Manchester City capitalised on slip-ups elsewhere in the midweek fixtures, with an emphatic 4-0 victory over West Ham on Wednesday night. Coupled with Liverpool and Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Anfield on Tuesday, could this be a turning point in the title race this season?
Dropped points were a theme for the big London clubs in this round of midweek fixtures, with Spurs drawing 0-0 up at Sunderland whilst Arsenal suffered a humbling 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Watford. Even Manchester United failed to gain some much needed ground after a frustrating goalless draw with Hull City. City will now fancy their chances at kicking on and closing what is now an eight point gap on the leaders Chelsea.
Antonio Conte will be looking over his shoulder at the chasing pack as he takes his team into a testing couple of fixtures. The Blues host Arsenal in the Saturday’s early kick off, before travelling to Burnley the following week; Sean Dyche’s side boast the third best home record in the league and will relish the chance to test the top of the table team at Turf Moor. Meanwhile City, who will surely mount a title charge over the next few months, face Swansea City and Bournemouth, two very winnable games for a side seemingly rejuvenated by the arrival of Brazilian starlet Gabriel Jesus.
Manchester City aside, Chelsea’s primary concern will be the threat still posed by Liverpool. Despite an abysmal start to 2017, Klopp’s team will be boosted by the return of Sadio Mané from the African Cup of Nations; they’ve missed the Senegalese’ lightning pace and killer instinct in front of goal in recent weeks. Like Chelsea, Liverpool will benefit from their absence from European competition this season, this will have a significant effect on fitness levels come the business end of the title race.
Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United shouldn’t provide the leaders with too much of a worry in the run in. Arsenal will most likely begin to drop off around the start of March (as per) and Spurs have a lack of real title race experience and could easily crack under the pressure over the coming months. As for Manchester United, they’ve shown signs of redeveloping into a Premier League winning team but they just can’t seem to kill off games in their classic ‘hallmark of champions’ way. Wednesday’s goalless draw with Hull City was the latest chapter in the book of frustrating games they should’ve won. United of old would’ve found a way to grind out these results, the lack of a real match winner is costing them vital points.
With a lucrative nine point gap on second place, Chelsea are still clear favourites to claim their fifth Premier League trophy, but bigger gaps have been overturned and we’re still just over halfway into the season. I particularly wouldn’t rule out Manchester City who will make an inevitable fight back, providing a nail-biting end to the season for those in and around Stamford Bridge.