Arsenal favourites with easiest run-in

A 10-point gap between Arsenal and Spurs has been whittled down to one in the space of four games after three defeats and a draw for the latter.
A 10-point gap between Arsenal and Spurs has been whittled down to one in the space of four games after three defeats and a draw for the latter.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • As Arsenal played out the final moments of their hugely significant 2-0 victory over Manchester United to propel themselves back into the Premier League top four, cries of "Tottenham Hotspur, we're coming for you" rang out around the Emirates.

A 10-point gap between the north London rivals has been whittled down to one in the space of four games after three defeats and a draw for Spurs.

Just two weeks ago, Spurs were still being touted for a title challenge, but it appears the effects of a long season for a small squad and the decision not to sign any players in the last two transfer windows may finally be starting to take hold.

Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer believes Spurs have an "unbelievable challenge on their hands" to play Champions League football for the fourth year running.

Not only do they have to travel to champions Manchester City and Liverpool, but Spurs will also have to contend with finally moving into their new stadium next month, while dealing with both legs of their Champions League last-eight tie.

Unlike their top-four rivals, the Gunners have, on paper, the easiest run-in with none of the top-six sides left to play. However, five of their last eight matches are on the road and Arsenal's away form remains patchy - according to football365.com, they have taken at least six fewer points than the rest of the "Big Six" this term. But Unai Emery's players have the third best home league record - they have not been beaten since the opening day - behind City and Liverpool.

And, with only three top-half opponents left, the confident mood around the Emirates has been reflected by the bookmakers, with Arsenal now odds-on to end two years of Champions League exile.

While a first domestic defeat for caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has interrupted United's momentum, he should have a fully-fit squad back after the international break in two weeks' time.

With a tougher run-in than Arsenal - the Red Devils still have to play City and Chelsea - Solskjaer still has a lot to do. But, if he can get through those "six-pointers", they can end the term with a flourish given that their final two games are against teams in the bottom three.

Only four points separate Spurs in third and Chelsea in sixth, but the Blues also have a game in hand at home to Brighton, where victory would allow them to move level on points with Arsenal. However, Maurizio Sarri's men still need to travel to Anfield and Old Trafford.

Shearer told The Sun: "It is going to be as exciting as the title race. One week, it will favour one side, then, it could all move around."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Arsenal favourites with easiest run-in'. Print Edition | Subscribe