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

By Andy Jones, Art de Roché, and Sam Lee8h ago

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The Premier League is a European outlier this season.

Everywhere you look around the continent, title races have become virtual processions. Paris Saint-Germain, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven are each 10 points clear in Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and Eredivisie, Real Madrid lead by seven in La Liga and, in Italy, Inter Milan are a mammoth 16 points ahead of city rivals AC Milan.

In England, however, things are a whole lot tighter. With 10 games remaining, just a point separates table-topping Arsenal from third-placed Manchester City, with Liverpool sandwiched in between. Since the league was launched in 1992, there has not been a season like it.

So, as the run-in looms ever closer, who is best placed to strike out and seize the initiative?

According to Opta, the statistics company, City remain the most likely champions, a triumph that would represent an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title. That is despite being held to a draw at Anfield on Sunday and Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Brentford 24 hours earlier.

That also flies in the face of Opta’s own Power Rankings when it comes to assessing how difficult each fixture is. Using that calculator, Liverpool have the ‘easiest’ run-in of the three clubs, with City second and Arsenal facing the most daunting games.

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, March 31: Manchester City (A)

League position: Third
Last five results vs opponent: WDLLL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: 19

After City dropped points at Anfield, this will be a massive opportunity to deal an even bigger blow to their title rivals’ chances. This season, Arsenal beat Pep Guardiola’s side at home in the league and edged them out on penalties in the Community Shield. In both games, Arsenal were competitive throughout — that theme will need to continue at the Etihad if they are to provide further proof of how far this group has come.

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Wednesday, April 3: Luton Town (H)

League position: 18th
Last five results vs opponent: WLWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

A quick turnaround after City could see Mikel Arteta partially rotate for Luton. Usually, that would mostly suggest squad players picking up minutes, but with key players Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey still being reintegrated after injuries, this could be a good chance to get them back up to speed.

Saturday, April 6: Brighton & Hove Albion (A)

League position: Eighth
Last five results vs opponent: WLWLL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

A trip to the Amex can be unpredictable. Brighton have helped end Arsenal’s Champions League and title hopes in end-of-season meetings three times since 2018-19. All three of these games were at Emirates Stadium, resulting in two Brighton wins and a draw, but Arsenal have been improving against teams who traditionally cause them issues. Their last visit to the Amex, however, was a demonstration of that improvement, as they won 4-2.

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Saturday, April 13: Aston Villa (H)

League position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponent: LWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal progress in the Champions League but Aston Villa do not in the Europa Conference League)

Should Arsenal progress against Porto, this is when their squad could be tested. That is why players who are now outside the starting line-up getting minutes could be vital. With Villa potentially in action that Thursday, the strength-in-depth between 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)

League position: Ninth
Last five results vs opponent: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal progress in the Champions League)

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Arsenal tend to fare well against Wolves, having beaten them in five successive league meetings. Gary O’Neil has overseen a real improvement at Molineux, however, 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.

Saturday, April 27: Tottenham Hotspur (A)

League position: Fifth
Last five results vs opponent: DWWLW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Six

Second-half-of-the-season trips to Spurs used to have a foreboding feeling, 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 Champions League dreams, too. How Arsenal deal with the intensity of the game will be vital, but they have shown they can ‘live’ in these types of situations well.

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

Saturday, May 4: Bournemouth (H)

League position: 13th
Last five results vs opponent: WWWWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal progress to 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 away cannot be a returning trend this year. David Raya becoming more confident in goal should help in that regard, but the outfielders need to be fully focused on the task at hand, too.

Saturday, May 11: Manchester United (A)

League position: Sixth
Last five results vs opponent: WWLWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Arsenal progress to Champions League semi-finals)

Arsenal have not played at Old Trafford in almost two years. That was at the start of 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 in May. Without an away win against United since 2020, however, this could be a match where their pressing intensity makes the difference.

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Sunday, May 19: Everton (H)

League position: 16th
Last five results vs opponent: WWLWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Seven

Arsenal will hope Everton’s fate is already sealed when they travel to the Emirates, whether it be safety or relegation. Their last two home results against them are 5-1 and 4-0, as they often make use of the extra space of the Emirates pitch compared to the tightness Everton are used to at Goodison Park. Arsenal have also won on the final day of the season for the past 11 years, with a 2-2 draw against Fulham in 2010-11 the last time they dropped points.

TBC: Chelsea (H)

League position: 11th
Last five results vs opponent: DWWWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: TBC

Postponed because of Chelsea’s progress in the FA Cup, the placing of this game could be crucial. Chelsea are inconsistent and should not pose Arsenal a real threat, but they tend to play to the level of their opposition, which could be dangerous. This game feels like a major one for Arsenal’s momentum as it will likely come in midweek. It could give them a confidence boost at just the right time, or prove to be an unwanted pit-stop.

Art de Roche

Liverpool

Sunday, March 31: Brighton & Hove Albion (H)

League position: Eighth
Last five results vs opponent: DLLDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: 13

Brighton have become one of Liverpool’s bogey teams, particularly at Anfield. Klopp’s side have failed to beat them in their last three home games (two draws, one defeat) and last season they were played off the park for the first half an hour in a 3-3 draw. They’re a side in transition following key summer sales, but it is always a tricky tactical battle.

Thursday, April 4: Sheffield United (H)

League position: 20th
Last five results vs opponent: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Three

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On paper, this is Liverpool’s easiest fixture of the run-in. A home game against the bottom club, whose survival hopes are all but extinguished. Chris Wilder’s side ship goals and it should be a comfortable three points and a possible opportunity to build match fitness in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones, assuming they are back by then. The message will be, however, not to lose focus and be distracted by the trip to Old Trafford before they’ve won this one.

Sunday, April 7: Manchester United (A)

League position: Sixth
Last five results vs opponent: DWLWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

In the 2018-19 season, Liverpool came out of trips to Old Trafford and Goodison Park unbeaten but failed to win either. That presented the opening Manchester City needed to win the league by a point. These fixtures come even later in the campaign than they did five years ago but both carry more weight for Liverpool than their title rivals. Erik ten Hag’s side will be out to try to spoil Liverpool’s title challenge and make like as difficult as possible, just as they did in December’s 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Manchester United frustrated Liverpool at Anfield this season (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sunday, April 14: Crystal Palace (H)

League position: 14th
Last five results vs opponent: WDDWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (assuming Liverpool progress to Europa League quarter-finals)

Palace have never been 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 in the 1-1 draw last season. The hope will be a favourable Europa League draw may allow the opportunity to rotate and keep players fresh.

Saturday, April 20: Fulham (A)

League position: 12th
Last five results vs opponent: DWWWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (If Liverpool progress to the Europa League quarter-finals)

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-legged 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. Their last victory came during the 2018-19 title run-in, with a late James Milner penalty saving Alisson and Virgil van Dijk’s blunder for Fulham’s equaliser.

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Saturday, April 27: West Ham (A)

League position: Seventh
Last five results vs opponent: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if a league match requires rearranging due to cup progress)

Liverpool’s record against West Ham should give them confidence. They have won their last five, although their last defeat was a 3-2 loss away from home. It is tricky to know what to make of David Moyes’ side — they 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)

League position: Fifth
Last five results vs opponent: WWWDL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Liverpool progress to the Europa League semi-final)

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

Saturday, May 11: Aston Villa (A)

League position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponent: WWWDL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if Liverpool progress to the Europa League semi-finals)

Had this fixture come earlier in the season, such as when Arsenal and Manchester City visited Villa Park, this game may have felt even more daunting. Villa’s impressive home record has been dented in recent months, but it will not be a straightforward afternoon. Liverpool exploited Villa’s risky offside line earlier in the campaign and if Darwin Nunez can continue his scintillating form, they will hope he causes havoc again.

Sunday, May 19: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)

League position: Ninth
Last five results vs opponent: WWLWD
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Three (if a fixture is rearranged for Wednesday, May 15, due to cup commitments)

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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 final-day match. Gary O’Neil’s side are not to be overlooked, though, as they have produced a handful of shock results already this season and caused Liverpool plenty of problems back in September. They opened the scoring on the final day back in 2021-22 and were not behind until Mohamed Salah’s 84th-minute goal.

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

TBC: Everton (A)

League position: 16th
Last five results vs opponent: WWDWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: TBC

If Liverpool progress in both cup competitions, the likelihood is this game will become the penultimate match of the season. The prospect of going to the home of your local rivals in the final week of the season is as high stakes as it can get. Sean Dyche’s side will be determined to dent title hopes and they may also still need points in their fight against relegation. Four of the last five league games at Goodison Park have ended in a draw — and it may be two points Liverpool cannot afford to drop if that theme continues.

Andy Jones

Manchester City

Sunday, March 31: Arsenal (H)

League position: First
Last five results vs opponent: LDWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: 19

This is the next ‘big one’ and surely it will tell us a lot about both teams’ title credentials. There will still be 27 points to play for, so it will not be decisive, but given City are below their best level (but still very good), it will be fascinating to see how they get on against such a defensively sound, dangerous opponent. City are often at their best in these big games, especially at home, and after an up-and-down clash at Anfield, this will be another opportunity to show that things are clicking at the right time.

Wednesday, April 3: Aston Villa (H)

League position: Fourth
Last five results vs opponent: LWDWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

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For starters, this is not the best scheduling. Three days after the Arsenal game they face Villa at home, late on a Wednesday, and then the next game is Crystal Palace away early on the Saturday. This is something that City will have to deal with and Villa is another tough game. In reality, they will be expected to win, especially at home, although Villa did beat them very convincingly earlier in the season. City were floundering without Rodri at that point so, as long as he is available this time, they should be in better shape.

Saturday, April 6: Crystal Palace (A)

League position: 14th
Last five results vs opponent: DWWDL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

These games have been especially tough for City. The draw in December was a bit of a freak as they dominated for the whole match only to concede two goals and Palace have generally had better results at the Etihad rather than Selhurst Park. City have won five and drawn three of their eight meetings in south-east London and while they are very rarely comfortable affairs, City generally get the job done.

Saturday, April 13: Luton (H)

League position: 18th
Last five results vs opponent: WWWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

The Champions League quarter-finals sandwich this game and then after the second leg, City travel to Spurs, so Guardiola is most likely going to rotate his team for this one, adding more jeopardy than initially meets the eye. City are massive favourites and their rivals will not be holding out much hope, but the likely rotated team will have to do the business as Guardiola tries to juggle the demands of the two main competitions.

(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Saturday, April 20: Tottenham (A)

League position: Fifth
Last five results vs opponent: WDLWL
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

It is a good job that City beat Spurs in the FA Cup in January — the first time they had won or even scored at that ground in six attempts — as it gives them some confidence that the weird hoodoo is over. City played very well on that night, completely shutting down Spurs.

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The Champions League quarter-final second leg could have a big say on this game. If City are fighting to the end against a top team away from home, it will take a lot out of them. If they can rest some players for a second-leg stroll at the Etihad, they will be in better shape. That said, if City reach the FA Cup semi-final, they will play that instead and have to find somewhere for this tricky fixture even later.

April 27: Nottingham Forest (A)

League position: 17th
Last five results vs opponent: (most recent first): WDWLW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two

The Brighton match might be rescheduled for before this one and there could be a Champions League semi-final coming up a few nights later, which adds a lot of extra spice. A trip to the City Ground is always going to be tough and it will be a match that Liverpool and Arsenal fans watch with some degree of hope, especially given that this fixture last season ended in a 1-1 draw. City should genuinely 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)

League position: Ninth
Last five results vs opponent: LWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if City reach the Champions League semi-finals)

There are potential Champions League semi-final legs on either side of this one. There is also less margin for error against Wolves compared to Luton, so Guardiola will have to be especially careful with his 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)

League position: 12th
Last five results vs opponent: WWWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if City reach the Champions League semi-finals)

After that potential Champions League semi-final second leg, this match could be especially tricky, although City have a great record against Fulham. They dug in for an important 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.

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Sunday, May 19: West Ham (H)

League position: Seventh
Last five results vs opponent: WWWDW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: Two (if games are rearranged for midweek)

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

TBC: Brighton (A)

League position: Eighth
Last five results vs opponent: WDWWW
Minimum possible days rest pre-match: TBC

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 Brighton’s man-to-man press, which makes things complicated. One of the biggest factors in the game could be when it is scheduled because if City go far in Europe then there are two free weeks: before the Forest game and before the final game of the season.

Sam Lee

Players nearing 10 yellow cards

Clubs will need to be wary of the second deadline for yellow card accumulation: any player that earns 10 bookings before the completion of their club’s 32nd match of the season must serve a two-game suspension.

These are the players in danger of a ban.

Arsenal: Kai Havertz (seven)

Liverpool: Darwin Nunez (eight), Wataru Endo (seven)

Manchester City: Rodri (eight), Bernardo Silva (seven)

Additional reporting: Thom Harris

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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