It's game over for Arsenal in terms of title hopes | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 1, 2015
  • Updated: 1:56am
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PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 9:04pm

It's game over for Arsenal in terms of title hopes

Gunners, who appear out of the running, are unlikely to cope with Manchester City's attack

BIO

Nick has been SCMP’s tipster since soccer betting was launched in Hong Kong in 2003, having previously served as racing editor. He takes a statistical approach to soccer betting, focusing mainly on the English Premier League but also on the other major European leagues and the English lower divisions. Now based in England, he brings a wealth of experience as a punter and writer having also worked for the Sunday Times, Racing Post and Betfair during a 25-year career in sports betting journalism.
 

The English Premier League title race is down to three teams now, with Arsenal's odds having gone to 100-1 after another disappointing week.

Manchester City, with games in hand, are odds-on favourites following their impressive win over neighbours United, with Chelsea next in the betting and Liverpool not too far behind.

Arsenal's home draw with Swansea was the final nail in their faltering challenge and even a perfect end to the season would probably not be enough.

The lack of scoring options helps to explain why Arsenal have a relatively poor record in the big games
Nick Pulford

Maximum points from now on would take them to 84, but the winning line is likely to be in the high 80s.

A few weeks ago, 83 points looked a realistic target for aspiring champions, but Liverpool (22 points out of a possible 24 from their past eight games), City and Chelsea (both 19) have found an extra gear at the critical time.

Arsenal, by contrast, have taken only 11 points from their last eight games and the two key components in their slump have been a lack of squad depth and shortcomings in the big matches.

Arsene Wenger can be blamed for not addressing both factors, if you are so inclined, as he could have spent more money bolstering a squad that have been unable to cope with the long-term absence of key figures such as Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott or with the reduced scoring rate of Olivier Giroud, their sole potent striker.

Whereas Chelsea and City both have four players in the Premier League's top 25 scorers, and Liverpool have three, Arsenal have only two - Giroud and the injured Ramsey.

Wenger seemed to be looking for a top striker last summer but in the end bought Mesut Ozil, another midfielder, and that decision looks flawed.

The lack of scoring options helps to explain why Arsenal have a relatively poor record in the big games.

In the mini-league based on matches between the big six, City have scored 27 goals in eight games (3.38 goals per game), Chelsea have 19 in nine (2.11) and Liverpool 16 in seven (2.29), whereas Arsenal have scored just eight in nine games (0.89).

That has been costly in terms of points. Chelsea top the big-six mini-league with an average of 2.33 points per game, City are second (2.25) and Liverpool third (1.71), whereas Arsenal's points average is 1.22.

The Gunners are the best team in the Premier League excluding games against the big six, which emphasises how much ground they have lost through a lack of quality and temperament in the major clashes - problems that were also evident when it counted most in the Champions League.

Arsenal have one last chance in a big-six showdown tonight when they host City, although it matters only for the visitors in terms of the title race.

The Gunners have a decent home record against the big six with two wins and two draws, and no goals conceded, but on current form they will have problems stopping City.

Manuel Pellegrini's side have lost only to Chelsea (twice) among the big six this season and have won their other six games in that category by an aggregate of 26 goals to six.

Arsenal do not have the defensive discipline that enabled Chelsea to beat City and the visitors rate a good bet after their impressive midweek display against United.

The title will probably be decided largely by the remaining games involving the big six, as Liverpool are yet to host both City and Chelsea at Anfield and tomorrow the Reds have another crunch match at home to Tottenham.

Like Chelsea and City, Liverpool have an outstanding home record and especially when Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge play together.

For various reasons, that has happened only 11 times in home league games, but Liverpool have won 10 and drawn one, scoring 41 goals at an average of almost four goals per game.

Either or both of Suarez and Sturridge have scored in every one of those 11 games, with 22 goals between them.

As Tottenham were beaten 3-2 at Anfield last season when both strikers played and could not cope with Suarez on his own in the 5-0 defeat at White Hart Lane in December, it is difficult to see them stopping the dynamic duo.

Having said that, the odds give scant respect to Tottenham and it seems better to back over 2.5 goals than the Liverpool win.

The best bet in the Premier League is Everton to win at Fulham.

Roberto Martinez's team have hit form again and could yet challenge for fourth place, while Fulham have taken only one point from 12 games against the top seven (the big six plus Everton).

Shortlist: Wigan, Ipswich, Sevilla, Wolfsburg.

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