league position: 13th
Last five results vs opponents: DWWWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Marco Silva’s side have fared well against Liverpool this season with last-ditch heroics needed in the 4-3 victory for the home side at Anfield alongside a tightly fought two-leg Carabao Cup semi-final. Liverpool have not won in their last three visits to Craven Cottage (three draws) and there is no indication this will be any easier, with the possibility of extra time against Atalanta in Italy three days before. Liverpool’s last victory there came on the 2018-19 run-in, with a late James Milner penalty saving the blushes of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk over Fulham’s equaliser.

Wednesday, April 24: Everton (A)

Opponents’ league position: 15th
Last five results vs opponents: WWDWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Rearranged to this midweek date after being postponed because of Liverpool’s involvement in the FA Cup quarter-finals, a meeting with your city rivals under the lights is as big as it gets. Sean Dyche’s side will be determined to dent the neighbours’ title hopes and are also likely to still need points in their latest fight against relegation. Five of the past six league derbies at Goodison Park have been draws — and those may be two points Liverpool cannot afford to drop if the theme continues.

Saturday, April 27: West Ham (A)

Opponents’ league position: Seventh
Last five results vs opponents: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

Liverpool’s record against West Ham should give them confidence. They have won five in a row, although their most recent defeat was 3-2 away in November 2021. It is tricky to know what to make of David Moyes’ side — they can look good one week and terrible the next – but the Scot’s record against Liverpool throughout his career should give Klopp reasons to be cheerful.

Saturday, May 4: Tottenham (H)

Opponents’ league position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponents: DDWWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Liverpool are in the Europa League semi-finals)

This fixture has served up some classics at Anfield in recent seasons and we should be in for another one here. In 2021-22, a 1-1 draw in their fourth-last league match represented the last points Liverpool dropped that season as they ultimately fell one point short of Manchester City’s total in the title race. Tottenham’s counter-attacking style has caused problems in the past, especially through Son Heung-min. Under Ange Postecoglou this season, their system has changed, but their threat in transitional moments will remain dangerous. Tottenham will also have the motivation of trying to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Saturday, May 11: Aston Villa (A)

Opponents’ league position: Fifth
Last five results vs opponents: WWWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Liverpool are in the Europa League semi-finals)

Had this fixture come earlier in the season, such as when Arsenal and Manchester City both visited Villa Park in December, it may have felt even more daunting. Villa’s impressive home record from back then has been dented in recent months, but this will not be a straightforward game. Liverpool exploited Villa’s risky offside line to win 3-0 at Anfield in September and if Darwin Nunez can continue his recent scintillating form, they will hope he causes havoc again. This match may be moved to another date on the May 11-12 weekend for live TV coverage.

Sunday, May 19: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)

Opponents’ league position: 11th
Last five results vs opponents: DWLWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Seven

It always seems to be Wolves on the final day, doesn’t it? Backed by the Anfield crowd against a side who will likely have nothing to play for looks to be the ideal match if the title is on the line. Gary O’Neil’s side are not to be overlooked, though, as they have produced a handful of shock results this season and caused Liverpool plenty of problems in September’s reverse fixture before two late goals saw them lose 3-1. They opened the scoring at Anfield on the final day of the 2021-22 Premier League, and were not behind in the match until Mohamed Salah’s 84th-minute goal, also suffering a 3-1 defeat.

Andy Jones

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Mohamed Salah scores against Wolves in 2022 (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Manchester City

Saturday, April 13: Luton (H)

Opponents’ league position: 18th
Last five results vs opponents (oldest first): WDWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Three

This game is the filling of a Champions League quarter-final versus Real Madrid sandwich, so Pep Guardiola is most likely going to rotate his team for this one, adding more jeopardy than initially meets the eye for a title-chasing side’s home match against one of the bottom three. City will be massive favourites and Luton will not be holding out much hope, but the rotated team we’re anticipating will have to do the business as Guardiola tries to juggle the demands of the three competitions, with an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea coming up a week later, too.

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Could Erling Haaland be rested against Luton? (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Thursday, April 25: Brighton (A)

Opponents’ league position: 10th
Last five results vs opponents: WWWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Four

After commitments in the Champions League followed by their FA Cup semi-final, this fixture — postponed from FA Cup quarter-finals weekend — is rearranged to one of the few available days in City’s crammed calendar. Given Brighton’s recent struggles, this might not be quite as difficult as it once looked, although there is always a clash of styles in terms of Roberto De Zerbi’s man-to-man press, which makes things complicated.

Sunday, April 28: Nottingham Forest (A)

Opponents’ league position: 17th
Last five results vs opponents: WLWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

With the Brighton trip just three days earlier and a possible Champions League semi-final first leg three days later (this will be moved to the Saturday if City reach the Champions League semi-finals and play on the Tuesday), this adds a lot of extra spice. A trip to the City Ground is always going to be tough, with Forest in the relegation argument, and it will be a match that Liverpool and Arsenal fans, whose teams will already have played their games this weekend, watch with some degree of hope — especially given that this fixture last season ended in a 1-1 draw. City should have been 5-0 up by the time Forest equalised with their first shot on target in the 84th minute, though.

Saturday, May 4: Wolves (H)

Opponents’ league position: 11th
Last five results vs opponents: WWWWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if City are in the Champions League semi-finals)

There are potential Champions League semi-final ties on either side of this one. There is also less margin for error against Wolves, who beat City in September, compared to Luton, so Guardiola will have to be especially careful with any rotation. It is normally something City manage well, but they have had some hairy games at this time of year before when they try to spin plates.

Saturday, May 11: Fulham (A)

Opponents’ league position: 13th
Last five results vs opponents: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if City reach the Champions League semi-finals)

After a potential Champions League semi-final second leg against Arsenal or Bayern in the midweek, this match could be especially tricky, although City do have a great record against Fulham. They dug in for an important 2-1 victory at Craven Cottage late last season, and that kind of performance might be required again given the demands of everything else up until that point. This match may be played on another date on the May 11-12 weekend for live TV coverage.

Sunday, May 19: West Ham (H)

Opponents’ league position: Seventh
Last five results vs opponents: WDWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if outstanding games, see below, are rearranged for the previous midweek)

What we can say almost for sure in all of this is that if City need to get over the line in this final fixture against West Ham, they will do it. They made hard work of it at home against Villa in the corresponding fixture two years ago but if City battle through all of the above — and probably a rearranged game against Spurs in the midweek — and need three points (or, somehow, a draw) to settle things, you would imagine they will be up to it.

Date to be confirmed: Tottenham (A)

Opponents’ league position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponents: LWLDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: TBC

It is a good job City beat Tottenham in the FA Cup in January — the first time they had not lost and so much as scored a goal at the Londoners’ new ground in six attempts since it opened in April 2019 — as it gives them some confidence that weird hoodoo is over. City played very well on the night too, completely shutting Spurs down.

This game is yet to be rescheduled given City’s continued fight in two cup competitions, keeping them on for an unprecedented “double treble”. Whenever the authorities manage to fit this fixture in, you would have to say it is the most difficult one City will face in their remaining Premier League games. Even a draw at Tottenham could be enough to derail the title challenge, depending on how things pan out for their two title rivals.

Sam Lee


Players nearing 10 yellow cards

The three clubs will need to be wary of the second deadline for yellow-card accumulation: any player who earns 10 bookings before the completion of their club’s 32nd league match of the season must serve a two-game suspension. The players in danger of a ban are Kai Havertz of Arsenal, Liverpool duo Darwin Nunez and Wataru Endo and Rodri of City, although all are on eight cautions so would need to be sent off for a second yellow in next weekend’s matches to be banned.

Additional reporting: Thom Harris and Mark Carey

(Top photos: Getty Images)





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