In May, after one of the most disappointing seasons in years, Arsenal finished 21 points behind champions United, a huge margin to make up. With the two going head to head this season, and the latter seemingly matching their points accumulation rate of last season, how can Arsenal bridge the gap?
The answer comes in looking at the results over the Christmas period. It all began with a home double header against Chelsea and Spurs, games that last season gleaned a respectable four points. This time around, the maximum six were taken. A fine start.
The Boxing Day trip to Portsmouth was not the disaster many claimed it was, the draw matching last season’s result, but what followed was fantastic. Last season, Everton inflicted a late 1-0 defeat at Goodison and West Ham won by the same scoreline at the Emirates. This time, the former were dispatched 4-1 while West Ham were brushed aside on New Years Day, 2-0.
Those five matches produced only five points last season, but thirteen this. That’s an eight point swing, and fortnights like that help explain how we’re now on a very healthy 50 points from 21 games, on course for 90.5 points. Last season United won the league with 89.
In fact, Arsenal are only 18 points short of their final total from last season (68), and there are still 17 games to play. Quite an improvement.
The West Ham victory was comfortable rather than spectacular, with Eduardo’s fine second minute goal, his tenth of the season, followed up by Adebayor’s extraordinary goal from the touchline. West Ham had chances, but rarely tested Almunia, and after going two down seemed deflated.
In the second half, Arsenal controlled the game more than they have of late, and Cesc began to boss the midfield in a way reminiscent of the opening part of the season.
So, New Year is always a time to assess, and it’s fair to say the opening five months of the season have been outstanding. Fifty points from 21 games is a superb return, given that not so many years ago, two points per game was seen as the benchmark of champions. Of course the bar has now been raised, which makes it even more impressive that we’re up there.