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Arsenal vs City: The Run-in comparison
Taking a look at the matches remaining for the title contenders
The Premier League title race is tight.
Arsenal have an eight-point lead, so that on paper makes things seem less tight than other Leagues (it is a larger lead than what there is in ‘one team leagues’ Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga). Looking at this simple measure ignores that Arsenal have played an extra match and that everyone expects Manchester City to go on one of their impressive win all the games runs that have become the norm under Pep Guardiola.
With that in mind it makes sense to look at what the final 10 weeks have in store for both teams.
Arsenal’s schedule is simple. They have 10 matches to go, all in the Premier League, with just one match scheduled for midweek (away to Manchester City).
Manchester City’s schedule is far from simple. They have 11 Premier League matches to play, they also have a Champions League Quarterfinal (and a potential Semi-Final) and a FA Cup Semi-Final to play. They will have two matches to squeeze into their schedule (West Ham and away to Brighton) that I have taken my best guess of where they will fall along the way.
Over the same 57-day stretch Arsenal will play 10 times, and Manchester City will play at least 14 matches and perhaps 16 matches. Manchester City are looking at just one week where they do not potentially have a midweek match to contend with.
I know the data suggests that the penalty for fixture congestion for the biggest teams has shrunk over the years but I can’t help but feel a little relieved that Arsenal don’t have something approaching that schedule.
The remaining fixtures
Arsenal’s remaining Premier League schedule is the 7th hardest. They have four matches against teams that are in my team ratings system’s top eight, with three of those away. Arsenal do also have four matches against teams in the bottom five of my team ratings, with three of those at home (Nottingham Forest on the penultimate matchweek could be very high stakes for both teams).
The average rating for the teams that Arsenal plays from FiveThirtyEight’s team ratings is 73.7, which translates to roughly Wolfsburg, and somewhere between Tottenham and Aston Villa.
Manchester City’s remaining Premier League schedule is 11th hardest. They also have four matches against the teams in my top eight, but three of those are at home. They only have two matches against the bottom five teams (Southampton and Everton) and both are away.
The average rating for the teams that Arsenal plays from FiveThirtyEight’s team ratings is 73.1, which is basically a tie with Arsenal for the teams that they have to face.
Overall there isn’t a massive schedule advantage based purely on the teams that both have to face. Arsenal have harder matches against the top teams but that is balanced out with more favorable matches against the bottom teams. Manchester City get to play 3/4 of the ‘hard’ matches at home but play more teams in the middle (who will probably still be pretty desperate for points given how compressed the table is at the bottom).
The wild card for this will be how Manchester City cope with playing every 3-4 days and if they prioritize the Champions League to any degree.
The Head-to-Head Match
It might be too early to look ahead to this match but it still looms large just on the horizon as the biggest match on the schedule.
Arsenal will come into this match with an extra day’s rest, with their match against Southampton being played on Friday while Manchester City play at Wembley against Sheffield United.
Arsenal could come into this match with anywhere from a 20-point lead to a 1-point deficit (2 extra matches played) and the most likely is probably somewhere in the current 8-point gap (expected points would have it at 9) with Manchester City pretty desperate to win this match to directly take points off their rival.
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Arsenal on the other hand if they still have a lead at the top of the table would not need to win but would be looking to not lose. One point for Arsenal would be perfectly acceptable dropping Manchester City’s max points from 94 to 92 giving Arsenal more margin for error (not a ton but still some) to navigate the final five matches of the season.
There are still some big matches for both teams between now and then, so we will leave the final permutations for the run-up to that match.
Strap in, it is going to be a wild final run.