Will Arsenal remain top of Premier League or get reeled back in? Here’s what recent history tells us…

Arsenal have proven they deserve their place at the top of the Premier League after 17 games.

Consistent topics Have laid foundations for them heading into the new year. The athletic has covered Arsenal’s improved control of games, As their press became more unitedThe importance of their Positional rotations and fluidity permission, Very quick responses to conceding goals And their strength in both Attacking and defensive set pieces

There has been guarded optimism from Arsenal fans as expectations have risen over the course of the season and it cannot be ignored that they are eight points clear (Manchester City have a game in hand today against Chelsea).

It is a healthy pillow. But will it be enough?

The athletic Takes a look at how teams leading after 17 games of a Premier League season have fared…

Platforms matter more than ever

There are a select group of title races etched in Premier League folklore for the drama of “the chase”. Manchester United pipping Newcastle United to the title in 1995-96 is the standout, but on average, teams blowing leads from this stage has become less frequent than in the 1990s.

In the first 10 seasons of the Premier League, the team with the best record after 17 matches only won the title four times. There have been two second-place finishes, two third-place finishes, one fourth-place finish and one sixth-place finish (John Gregory’s Aston Villa in 1998-99, which is the furthest a side has fallen from a table-topping position after 17 games in the Premier League era).

Compare that to the last 10 seasons, and the team first after 17 matches won the league seven times. Liverpool (2013-14 and 2018-19) and Manchester United (2020-21) are the only teams to have failed to lift the title from the position in that period. In each of the three seasons, however, the importance of points along the position was in the forum, a zero-point gap between first and second in one season and only a one-point gap in the other two once the games in hand . in account

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Although Manchester City won the league just one point clear at this stage last season, the winners have often had a wider margin over the past 10 years. City and Liverpool are 11 and 10 points clear in 2017-18 and 2019-20 respectively, Manchester United and Chelsea have six-point gaps in 2012-13 and 2016-17, while Chelsea and Leicester City have three and two-point gaps respectively . in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Not surprisingly then, teams burst clear early has led to title success in recent seasons. The average lead across all Premier League seasons at this point is 3.7 points, so even if Manchester City beat Chelsea, Arsenal’s then-five point gap would remain intact.

Arsenal’s history from this position

This is not the first time that Arsenal have come out on top after 17 matches. They also sat at the top at this stage in 1996-97 (the first season of Arsene Wenger), 2002-03 and 2007-08. Interestingly, none of Arsenal’s three Premier League titles came in those seasons.

Below is a visual representation of how they let the title slip in the three campaigns:

In keeping with the trends of the time, a small point gap cost Arsenal in each of these campaigns. Their biggest gap was two points in 2002-03, with only one-point gaps in 1996-97 and 2007-08 – the last time a team finished outside the top two after being first at the 17-game mark.

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When chased, Arsenal usually drop points in the closing months of the season. Even in the title-winning Invincibles season of 2003-04, they went through a spell of five draws in seven games (during which they were crowned champions at White Hart Lane). For the record, it was Manchester United who led after 17 games of the campaign.

They prevailed as the chasers three times (in 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2003-04), but even so, the trends could not apply to a new group of players under a new manager.

The reality is that this is Arsenal’s best start to a Premier League season. Their tally of 44 points after 17 games has been matched or better just seven times in the league’s history, with the smallest point gap between first and second between Liverpool and Manchester City in 2019-20.

Even with their previous title wins in mind (all of them coming from behind after 17 games), this is an incredible opportunity for Arsenal. They have never had a buffer like their current one at this stage in a Premier League season and now it is about making it count.

What is important for Arsenal’s charge?

Keeping their positive momentum will become increasingly important.

Questions were raised when Gabriel Jesus sustained his knee injury at the World Cup. The Brazilian has not only the frontline, but the entire team with his ability to have an impact on the width and depth of the field.

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However, their front three since the restart have all been superb, with Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka all scoring against West Ham United and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Despite the team not performing badly in the goalless draw against Newcastle, they must not let the disappointment of dropping points become the start of a downward spiral.

Les Ferdinand, who was part of the Newcastle team that missed out on the title in 1995-96, had an interesting point in his punditry ahead of Tuesday night’s game. The crux of his message was that Newcastle were complacent. That after a loss, they expected to collect the points in their next match, but the approach was the beginning of a snowball effect.

Arsenal did not lose to Newcastle, but they cannot have a similar slide. The 11 days between the Newcastle game and their next league fixture against Tottenham Hotspur should be beneficial for them, but the position they are in now cannot be taken for granted.

Twenty-one matches remain, which represents a massive chunk of the season, and that’s before adding FA Cup and Europa League matches to the mix. The themes that ignited their season must continue and be built upon with the return of Emile Smith Rowe and any January signings.

Recent history suggests that Arsenal should be able to hang on and bring home their first league title in 19 years, but memories of failed title bids will occupy the minds of some fans as the season goes on.

(Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)


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