Are Arsenal title contenders? And what is the definition of ‘contender’?

Are we title contenders? by AndersS

 Without any true data, I will take a chance and state that only a small minority of Arsenal fans believe we will win the title this season, despite our current lead. I wonder if that minority is bigger or smaller than the one saying there is absolutely no chance?

My guess is there are most don’t think we will win the title, but that it could actually happen through a combination of our strength and some luck.

Personally, this is my belief. I don’t think we will win the title, but I am starting to think, we have at least a fifty-fifty chance of finishing above all other teams than Man City. And if Man City is the only team, which looks like leaving us trailing, is it then totally impossible that they might not? Of course not.

Although unlikely, any number of things could put a dent in their league superiority; Injuries to key players, complacency, too much focus on Champions League, loss of inspiration from Guardiola, Guardiola falling out with the owners because he wants to go back to Barcelona – or something else completely.

As mentioned, I don’t think any of those will actually happen, but it is not 100% impossible.

 A lot of  people, not just Arsenal fans, are looking at the table, and possibly concluding Arsenal looks like the only team, who can challenge City.

But are we true title contenders?

This question seems to be discussed, without any real consensus as to what is a title contender? Obviously, in this moment of time, you could say that as we are leading the league, we are obviously contenders. But is that the answer then? Or do we, when we discuss if we are title contenders, try to factor in if we can continue to sustain a challenge?

Let me ask you a question, how many teams were title contenders last season?

My immediate answer would be only Liverpool were actual title contenders along with the winners, City. Chelsea were third, but they finished 19 points behind City, and they were all but mathematically without any real chance of winning the league several weeks before the end of season. I wouldn’t say they were title contenders. Would you?

 But how close do you need to be to be named title contenders? Is it a matter of the points, you finish behind? Is it only a matter of position, so that if you finish second, but 15 points behind the winners, have you then been true contenders?

 I dare you to try to make up your mind. What is the definition of being title contenders?

Using that definition, when was then the last time Arsenal challenged for the title????

 Since we won the league in 03/04, here is how many points, we finished behind the champions:

04/05 – 12 p.

05/06 – 24 p.

06/07 – 21 p.

07/08 – 4 p.

08/09 – 18 p.

09/10 – 11 p.

10/11 – 12 p.

11/12 – 19 p.12/13 – 16 p.

13/14 – 7 p.

14/15 – 12 p.

15/16 – 10 p.

16/17 – 18 p.

17/18 – 37 p.

18/19 – 28 p.

19/20 – 43 p.

20/21 – 25 p.

21/22 – 24 p.

 Personally, I don’t think you can be considered to have been true title contenders if you finished 10 or more points behind the winners. Maybe with a mall exception as to when you fell behind. You could possible make a case for saying, if you were only 4-5 points behind with 2 games to play, you were actually contending, but loosing the last couple of games meant the points difference showed a bigger gap than your ability to challenge the eventual winners.

Either way, looking at all those seasons since we last won the league, there are possibly only 2 years that we were title contenders; 07/08 and 13/14. Sure, we had all those years, where we finished in top 4 and made it to the CL. But we almost never contended for the title.

After all, isn’t it the title we are really after?

 I have previously written my hopes for this season are that we can narrow the gap to the winners from the 24 points last year, to maybe 10-15, as this would constitute true progress in terms of getting closer to the title. It would be a stepping stone for further progress and becoming title contenders again. Once you are actual title contenders, you make it probable that you can win.

All the league winners need a bit of luck also, but unless you plan on a miracle, it is the strength to be title contenders which will give you the realistic chance.

So I ask you 2 things:

  1. What is the definition of being true title contenders?
  2. Do you think, Arsenal will qualify to be title contenders according to your definition?

kind regards

Anders S

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43 Comments

  1. In my opinion, a true title contender is the most dominant, consistent and productive team in the league. If two or more teams have similar highest ball possession, consistency and goal tally in the league, they’re all title contenders

    So let’s compare Arsenal and Man City:

    – Ball possession : Man City are generally more dominant than Arsenal, as shown by their ball possession percentages at Anfield and other EPL teams’ turfs, compared to ours at the Emirates and other EPL teams’ stadiums

    – Consistency : Arsenal and Man City are currently similar, as shown by the points collected

    – Goal scored and difference : Man City scored more goals and the goal difference is huge, so Man City are more productive

    I can only say we’re the true title contender if we manage to at least dominate other big teams at their stadiums, since the first minute till the end of the games

    We’ve failed the test at Old Trafford, because we could only dominate Man United after they scored. So I’d like to see how we will play at Stamford Bridge, Spurs’ stadium and Anfield, before becoming confident of our title winning chance

    1. Does this mean, you can’t consider a team playing “Mourinho/Conte style” with focus not on ball possession but on counter attacking title contenders under any circumstance?

      I agree, we will not have much chance of winning the title, if we can’t compete away to the “big” teams.

      1. My definition of a true title contender is based on the playing styles of the best EPL teams currently, which are high ball possession styles

        Chelsea and Leicester City used to lead EPL in January using counter-attacking styles, but currently the best teams in EPL don’t play like that

  2. Definition – being in with a chance of the title in the last month of the season.
    Are we contenders? Possibly, with a bit of luck! (And if “the process” keeps working, next season could be probable contenders.)

  3. Contender seems to be a word disturbing many so called pundits. Contender or not, as things stand, it is city trying to keep up pace with Arsenal. And it seems they might keep chasing or fall off. 12 matches in, nothing like Arsenal has played weaker teams. The champion might be decided by head to head outcome between Arsenal and Ciity. If you changed the wuestion to, is Arsenal capable of beating City? The answer is an emphatic yes. So why not be a contender?

  4. If we’re still on top come February, then we can be considered contenders. Until then, we’re only “hopefuls”… IJS

  5. To be considered title contenders, we have to be up there going toe to toe with the favorites until there’s merely a few games left.
    That being said, do you all know how important our start ti the season has been? In the next 26 league games, we only need 18 wins to amass 85 points in total.
    If we get 18 wins out of the next 23 games, the remaining 3 games will definitely be setting us up for an interesting end to the season and title.
    With our records, we know we can get 18 wins from the rest of our games.
    Let’s just try to take it a game a time. Even if we don’t win the league. 85 points would guarantee at the least 3rd position, so we’ve set up real well for the rest of the season.
    It’s also why we must get some new signings in January to help

  6. What a power House of an article you have crafted *Anders….

    I love it…..I mean every bit of it, it’s pure class.

    I will be direct with my response.

    A little chasing team….must not win beautiful all time, they may be dominated, out played but win with even their only shot on target, while being iron clad in the defense, as we have seen I our recent decline of over 1.5 goals prior to deforestation of forest with tractors.

    Again when such teams are in their bad game day, they settle for a draw and avoid defeat at all cost….

    I can’t mention consistency and need for avalanche of goals as these are kindergarten key points

    1. Thank you.
      Do you think, we might have enough this year to be title contenders with a few games left?

      1. Well my answer?

        NO

        NO WE ARE NOT TITTLE CONTENDERS….cos it’s just 12 games….we still have 26 games to play, if we had maintained our 4 points over our main rival , then we could be …let’s wait until our trips to Stamford bridge and Wolves, if we amass 6 points then I am sure , the spot light will be on us Woolwich after the Qatar tourney.

  7. Ball possession has little to do with being a title contender, title contenders take their chances, they remain consistent throughout the season. The defence has to be watertight and yeah you need luck too.

    It’s a match by match process, on paper Liverpool are title contenders but on the field of play it’s a different story, you to have the mental strength for you to be considered.

    At times not the best teams win a football match

  8. In my opinion, it is too early to decide if Arsenal are title contenders now. Title contenders, to me, are teams who are within 6 points at the top with 5 games to go, knowing a slip by the leading team could easily result in an overtake.
    Contending for the title in the EPL comes with a lot of pressure, and the young age of some our players might be a factor when the going gets tough. I will say if we are still top or within 6 points from top by middle of January, we go all out and get a few experienced players to help us challange but if not,we focus on improving the depth (if there is need) and wait till summer. However something tells me this season might be one of the best opportunities we would be having, and I hope Arteta and the board see it that way too.

  9. I loved your article Anders, and if I’m honest, I don’t know where to start.
    I’d like us to be considered contenders right now – purely based on the fact that we are looking competitive, together, and winning!
    I wonder if ManC worry about such things, although we do because our recent history shows that we haven’t been in contention and they have been for years
    Regardless of the pro or not sure views about Arteta, there is at present, a confidence within the team and half the battle is self belief. You only have to have watched the latter weeks of Emery to see how the players waved their arms about – blaming anyone but themselves when the chips were down. The present set up have a completely different mind set. The big IF is whether or not that continues through the season. I think that Arteta has been improving the mindset so the team DO believe in themselves.
    Without anything better to go on, I think that City do have some absolutely world class players and those individuals- such as KDB may just make the difference later on. Hope not, though!

    Sunday will be interesting

    1. Thank you.
      Can’t wait till Sunday myself 😉
      But through the season, we will encounter disappointments, and part of becoming winners is probably also how well you handle those disappointments.

  10. As it currently stands, of course Arsenal are title contenders. Arsenal has it’s best start of the season ever in it’s history, so, l can’t understand why Arsenal should not be considered title contenders, even when they are sitting at the top of the league with 31 points in 12 games. Had it been Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United in Arsenal’s position, they would have been considered title contenders. Unless there’s a massive drop off in current form, Arsenal remains title contenders. Arsenal has the most wins (10),second most goals scored (30) just behind Manchester city (37),second best defensive record, conceding 11 goals, just behind Newcastle 10 goals conceded and a goal difference of 19, which is second only to Manchester city’s 26. Arsenal has been the most consistent team this season and the only team to win five games in a row so far. This season Arsenal are the pace setter and rest of the teams are the chasers and unless they are toppled and overtaken by several teams, they remain title contenders. This Arsenal team is much better mentally, physically, skillfully ruthless and have the belief and confidence in each other. They have learned from the past experiences too. Arsenal should not be judged on their past or even last season. That was then, but, this is now. Saliba at the back and Jesus in attack is the big difference from last season. But, to sustain the title challenge, Arsenal must definitely strengthen the team in the January transfer window.

  11. We are clearly favorites and the most dangerous team in the league. Seeing city over dependency on Haaland, we will seal the title in April.

  12. We are contenders until another team wins more than Arsenal. This team reminds me of Leicester……..same questions but they kept winning. We are winning the title. So far the results trend towards that. Next game please!!

  13. Interesting article, Anders which gives us food for thought.

    I would like to throw into the debate the thought that exactly when in the seasonis a contender to be judged as being or not being one?
    This season, straight after the Community Shield, one week before season started, Liverpool beat City at Wembley and at that time, I suggest almost ALL fans thought Pool wouldf be serious contenders. Right now, they are 15 points behind ourselves and 13 behind City , who may well not even drop 13 more points all this season So right now, Pool are NOT contenders.

    But last season they were also well adrift of City, not as far as now but some way off, but lost the title only by a single point.
    I suggest there is NO definite, widely accepted definitionof what makes a “contender”, as it is a subjective call and also depends on EXACTLY WHEN in the seson each possible contender is judged as being contenders.

    And people will have as many opinions on this as on anything else An interesting can of worms then which you have opened, but not one that can ever be answered definitively. UNLESS you include City , who are more certainties than contenders, IMO.

    I suggest OUR CLUB ARE HUGE CONTENDERS TOO, BUT ONLY FOR SECOND PLACE. I base this last thought on mere hope not making a true contender.

    1. In principle, I agree. We each make our own definition.
      What is your definition? Let us for arguments sake say with 4 rounds to play. What will make a title contender?

      1. Anders, I assume you mean when we have four games left and other teams also.

        IF, at that stage, we are within 4 points of City with a better goal difference, then and only then, could I say we are real contenders.
        If we are more than 4 points behind or even just four but a far worse goal difference, Id say we are NOT contenders though. Fine margins, if you have only four games left.

        Personally, I feel City will pull right away from all the rest after WC concludes. I honestly feel that this year City are the only realistic contender . I do not like writing that but truth compels me to.

        1. So Jon fox you do agree we are contenders but not ‘real’ contenders. And it could be the other way round

          1. Kenya001, I assume you can read properly.

            That being so, you will note that I specifically said that “this year City are the only realistic contender”.

            That means for the actual title. I also said that “we are realistic contenders ONLY for second place” .

            I cannot put it any clearer in plain correct English. If you are not able to understand plain correct English, that is not my fault!

    2. Great article Anders.

      I agree with you Jon the big question is “when” can you judge a team has serious chances of winning the title.

      We could consider that only when the season’s almost finished we can tell the true title contenders but I find that a bit boring.

      I prefer “now” as long as the number of matches played isn’t too small. We’ve been through about a third of the season and it’s significant enough to mention title contenders even though it may change significantly as the season further unfolds.

      At this stage Arsenal are title contenders.
      Underdog to Man City but we have a good chance of winning the title. The Emirates is looking like a fortress and I can see us beating any team in there, including City.

      Spurs also are title contenders as of today and we can’t totally rule out ManU, Chelsea or Newcastle even though these three are less impressive. Liverpool are out of the race, one percent chance they can come back from such a poor start.

  14. Great article AndersS that takes me off on different tangents.

    Your not asking me what I think would be a successful season for starters!!!

    As of this minute in time, every other team in the PL must surely see us as title contenders?
    League positions speak for themselves, so by my definition, we truly are contenders.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball and there are so many factors to take into account before the end of the season.

    Because of those factors, I cannot possible answer your second question… sorry my friend!!!!

    Just a footnote regarding points tally you put up and those differences in points.

    If we do not finish within three or four points of the winners, would you say that’s a poor season and we were not title contenders?

  15. Thank you, Ken.
    Personally, I think a title contender is a team, which are within 5-6 points of the lead with 4 games to play, or thereabouts.
    Whether you have a succesfull season or not, depends on, where you were at the start.
    As we finished 24 points behind the winners last season, I think, it would be a success for us, if we cut that difference down by half this year.
    I don’t think it could be called poor by any means, if we don’t actually challenge for the title this season.
    However, if we don’t manage to actually challenge for the title some time over the next 3-4 years, I will be disappointed.

    1. A title contender is any team that has a chance of winning the title going into the last game of the season.

  16. I think people are actually making this a hard question to answer. To me if we agree that city are title contenders then what makes them contenders because they have the squad, the consistency and a sustainable system that can guarantee them points even without their biggest stars, arsenal is not occupying the 1st position by some luck but they have shown they are really good the only question is the they have they squad and a system that can give them points when the key players is having an off day. They way we play and the system we adapt is very sustainable the only thing that is keeping us in the dark as been title contenders is they squad that is where ee will be needing a big luck with player fitness and injuries, even when spurs where winning games people didn’t consider them contenders because the system they are playing they are not yet perfect with each and opponents outplayed them yet they got the results it was only a matter of time before they run out of luck.. Performance wise we and city have been the only outstanding team, the question is if arsenal are not title contenders they who is? Even if we fell apart that doest mean we were not, just like a race there will be early contenders there may be a late surge from any other team, if after game 35 a team pulls a magnificent stringe of results and sundenly see themselves 3 points behind the leaders does that make the teams fighting at the top before game 35 didn’t contend. Arsenal and city are title contenders until they fall apart and overtaken by another team they remain title contenders you start contending for the title from game 1 not game 38

  17. Personally I thought we were as much title contenders in 10/11( this season always gets overlooked, we were fighting on four fronts until we suffered the shock defeat to Birmingham in the LC final) and 15/16 as in 07/08 and 13/14 where we eventually dropped away in February due to key injuries and losing crucial matches against our Top 4 rivals at the time.

    In terms of this season whether we can last the duration will depend on a number of key factors such as whether we can keep the majority of our starters fit(Partey, Saka, Saliba and Jesus in particular) what we do in the January transfer window, whether City drop from their usual standard and ofcourse a lot of luck! However as things currently stand as someone named Curtis Shaw said “we are in it until we are not in it”

  18. Anders well written article and excellent questions for debate.
    So onto my view, The plemier league has 20 teams contending for the title, after all just like a race everyone starts with a chance of winning it! Now contending for the title doesn’t necessarily equate to actually challenging to win it. Winning games all rather most games gives you the chance to contend / strongly challenge for the title. We are winning games which gives us a chance albeit how slim or grand it is there is a chance of winning it. So Anders we are title contenders. Will we win? That is depent on so many factors

  19. It’s true that Arsenal were title contenders in the 07!08 and 13/14 seasons respectively. But how came it on earth in those 2 past seasons that made Arsenal to not have pushed harder enough that will see them win the League title in the 2007/2008 seacon? When they were only 4 points behind the eventual winners that season is baffling, unpardonable and unaccepted in all the ramifications of things in the Epl title win,. Because as the Gunners of that time were only 4 points away from winning the title, that was a big chance missed by them to win the title which they ought to had made good to win but missed to successfully accomplished the win at that season. Given that they were close.
    So therefore, whatever it will take the Gunners to win the title this season, let them give it all to win it and win the League this season unfailingly. God’s willing. For, it’s long overdue for Arsenal to win the title again. Therefore, let the Gunners sustain their current leadership at the top of the League with a sustain campaign in the League campaign that will see Arsenal remained on top of the League table to the very season’s end this season.
    In this quest, I want to be counted among the said few Gooners who believe that Arsenal will in this season’s Epl campaign win the title. So as us belief in Arsenal, let it therefore be according to our beliefs,

  20. League position.
    Points on the board.
    Consistency relative to opponents; ie winning games you should win, including making home ground a fortress.
    Squad depth.
    Lack of injuries to key players.

  21. The only season in recentish times I’ve felt like we actually looked like champions, and didn’t win the league was 07/08. They was a proper team and very decent squad, and I believe they only lost it because of tremendous bad luck towards the end of the season. Never since then have I thought we were actually good enough to win a title, excepting the possibility where every other team implodes. This season may be similar to 07/08 – we’ve dominated plenty of games which is the key indicator for me – but we’ll have to see if we can keep it going to the end.

  22. True title contenders are those that can still win the league with a couple of games to go!!!!!! Like NYG said, until then everyone are hopefuls. It means you have actually contended and not just made up the numbers.

  23. We are a turkey contender right now. Whether we will remain a contender in March is not know but we are right now. Ball possession, dominating big teams doesn’t matter. We have the points and the lead

  24. This seems an easy question. A title contender is, as it says on the tin, a club that’s believed to be in contention for a title.

    Anyone who’s leading the race should, therefore, be seen a contender by definition.

    I find it strange to look at the final finishing positions to decide who was and who was not a contender – when it’s over, no-one’s a contender, they’re either the winner or they’re not.

    So – being a contender is a moving target. It changes as time goes by, so a side that has a *realistic* chance to overtake the leading teams can be seen as a contender rather than just looking at what’s mathematically possible.

    Suppose the results between now January mean that Spurs lose some games and their chances of overhauling *both* us and City are low, then they’d no longer be seen as title contenders. But…

    They may go on a long winning streak while we lose a few and City do as well. So the perception that they were not contenders would have been wrong and that’s the point: it’s a subjective, personal perception thing, it’s not something you can calculate precisely – and the perception changes over time as the results change the picture.

    I think AW said the same when he said something like “As long as we’re top, you can’t count us out”.

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