Santa Claus is busy greasing up his sleigh and deciding who is on his naughty and nice lists (let’s hope Jose Mourinho isn’t expecting anything this year), and that can mean that we are just one game away from finding out who will top the Premier League table at Christmas.
Incredibly this market is still a three horse race, with Leicester currently top on 35 points (+12 goal difference), Arsenal second on 33 points (+16) and Manchester City on 32 points (+15).
The only way that Man City can go top is if Leicester lose at Everton and they beat Arsenal on Monday night. It’s possible to discount Manuel Pellegrini’s men from the race then, although at 5/1 fans of long prices will be kept interested.
So, for the moment at least, let’s go with the hypothesis that Leicester need a point from their trip to Goodison Park on Saturday to remain in pole position. Can they do it?
Sticky Toffee Patch
You can skew Everton’s current form in one of two ways: they haven’t lost in six, or they’ve won just two of their last half a dozen outings. That second stat is more relevant to us; those two victories came against bottom side Aston Villa and 19th placed Sunderland. In recent times when playing against a top side the Toffees have gone through a sticky patch however – losing to both Arsenal and Manchester United at the end of October. Recent draws with Norwich and Bournemouth do little to raise our confidence.
Leicester continue to march on of course, and they are yet to lose a game on the road this term. That’s down to their solid organisation defensively, and their ability to turn defence into counter attack with pace and guile. They are the division’s top goalscorers….and Everton have conceded eight in their last six matches.
So the Toffees will need to achieve at least one first this season if they are to upset the applecart in this market – beating the Foxes, and their current run compared to Leicester’s suggests they’re not quite up to the task. For that reason, backing Leicester to be top at Christmas at 4/6 looks a decent shout.
The alternative hypothesis is that Leicester draw with Everton on Saturday, taking them onto 36 points. This would mean that the Gunners would go top at Christmas on goal difference IF they can beat Manchester City at the Emirates on Monday.
So can they? Well, the statistics are on their side. Man City have failed to win in their last two outings on the road – failed to score even – as they were defeated 0-2 by Stoke and could only manage a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa. Pellegrini’s side have only scored seven goals on their travels too, as opposed to 25 on their own patch. Advantage Arsenal, then.
Arsenal have only lost once at the Emirates this term, and their last four games on home soil have resulted in wins over Man United, Everton and Sunderland and a draw with arch rivals Spurs. Forget their injury concerns, this is a team bang in form.
But the smart view, from a betting perspective at least, is that Arsenal have not one but two variables in their quest for table-topping status: they need Leicester to only secure a point AND they need to beat City. At 2/1 they will have plenty of support, but for the Foxes their destiny is in their own hands. And don’t forget, the Gunners need to beat Manchester City; a point is no good.