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Can Arsenal move into first (and stay there) during the Christmas fixtures?

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Arsenal play four matches in the next 16 days, starting with a match that could allow Arsenal to build on its goal differential and set up for being (and staying) in first by the first few days of 2016.

"Hey, I cannot wait to overwhelm you with my handsomeness on Jan. 2!"
"Hey, I cannot wait to overwhelm you with my handsomeness on Jan. 2!"
Stu Forster/Getty Images

As pretty much every Arsenal fan knows, Leicester's dream season continued Monday with a 2-1 win over Chelsea, revaulting the Foxes to a two-point lead over Arsenal in the Premier League table. Over the next 16 calendar days, each Premier League team will play four matches, passing the halfway mark of the season in the process -- and it's a period that could do much to shape the race. Arsenal's upcoming Monday match against City is only one of two head-to-head contests in the next four matchweeks involving Top Five teams, but in a race where only three points separate first from third, and with Arsenal enjoying a goal differential advantage over every other Premier League team, even the slightest separation on points could make a difference in the race.

Here's a quick look at the most important matches of the matchweeks as well as how other title rivals* will be preoccupied. (Home teams listed first.)

* For now, we'll call the top five teams in the table the title rivals, which means that we're including our North London neighbors in the mix. Oddsmakers still have Liverpool and even Chelsea (!) ahead of 6th place Palace and sixth-place Watford, so probably best to take a wait-and-see approach with anyone out of the Top Five (though of Palace, 'Pool, and Chelsea, I'd pick Palace to finish highest of the three right now, no matter how much the Reds gegenpress or no matter who Roman hires next.)

Matchweek 17

Most Pivotal Match

Arsenal v. Manchester City (Monday, December 21, noon PT / 3 pm ET): This has been circled on many Arsenal calendars for quite some time, and could come down to whether our returning-from-injury South American offensive threat is better than theirs.

Other Matches Involving the Top Five

Everton v. Leicester, Manchester United v. Norwich City, Southampton v. Tottenham (all Saturday 12/19, 7 am PT / 10 am ET)

Matchweek 18

Most Pivotal Match

Liverpool v. Leicester (Saturday, December 26, 7 am PT / 10 am ET): This is Leicester's second Merseyside trip in a week, and a match with potential to bump Leicester from the top rung. If there's a Top Four narrative in the season for Liverpool, a result from this match will be part of it.

Other Matches Involving the Top Five

Stoke City v. Manchester United (Saturday, December 26, 4:45 am PT / 7:45 pm ET); Manchester City v. Sunderland, Tottenham v. Norwich City (Saturday, December 26, 7 am PT / 10 am ET); Southampton v. Arsenal (Saturday, December 26, 11:45 am PT / 2:45 pm ET)

Matchweek 19

Most Pivotal Match

Leicester v. Manchester City (Tuesday, December 29, 11:45 am PT / 1:45 pm ET): For City, it's a second match against a Top Four opponent inside of nine days, and for Leicester, it's a third straight match against a top-half opponent. We probably root for a tie here, yes?

Other Matches Involving the Top Five

Watford v. Tottenham (Monday, December 28, 7 am PT / 10 am ET); Arsenal v. Bournemouth, Manchester United v. Chelsea (Monday, December 28, 9:30 am PT / 12:30 pm ET)

Matchweek 20

There's Not Really a Most Pivotal Match, So . . .

Arsenal v. Newcastle (Saturday, January 2, 7 am PT / 10 am ET): In a week in which none of the current Top Five teams go head-to-head, there's a potential for Arsenal to win and pump up its goal differential, because quite frankly, the other Top Five teams are playing more competitive teams this matchweek, and yes, I'm counting Swansea in that.

Other Matches Involving the Top Five

Leicester v. Bournemouth, Manchester United v. Swansea (Saturday, January 2, 7 am PT / 10 am ET); Watford v. Manchester City (Saturday, January 2, 9:30 am PT / 12:30 pm ET); Everton v. Tottenham (Sunday, January 3, 8 am PT / 11 am ET)