The current season has already proved to be one of the most unpredictable campaigns in Premier League history.
Last season’s champions Chelsea have been woeful and a title challenge for them this year seems impossible. Leicester have surprised everyone by going from relegation candidates to top of the league at Christmas, thanks to two incredible key players – Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
This leaves Manchester City and Arsenal as two possible title challengers along with Leicester this season, and it was Arsenal who came out on top when the two faced each other Monday night.
This was a huge boost for Arsenal’s title hopes, but if you look at the run of games for the current top three sides in the coming weeks, you would fancy Arsenal to be in with a chance of becoming league leaders.
Arsenal have been one of the most consistent sides in a very unpredictable Premier League campaign, only losing on three occasion in the league this season while they have won eleven times. A brilliant performance from the Gunners against Manchester City on Monday night saw them stay in second place in the league but they are now only two points off the top spot.
Their next game will be away to Southampton, which on paper won’t be an easy game, but the Saints have been struggling recently at home, where we saw them lose 6-1 to Liverpool in the League Cup while so far this season they have won five, drew six and lost six. A fast paced and attacking-minded Arsenal side with an in-form Mesut Ozil may just be too much for Southampton to handle.
Arsenal will then have two consecutive home games against Bournemouth and Newcastle, where they will be expected to gain all six points. Bournemouth are the more difficult side to break down out of the two but with a home advantage and the confidence within the current Arsenal side, they should manage it. The Gunners will then face Sunderland at home in the FA Cup before travelling to Anfield to face Liverpool on the 13th of January, which may prove to be the most difficult out of their next four Premier League fixtures.
City’s next game is at home to Sunderland and they will be expected to gain all three points against the north east side, who are currently 19th in the league. Sunderland have lost eleven of their league games this season and are currently five points from safety. On the 29th of December, City will have to face league leaders Leicester away, which will be a cracker of a game as both sides are very attacking and exciting to watch this season. It would be a great result for City if they could gain all three points but a draw wouldn’t be a disaster as it is vital to their title challenge that they do not lose this fixture.
City will then have to travel to Watford on the 2nd of January, which will also be a difficult fixture as we saw Watford demolish Liverpool 3-0 last weekend to put themselves 7th in the league. City may just prove to have too much for Watford though, and should be winning this fixture.
The Manchester side will then have three cup games in a week as they have to travel to Merseyside to face Everton (6th January) in the first leg of League Cup semi-final followed by an FA Cup game against Norwich City (9th January) and then the second leg of the League Cup semi-final (13th January). Pellegrini’s side will then welcome Crystal Palace to the Etihad Stadium in the league on the 16th of January, which will also be a tough game as Palace have already defeated Liverpool and Chelsea this season.
City will have seven games between now and the 16th of January, which may prove to be a huge test for the Manchester side to try and stay in a title race as well as two cup competitions.
Leicester have taken everyone by surprise this season, with an incredible run of form putting them on top of the league for Christmas. The Foxes have won eleven games, drew five and only lost once. Their next game is away to Liverpool, where they may even enter the game as favourites to take all three points. Liverpool are currently having a defensive nightmare as Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren are both injured, which will leave Mamadou Sakho, who is not 100% fit, and Kolo Toure, who lacks pace in defence. This will suit Leicester players Mahrez and Vardy who have been in incredible form this season.
Leicester will then have two consecutive home games including an exciting home match against City on the 29th of December, which may be a game that has a huge say in the title race. This will be followed by a fixture against Bournemouth who have impressed this season on occasion.
Leicester will be expected to win this game but it will definitely not be easy. Leicester’s fixture list doesn’t get any easier as they will then face Tottenham away twice, in the FA Cup on the 10th of January and again three days later in the league. Tottenham have only lost twice this season in the league, so it will prove to be very difficult for Leicester to gain all three points at White Hart Lane. Tottenham could, in effect, be handing the top spot to Arsenal (as long as they stay on form) if they defeat Leicester at home in January.
The Foxes will then have to travel to the midlands to face Aston Villa who are favourites to be relegated. Leicester will be expected win this game but Villa will be out to gain much needed points.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena