The dates Arsenal could win the 2022/23 Premier League title
Sitting atop of the Premier League table with just a third of the season to play, the question of Arsenal’s title credentials is so familiar that Mikel Arteta can’t even be bothered to repeat himself.
“You know my answer,” was the response Arsenal’s manager offered when quizzed once again about whether the Gunners were title favourites. Arteta’s answer has long been ‘no’ but as the games continue to tick down with his side in first place, his conviction in that stance may begin to waver.
Arteta’s hesitancy is borne out of a justified fear of Arsenal’s closest challengers and his former employers Manchester City. However, a first Premier League title since 2004 is in Arsenal’s hands with just a dozen games to play.
Here are the key dates that lie ahead for Arsenal in their bid to prove their manager wrong.
12 March – Fulham (A)
Fulham are the only top-half club Arsenal face until after April Fool’s Day. Marco Silva’s side are very much capable of pulling a nasty trick on the Gunners given their remarkable form since returning to the top flight.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea have dropped points at Craven Cottage this season while Manchester United needed a 93rd-minute winner to escape with a win just before the World Cup. Arsenal only led Fulham for five minutes when they won the reverse fixture 2-1 at Emirates Stadium.
9 April – Liverpool (A)
Liverpool have so often been the team vying with Manchester City for the Premier League crown in recent years but Jurgen Klopp’s side are more concerned with sneaking into the top four this term.
The Reds actually face City the week before hosting Arsenal but even if Liverpool do the Gunners a favour, there is no way Arteta’s side can claim the title at Anfield so early into April. Nevertheless, it remains a crucial fixture given Arsenal’s woeful record on Merseyside; the Gunners haven’t won a Premier League match at Anfield since 2012 when Arteta was in midfield.
This one has been ringed in red in the Premier League calendar for a while.
It would take an unusual glut of dropped points from Manchester City to make this contest a full-blown, winner-takes-all title decider for the Gunners – for instance, if Arsenal win all of their fixtures leading up to the match City would have to lose four games to pile all that pressure on this particular fixture. (And there is Manchester United to consider as well.)
Nevertheless, even if the trophy won’t be presented at the Etihad Stadium in April, it remains a monumental match in the race for the golden crown. If Arsenal take a lead of four or more points into the fixture, they can afford to lose to City and still win the title irrespective of opposition results.
However, Arteta’s side found themselves in a similar position when they were in the race for fourth last season. Even after losing away to Tottenham in May, Arsenal still sat in the top four with two games to play. Yet, the psychological toll of a demoralising defeat to their closest rivals weighed heavy on the squad which lost 2-0 to Newcastle four days later.
The fates have aligned so that Arsenal face a similar set of hurdles this season. The Gunners host Chelsea after the trip to Manchester City before travelling to Newcastle on the first weekend of May.
If Manchester City drop just four more points than Arsenal in March and April, then the Gunners could wrap up the title at St James’ Park – a fiitting venue given it was the setting for the death of Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations 12 months earlier.
Should Arsenal win all of their remaining matches, including their trip to the Etihad, and City reply by only dropping points to the Gunners, then Arteta’s side would be able claim the title with a win against Brighton.
The Seagulls, however, are hardly favourable opponents for Arsenal in what may prove to be the deciding fixture. Brighton have won their last two visits to the Emirates and pushed Arteta’s side closer than the 4-2 scoreline from the New Year’s Eve match at the Amex suggests.
There are a myriad of permutations that could play out to leave Arsenal’s penultimate game of the campaign as the decisive fixture. The most simple one is if Arsenal and City win their remaining matches but play out a draw in Manchester.
Forest have been abysmal on the road this season but are a different proposition altogether in front of their invariably fervent home support – as City found out to their cost as recently as February when Forest held the reigning champions to a 1-1 draw.
Arsenal have not won the title in the last match of the season since the most dramatic conclusion of any campaign in the history of England’s top flight.
The 1988/89 season had ticked into its final seconds and Arsenal were still only 1-0 up against Liverpool at Anfield. The Gunners needed to win by two clear goals to end an 18-year wait for a top-flight crown when Michael Thomas popped up with the clincher in the 91st minute.
Wolves have fostered a spiky relationship with Arsenal in recent seasons centred around the Londerers’ supposedly over-the-top celebrations. Yet, even the most ardent Wolves player or fan could surely not begrudge the Gunners getting into the party mood if they win the Premier League at Molineux.