Analysis: Why it is to Arsenal’s advantage to be the chasers in the title race

Why does the “chasing pack” suit Arsenal’s pursuit of the EPL trophy this season more than the “pace-setter” of last season?
 Days are moving like a Shanghai Maglev passenger train, and games are coming thick and fast towards the end of this EPL season, and Arsenal fans are dreaming of ending 20 years or so of waiting for a major trophy. Again and rightly so.
The season that had just gone, 2022/23, after a match day 26: Arsenal was the “pace-setter” at the top of the EPL table, after accumulating 63 points and had a +34-goal difference. In reality, they stayed there for donkey’s years.

Manchester City was just 2nd, with 58 points and a goal difference of +41 while their neighbor Manchester United was in 3rd with 52 points: I think I will have to end up here with them as their struggles continue this season (“Arteta to Manchester United”?!: Rio, you are having a laugh, mate! 😃)

Last season, Arsenal fans were hoping that the team would be triumphant come the end of the season after being a “pace-setter” for 248 days: It’s the longest time without winning the league in English history according to OptaJoe.

Below is the table, unfolding Arsenal’s last 12 games for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

One could see our momentum dwindled after the 2-2 draw against Liverpool, followed by another 2-2 draw against West Ham, which was followed by a “bizarre” 3-3 draw against already relegated Southampton at Emirates Stadium in which, against all odds, an out-of-form ex-Arsenal player Walcott scored against us!

Arsenal lost their 248 days “pace-setter” advantage in just a space of two weeks and 3 days (yes, 17 days!), between 09 April to 26 April 2023 (See the cells in Mandarin color, in the above table).

During that period of Arsenal’s capitulation, Manchester City was flying and winning their crucial 4 games for fun, including against Arsenal themselves:

●1. Manchester City 4-1 Liverpool:1st April 2023

●2. Manchester City 4-1 Southampton: 8th April 2023

● 3. Leicester 1-3 Manchester City: 15th April 2023

●4. Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal: 26th April 2023 (Sky Sports)

To be honest, Arsenal had already “lost” the race 3 games before meeting Manchester City on 26th April 2023 by dropping 6 important points after drawing 3 consecutive games whilst Manchester City had gained a crucial 9 points after winning their 3 consecutive games.  So, losing to Manchester City, 4-1, in what many football pundits termed “a 6-pointer game,” was the final nail in the coffin.

In this season 2023/24, after match day 26, Arsenal is sitting in 3rd place, after accumulating 58 points with a +39-goal difference. Arsenal is just 2 points behind the now “pace-setter” Liverpool at 60 points, with a +38-goal difference, and are a point behind the reigning champions, Manchester City in second place at 59 points and a +33-goal difference.

After the new year and their holiday trip in the warm weather of Dubai, Arsenal’s fortunes have changed, and their goal-scoring touches have come back with a vengeance.

Since the turn of the year, Arsenal has scored a staggering 25 goals in six Premier League matches. Breaking their own records for the largest number of away goals scored per game along the way after demolishing the poor Hammers 6-0 in their London Stadium.

Also, during that time, Arsenal won relatively “easier” against table topper and currently “pace-setter”, Liverpool.  Liverpool had only one single shot on target against Arsenal’s 7 in the match. Remember Liverpool was the in form team when the lost to Arsenal (WWWWW).

I know in the EPL, no team that is a pushover. Every Premier League game is tough. However, with the current form, a few would bet against Arsenal winning most of the remaining games, including Manchester City away.

This season, after 12 consecutive Premier League defeats against Manchester City, on 08 October 2023, at last, Arsenal beat them at Emirates. In that game, Manchester City registered only 2 shots against 12 for Arsenal, and in those 2, only 1 was on target according to Opta Analyst.

Last year our Arsenal team couldn’t cope with the “pressure” of being chased by the in form Manchester City.

In every game Arsenal was drawing or losing, the heavy breathing sound of Manchester City was over their shoulders, and to be honest, it was too scary and intimidating to that young team. You could see how they lost or drew the games they shouldn’t.

Of course, injuries to our important players William Saliba and Gabriel Santos Magalhàes at the heart of our defense towards the end of the season worked against us as well.

An inexperienced young squad could also have played a part in our demise last season.

This time around, the team has grown up and has valuable experience after what happened in the previous year.

The signing of Declan Rice in the summer has worked very well so far in terms of adding experience, leadership, and aggression to the team. And hopefully, it will work well up to the end of the season.

Now, the team doesn’t feel the pressure of being chased. Instead, Arsenal is chasing Liverpool and Manchester City. The pressure is “more” on these teams than on Arsenal.  By the look of it, this suits Arsenal very well as last season’s pressure is taken off their shoulders, and now they can let their football do the talking on the pitch as their current form can underpin.

I know, this “hypothesis” has to be proven come the end of the season.  However,  Arsenal fans, we all hope the team can get through the finish line this time around and make us proud again.


Aziz Senzia

A Gooner Fan in Tanzania

LOONEY TOONS! Revenge is sweet
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  1. Good piece Aziz.

    This is definitely one of the best articles ive read on JA.

    The one and only criticism i have is the failure of the author to mention the VAR injustice during the Brentford game in Feb 2023 which cost us 2 valuable points.

    1. Thanks for taking your time to read it, Bang bang!

      My appreciation for your complementary.

      Let’s hope this season we make it.


  2. A welcome detailed darticle from a promising new JA writer, but sadly its premise that we are better off chasing than being top already, is , frankly, PLAINLY UNTRUE.

    Leaving aside the interesting rhetoric, lets just all ask oursdelves , privately and individually this question;
    Right now , would we prefer to be above Liverpool and City, which RATHER OBVIOUSLY means having more points than them(or at very least , the same points but asuperior goal difference) or as RIGHT NOW, trailing Liverpool by two points and City by one?

    To THIS TOTAL REALISTS BRAIN , the beyond obvious answer is that I FOR JUST ONE AMONG MANY OTHER REALISTS, would kill my proverbial granny for an extra point or two or three.

    Premise decapitated by common sense then!!
    But no offence to the writer, who wrote a fine piece but simply put forward a COMPLETELY WRONG PREMISE!

    1. it is not about being 1 or 2 points after 26 games, it is about being a 1 or 2 points after 38 games

      the premise that last season being in front after 26 games was not helpful in us being behind after 38 games

      and that we might be better positioned to be on top after 38 games this season

      that is a reasonable and valid premise – not COMPLETELY WRONG

      btw, can you stop shouting please

      1. Arsenal1886, I am puzzled by your odd remark about shouting. You plainly have an objection to my using capitals which are for EMPHASIS, as when speaking. Emphasis is a a common verbal tool but in written speech how else is one to use emphasis? By contrast I have no objection to your non use of punctuation and non use of full stops. You however, somewhat impertinently IMO seem to think that emphasis is shouting. I have explained that it is not but I am not interested in your opinion, as I will continue using EMPHASIS by capitals, when ever I choose.
        I do not intend to get involved in an argument with you about the writer and yourself concluding that to have fewer points than our rivals do after 26 matches, rather than more than them, is SOMEHOW, IN AN ODD WAY, advantageous to us!!

        To me that is so nonsensical as to not be worth discussing further, so I wont.

    2. I agree with you Jon. If we are leading the table, our destiny is in our hand because if we win all the remaining games (no guarantee) then we will be crowned champion. But now we are hoping for a slip from the two leading team while hoping that we don’t have a slip of our own.

  3. Great article, but trying to convince anyone we are better off being in an inferior position simply doesn’t sell.

    Last year we were in control of our own fate; win on match day, and doesn’t matter what City does.

    Now we have to win every week AND DEPEND on them to drop points along the way.

    How is that better?

    1. Plainly Durand, to anyone with a normal working brain, IT IS NOT better. That ridiculous opinion NEEDS calling out as foolishness of a high order. SO I DID SO.

      Glad, but not at surprised, to see you agree with me, unsurprisingly!

  4. Last year, we crumbled under pressure. Despite the mentioned 4 games, a win over Brighton and Nottingham would still have won us the league. Yes, there’s less pressure when chasing the pack, but then our fate is on the teams ahead of us loosing. What if they don’t?! The most advantageous position would be if we were leading with a 15+point gap 😀

  5. Given current circumstances I disagree that it is to Arsenal’s advantage to be chasing.
    Unlike some others however I do agree that there are circumstances when it is not necessarily an advantage to be leading. The current situation is not the case.
    This season we have to contend with certain issues. We still have several difficult away games. Man City are playing well, still have a very strong team and are delivering good results. Liverpool are also picking up results even when they have not played particularly well.
    Despite some of our good recent results some doubts remain about the team; especially in attack. At certain times during the season some opposing teams have found ways to blunt our attack.
    It is important to remember that we are trying to chase down two of the most relentless teams in PL history. It’s not impossible but it’s going to be bloody hard.

  6. excellent well written article, and factual

    Arsenal are a different beast this season vs last

    not just in terms of personnel, but experience, squad depth, and tactical options (i.e. we have more than one way to play this season)

    and let’s be honest, we surprised everyone, not least ourselves, leading the PL last season – on this and other forum we would not even talk about us having a realistic chance until quite late, we never thought we would win, always suspected Man C would power through us – and they did

    i think it was the Liverpool game too that did us in terms of psychology and self-doubt – the unnecessary Xhaka antics the catalyst for Liverpool’s recovery

    2 – nil up at Anfield, one our two big banana skins along with Man C at the Etihad – it felt that night like we blew a massive opportunity, and in hindsight we never quite regained those levels

    why could this season be different?

    personnel, squad depth and injuries

    reading this morning Timber is on the cusp of returning to full training, with Partey, Zinc and Tomi ready to return to the match day squad, and Jesus, Vieira, ESR already there – whisper it, we have no injuries and the complete squad available

    never remember Arsenal ever being in that situation, and the timing could not be better

    we will get injuries of course, and so will/have our rivals, but feels like we are best equipped to deal with that

    secondly the draw and run of games in March is kind to us, Sheffield United (away), Brentford (home), Porto (home) then 19 days* to prepare for Man C (away) – full squad, 19 days to prepare, Man C play Liverpool before that so bound to take points off each other

    and we have 4 points from our two games with Liverpool

    could not realistically get much better than that

    * Chelsea game postponed due to FA Cup

  7. It’s so obvious that leading the pack is a better situation than being a few points adrift. Don’t we all prefer to have the points on the board even if another couple teams have a game in hand?

    That said, that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that being ahead can cause complacency. Only drew game ‘X’ – but still have the lead- is a common enough attitude, until more points get dropped and bingo! the lead is no more. Being slightly behind should make the chasing team try harder.

    1. It is essential to look further into the context. In the past there have been teams, including Arsenal, who have found themselves unexpectedly leading the league with very strong contenders not far behind. A number of these teams have come unstuck during the latter part of the season. The loss of form of key players, injuries etc. have impacted on teams to different degrees.
      The two teams ahead of us have both have won leagues in recent years and both have been able to sustain long winning runs. They have been amongst the most effective and dominant teams in PL history. It is unlikely that complacency will be a significant factor for either MC or Liverpool.
      The article tries to make a case for Arsenal. The problem is that there is no attempt to consider the MC or Liverpool perspective.

      1. I doubt that City or Liverpool would be complacent particularly. I was rather generalising as I was making a case for human traits. Top professional players shouldn’t go off the boil but a short lapse in concentration can have disastrous consequences.

        It’s prevalent in tennis and that’s what made me think of it.

  8. Well, I do think it’s a complex question, but I do believe we broke under the pressure last season – maybe it would be different this season, with our manager and players’ year of extra experience and new players like rice and havertz, but I do think it’s better for us to be chasing. If we have a bad result now, imo it’s easier to recover and say we have no choice but to keep chasing, there’s nothing else to play for, whereas if we were top and had a bad result, that’s when all the doubts would start to accumulate and it would likely be followed by another bad result. That’s obviously not a logical determination, it’s an intuition that I accept could be wrong – it could easily be that a bad result now would affect it confidence just as much.
    It might be that Liverpool and city are so good under pressure that they don’t drop any more points to the end of the season, in which case, our current league position likely wouldn’t matter anyway.

  9. I for one think points and position in the bag is more assured that chasing or hoping your competitors drop points while you win, which isnt gauranteed.
    Arsenal, man city and liverpool are all gonna drop poibts as the seasin progresses, i am hoping they drop more points tgan Arsenal starting from liverpool this weekend.

  10. The article is purely opinion and not the least bit factual to how we may or may not win the league. The only thing that will ensure winning the league is to beat and finish above City and Liverpool. And seeing that we don’t play Liverpool we are relying on results against them. Thats the only facts. So coming from behind is not our best chance at all, it means it isn’t in our hands.

  11. I kind of understand from a psychological pov especially for this young team maybe feeling less pressure by being chasers but being in control of your own destiny is better imho.

    Being behind the leaders is all well and good but you are relying on them to drop points whilst you have to keep winning which is just as if not more pressure than trying to hold onto first position. Man City have proven over and over again once they hit the front towards the latter part of the season they don’t relinquish that lead so I would say we need to be ahead of them by the time we reach the last 5 games left to play.

  12. Manc comes from behind every season and I remember one of their players uttering that for a change this season why don’t we run away with it from the start They failed to do so and now have to once again come from behind Every season the winner has come from behind except for Leic to my recollection

  13. No use for Arsenal crying or worrying themselves over the split milk which they’ve spilled. For, it can’t be recollected by them. But lesson can ve learned by them from their spilling of the milk to not allow a re occurring of the spill.
    Arsenal winning their last 12 Epl matches of the season can be pivotal in guaranteeing them their 1st Epl title win in two decades. But if Liverpool drop points from their last 12 matches of the season in the Epl.
    Nevertheless and whatever may happen as the remaining 12 matches of the seaso pans on for Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City. Who are The trio Epl giants club sides boosting and vying for the title win this season.
    But the Gunners will come top as winners. If they sustain their current walloping of team form to season’s end.
    Meaning, they will need to have an 18 wallop of teams run to win the title this season.

  14. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez’s last gap added time one goal match winner for the Reds last Saturday. In their last Epl away to . Nothingham Forest.
    Has leave Arsenal with no any other choice other than the only one current choice of continuing to win in the Epl this season. And without stopping to win.
    Until the moment in the last 11-12 matches in the campaign, starting from yesterday Saturday when Liverpool and Man City will drop points that will make Arsenal climb to the top of the League table. And sit there till season’s end.
    To this end in one instance, I am expecting Man Utd to hold their each City rivals Man City to a 2-2 draw in the big game at the Etihad later today Sunday.
    Which if it happens to happened as it SHOULD happen by my own match-prediction reckoning. Arsenal will gain 1 big point advantage over Man City in the standings that come to pass after the Gunners at away have wallop Sheff Utd.
    And from there on use that as a launching pad to be winning to await Liverpool to drop points. And as a result take control of the leadership of the Epl to season’s end.

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