All the Math: Crunching Numbers on the Last Three Weeks

MMMMMMMMATH! - Matthew Lewis

Now that Arsenal's mathematically eliminated from the title, our advice to you is to root hard for a Chelsea late-season collapse. (As if you need the encouragement.)

When the final whistle blew on Liverpool's 3-2 outlasting of Norwich City on Sunday morning, Arsenal's Premier League title aspirations came to an unceremonious, whimpering end. Despite being on top of the table for 128 days this season, Liverpool's incredible run since January has vaulted them to the 80 point threshold; even in beating Hull on Sunday to keep pace with the league's other top teams, Arsenal's maximum point total this year will be 79.

To gain the fourth and final Champions League spot, the formula is simple: win, win, and win. Everton's a point behind the Gunners, and leads in goal differential 23-21, so by winning the rest of its matches, Arsenal stays a point ahead of Everton, and doesn't have to worry about needing to make up the goal differential margin in the final three weeks should they arrive at a tie in the standings -- or rue almost-goals like Olivier Giroud's play on Steve Harper's late-match howler Sunday that caromed off the woodwork.

There's also a path to third place and avoiding the Champions League opening round (which resulted in a lovely trip to Turkey and its hospitality last August) -- but it involves a fairly epic Chelsea collapse, if you believe that losing to 20th place Sunderland the week before playing Liverpool might herald a collapse. Chelsea only needs five points from its last three games to get to 80 points and surpass Arsenal -- but if Liverpool wins on Sunday, Chelsea then needs five points off two games (or four points plus its 41-21 goal differential advantage) to finish ahead of Arsenal in the standings. The bad news is that Chelsea's final two matches are hosting Norwich and at Cardiff, who are relegation-bound -- but also, conversely, still in a relegation scrap.

Manchester City, with its game in hand, is the wild card here -- with 74 points on 34 games, they can get to 86 and currently hold a goal differential of 56-52 over Liverpool. (I pause here to marvel at the absurdity of those goal differentials.) City finishes at Palace, at Everton, hosting Villa, and hosting West Ham. Liverpool finishes by hosting Chelsea, at Palace, and hosting a suddenly-very-toothless-looking Newcastle.

The one thing that is a reasonable certainty is that St. Totteringham's Day will be celebrated, as soon as Saturday when Spurs face Stoke at Potters' Palace. A Stoke win would make it mathematically impossible for Spurs to catch Arsenal, whereas a tie would require Spurs to win its remaining games and to somehow overcome a goal differential margin of 19, with Arsenal losing all its remaining games, in order for Spurs to finish above Arsenal in the table. Even an Arsenal tie on Monday coupled with a Spurs tie Saturday, or an Arsenal win on Monday, gets Arsenal above Spurs no matter what.

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