We’re down to just two handfuls of games in what can only be described as the wildest ride in the history of the English Premier League. Three teams have begun to separate themselves at the top — leaders Leicester City and North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur (sorry Manchester City you’re not chasing down Leicester City).
As Leicester City sit atop the table on 60 points and are five points clear of second place Spurs and eight points clear of Arsenal with nine games left to play things are really tightening up and opportunities to make gains or see title hopes slip away are becoming scarce.
While the point totals tell us one story, a lot of what happens down the final nine matches amongst those three contenders depends on what their fixture lists look like. Given the fight going on at both the top and bottom of the EPL table, no game can be taken for granted.
Let’s look at the three schedules first though.
Remaining Matches for Leicester City:
vs. Newcastle (3/14)
at Crystal Palace (3/19)
vs. Southampton (4/3)
at Sunderland (4/10)
vs. West Ham (4/17)
vs. Swansea (4/24)
at Manchester United (5/1)
vs. Everton (5/7)
at Chelsea (5/15)
Remaining Matches for Tottenham Hotspur:
at Aston Villa (3/13)
vs. Bournemouth (3/20)
at Liverpool (4/2)
vs. Manchester United (4/10)
at Stoke City (4/18)
vs. West Brom (4/25)
vs. Southampton (5/7)
at Newcastle (5/15)
Remaining Matches for Arsenal:
vs. West Brom (3/12)
at Everton (3/19)
vs. Watford (4/2)
at West Ham (4/9)
vs. Crystal Palace (4/17)
at Sunderland (4/24)
vs. Norwich (4/30)
at Manchester City (5/7)
vs. Aston Villa (5/15)
What Does it All Mean?
One thing is clear for the front runners, and that’s that the path to victory is pretty simple…at least on paper. Tottenham doesn’t have a single match against a club currently in a European position the rest of the season, while Leicester will see just West Ham on their fixture list. Arsenal has just two with West Ham in early April and what could be a crucial matchup with Manchester City in the second to last match of the season.
In that respect, the path for Tottenham may seem easiest despite their five-point deficit. However, Spurs will face two of the most in-form sides in the league right now in Liverpool and Manchester United to start the month of April.
On the flip side, Arsenal and Spurs have two matches against teams currently in relegation spots and Leicester has just Newcastle on the fixture list. Even looking at the possible teams involved in the race to stay up, Arsenal catches a massive break with three of its final nine matches against those clubs fighting for their EPL lives (Sunderland, Norwich and Aston Villa).
Recent form also matters in looking at path to an EPL title, and this is where things get very murky. After an eye-opening 3-1 win at Manchester City, Leicester looked like they where the clear-cut favorites for the title. Since then though, this team has a loss to Arsenal and a string of three lucky results for seven points.
Just one week ago, Spurs could’ve had the best argument for the hottest club in the EPL having not lost an away match since the opening day of the season and on a six-game winning streak as well. Then last week happened and Spurs saw themselves downed at West Ham and drawn by their rivals Arsenal despite a 2-1 lead and a 10-man Arsenal squad for most of the second half.
Arsenal have just a 2-2-1 record in the past seven contests themselves and it has seen them drop for the top of the table all the way to third place and eight points out of the race.
It all means there are clearly advantages and disadvantages for every squad making a title rin, and a lot of it depends on the combination of form, fixtures and flat out luck.
Who Has the Clearest Path?
Given all that information, its hard not to see Leicester City still having the clearest path to the EPL title. It basically has a two-loss cushion to play with and a fixture list that includes six matches against teams in 10th place or worse in the current table. Maintaining a lead with that kind of a fixture list seems pretty easy to do, especially since the pressure is now squarely on chief rival Tottenham to put full points on the board nearly every week the rest of the season.
Will Leicester take advantage of the easier fixture list and force Spurs to play out of their mind to get a title? Given the recent string of luck and the teams around them continuing to falter when they do to, this team seems destined for easily the most unexpected EPL title ever.