A few months ago, Arsenal were top of the table and looked like the favourites to win the league for the first time in over a decade.
The team were playing amazing; Mesut Ozil was playing the best football he had ever played in his career, Laurent Koscielny was hailed as the best defender in the league, and Petr Cech put in performances that have saved Arsenal multiple points this season.
And then, Arsenal did an Arsenal. The form dropped off going into the New Year and players such as Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez went cold, and their poor form affected the team greatly.
This now puts Arsenal three points behind second place Tottenham Hotspur and eight points behind Leicester City. So, with nine games to go in the most unpredictable Premier League season of all time, can Arsenal still win the league?
The remaining fixtures
The first thing to look at first is to see who Arsenal are yet to play again in the league, and the upcoming fixture list is not looking good for the Gunners.
At the end of March, Arsenal travel to Goodison Park to face Everton, a place that they have found tough to win at in recent years. Last season, the visitors had to score two goals in the last 10 minutes of the match just salvage a point after going 2-0 down, and the season prior to that, the Toffees demolished Arsenal 3-0.
The North Londoners could well win this tie given Everton’s incredibly poor defensive record this season, however, they are going to have to harbour the belief that they can overcome past results to claim the three points.
The last trip to the Boleyn Ground
From there, the fixtures don’t get any easier. After playing Watford at home, Arsenal will travel to London rivals West Ham United. Aside from all the ‘We’ve got Payet/Ozil’ chants that will be sung, this game is set to be a tense affair.
West Ham have been the giant killers this season, and the Hammers already beat Arsenal on the opening day. Since then, the East London team have continued their onslaught of beating the bigger teams in the Premier League; downing Manchester City and Spurs, as well as doing the double over Liverpool.
This match could well and truly decide how Arsenal finish the season, but given the Gunners' current form and a Dimitri Payet inspired West Ham side winning games for fun, it’s not hard to see which side is the favourite.
The defining fixture
Finally, Arsenal travel to the Etihad Stadium to play Manchester City in the penultimate game of the season.
If all goes to plan, this could be the game where Arsenal seal the title or perhaps go two points clear of Leicester with a 1-0 win, but the reality is that this could be the day that Arsenal slump down to fourth place, again.
A notable change that has happened at Arsenal in the past few seasons is their performances against bigger sides. Is it still bad? Yes. But has it improved? Absolutely, and there is no other team they have improved against more than Manchester City.
The Gunners beat City 2-1 in December this season and, the season before, they defeated the Citizens 2-0 on the road in one of the best games most Arsenal fans have seen in their lifetimes. Arsene Wenger got his tactics spot on in that crucial game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Frenchman do it again.
What should happen to the other teams?
As well as needing to win 95% of their remaining games, Arsenal also have to rely on the teams around them to slip up.
Everyone thought Leicester would have dropped off by now and slipped into mid-table obscurity but, as we have seen, the Foxes have done the exact opposite and continue to silence the critics with win after win.
As well as sitting five points clear of Spurs, Leicester also have the easiest run-in out of all the teams in the top four. Only in the month of May will they be really tested when they face Manchester United away, and then Chelsea on the last day of the season.
Will Spurs Spurs it up?
Tottenham, on the other hand, have the hardest fixture list out of the top four. Spurs must still play Manchester United and Southampton at home, as well as traveling to Liverpool and Chelsea in the final games of the season.
It’s not only the fixtures Spurs should worry about, but also that whenever the North London side show signs of promise, they usually come falling back to Earth, slip up, and fall back to fifth place. It wouldn’t be that surprising if Spurs do that again this season.
Tottenham recently lost 1-0 to West Ham as Mauricio Pochettino’s side barely showed up in a game that they were expected to win. In the following match they drew 2-2 with the Gunners, despite Arsenal being down to 10 men for 40 minutes after Francis Coquelin was sent off.
It will take a miracle for Leicester to blow their five-point lead, but as we have seen in the Premier League this season, anything is possible.