x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Manchester United will beat Arsenal to the title by a whisker

With 10 games left in the title race, it is prediction time, and I reckon Manchester United will have a two-point lead over Arsenal come the end of the season.

Manchester United and Arsenal lead the battle to become Premier League champions. Clive Mason / Getty Images
Manchester United and Arsenal lead the battle to become Premier League champions. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Making predictions is easy, getting them right is another thing.

At the start of last season, The National's English football correspondent, Richard Jolly, picked out Liverpool to win the Premier League - they finished seventh. But logic said Liverpool were a good pick, having come second in 2008/09.

However, with just 10 games left for most Premier League teams, it is easier to predict who will win the Premier League title. There are fewer variables and more statistics to back things up. So here goes:

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The two main contenders are Manchester United in first place (played 29, 60 points) and Arsenal (played 28, 57 points). But with 30 points still on offer, Manchester City and Chelsea still have hope. Tottenham Hotspur, 12 points behind United, have too much to do to make up that gap.

I have predicted the results for each of the top four's remaining matches - based on statistics and hunches - and have United winning the title by two points from Arsenal. Let me explain the logic.

Y The key game in the title race is United's trip to Arsenal on May 1. I've gone with a draw as Sir Alex Ferguson's men have a pretty decent record away at the Gunners. Their form in their last eight matches is W-L-D-L-D-W-D-D.

Y Arsenal also host Liverpool and could drop points - three of the last five meetings at the Emirates stadium have ended 1-1.

Y Arsenal's trickiest away games come at Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City. Their last eight games at Bolton have yielded three wins, three defeats and two draws. They have a loss and a draw at Stoke. So they will probably drop points in one of those two games.

Y United's home form this season (W13, D1, L0) is excellent. They should win all of their remaining games at Old Trafford, except for the visit of Chelsea. But United have lost just one in the last five at home to Chelsea, and a draw will probably be a favourable result.

Y Likewise, United's away form has let them down with only four wins from 15 games. But they only have four away matches left, including the trip to the Emirates. Of the other games, Blackburn Rovers stands out as the toughest - in their last 10 trips to Ewood Park, they have only won twice, drawing five.

Y Both of the top two have defensive problems. United have an entire back four out, including Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but the impending international break provides healing time.

Arsenal's big miss is Johan Djourou. The Swiss defender is said to be out for the season. Arsenal have not lost a league match this season with Djourou in the team. His partnership with Laurent Koscielny had conceded just two in nine matches.

Y As for the chasing pack, I think Chelsea will edge above City into third place. The two meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Though City won 4-2 there last season, Roberto Mancini, their manager, has played conservative tactics on his trips to United, Arsenal and Tottenham this season, leading to a defeat and two draws.

If the Italian is happy to protect a Champions League position then he will probably field a conservative side against Chelsea, who have the firepower in attack to break most teams down.

Y Chelsea have a powder puff next six games and it is easy to see them winning them all. However, if they are still in the Champions League and the Premier League is out of their grasp, I can see Carlo Ancelotti resting players in his final few matches and a few points being dropped.

Y City's big worry is that their form has tailed off. They have only two wins in their last five league games and one was a laboured 1-0 result at home to Wigan Athletic. A feasible scenario us that they could end up level with Tottenham, fighting for fourth spot and the final Champions League place. But City's goal difference (+20 compared to +7) gives them the edge over Spurs.

 

twoods@thenational.ae