The Gunners drew 2-2 at home to Manchester City at the weekend and have just one win against a Champions League contender all season
It was not too difficult to see Arsenal’s failure to close the gap between themselves and Manchester City coming.
The Gunners had won just one of their seven matches against opponents currently in the top six going into Sunday’s match at the Emirates Stadium and did not add to that total in the 2-2 draw.
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As a result, they are now seven points behind City, albeit with a game in hand, and facing an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League. But which team has fared the best against their biggest rivals this season?
These standings are made up solely of the results of the current top six’s games against each other.
Arsenal have the worst points-per-game rate of any of the six clubs at 0.8, earning just six points in total from eight games. Manchester United have also put up just six points but have played two games of this type fewer than the Gunners.
At the other end of the table, Liverpool have a points-per-game rate against the best teams in the country that is actually better than their overall points-per-game rate against the league as a whole this season. The Reds are on course to finish with 74 points but would have 76 if they played a full season at their top-six rate.
Chelsea fall in between Liverpool and Tottenham in second, but it is worth bearing in mind that two of the Blues’ losses – to Liverpool and Arsenal – came before they had made the switch to a 3-4-3 formation that has turned them into runaway leaders at the top of the table. Since then, Antonio Conte’s men have won four, drawn one and lost one of these matches for a 2.2 points-per-game rate.
Tottenham and Man City have an identical record, with only Spurs’ superior goal difference separating them. If Mauricio Pochettino’s team had matched Chelsea’s record in these games, they would be just three points behind the Blues in the title race.
United, meanwhile, have four matches left against these teams, which makes their record more difficult to assess. At the moment, it matches up fairly closely to Tottenham and City’s but could be significantly better or worse depending on their results between now and the end of the season.
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Liverpool’s form against the rest of the top six may land them a place in the Champions League, but having played all 10 of their games against those opponents they will now need to fare better than they have up to this point against the rest of the division.
Remarkably, the Reds have also done the double over Everton this season and won the two games they have played against West Brom and Stoke City in eighth and ninth respectively, with the return fixtures against those teams still to come. That means they have a points-per-game rate of 2.3 against the top-nine teams in the league and just 1.7 against the rest.
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Arsenal’s final two matches against their Champions League rivals come away to Tottenham and at home to United, and the latter in particular could be decisive in their quest to keep up their long streak of qualifying for Europe’s top competition. If they fail to make the top four, they may well look back on these games as where the damage was done.