Leicester's win on Saturday, coupled with Arsenal and Spurs' draw, left Leicester five points up on Spurs and eight points up on Arsenal with nine matches to play. That's the bad news -- bad news that leads to this alarming stat from the folks that bring you the Soccer Power Index.
Leicester City’s Premier League title chances have doubled (per SPI) since Wednesday pic.twitter.com/d3sD7EBnyR— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2016
It feels a bit like the 2016 Republican primaries, where (bear with the metaphor for a second) Leicester is the unexpected, Donald Trump-like leader and current favorite, and Tottenham Hotspur is second-place Ted Cruz, who has the best mathematical case at the moment to be the spoiler to Leicester's season-long party. This makes Arsenal, then, Marco Rubio -- currently third place, missing out on wins at a key, narrative-turning point in the season, and clinging on to a hope that is running headlong against numbers.
The good news, if there's good news to be had in all this, is that Arsenal's not mathematically eliminated from Premier League contention yet, and optimistic Arsenal fans can point to the fixture lists to make a case that hope should still exist.
There are no games in hand, so all three teams have a possible 27 points remaining. If Arsenal goes on a nine-match win streak to close out the season, they'd finish with 79 points, four points better than they managed in '14-'15. Leicester currently sits on 60 points to Spurs' 55 and Arsenal's 52, and both the Foxes and Spurs have significant goal differential advantages at the moment. So, if Arsenal can close the season out perfectly, three losses from Leicester and two losses from Spurs would be enough to swing the title to Arsenal.
Leicester's remaining fixture list looks like this:
Newcastle, @ Palace, Southampton, @ Sunderland, West Ham, Swansea, @ United, Everton, @ Chelsea.
That's right -- there's a final-day scenario in which Arsenal fans are rooting for Chelsea. The good news in this is that Leicester's mostly against relegation-threatened teams fighting for their existence or teams that are fighting for Champions League position. (Plus, of course, a final game against Hiddink Chelsea, which appear miles more competent than Mourinho Chelsea.)
Spurs' remaining fixture list looks like this:
@ Villa, Bournemouth, @Liverpool, United, @ Stoke, West Brom, @ Chelsea, Southampton, @ Newcastle.
There's lots of potential here for dropped points -- at Anfield, hosting United, at Chelsea, and even at Stoke. The final-day match is before a Toon crowd who could be competing with rivals Sunderland for the final Premier League safe spot.
And Arsenal's remaining fixture list looks like this:
West Brom, @ Everton, Watford, @ West Ham, Palace, @ Sunderland, Norwich, @ City, Villa.
Save for a Europe-minded West Ham and City, most of the difficult second-half-of-the-season matches have already been played. While Sunderland and Norwich will be in the thick of a relegation battle at the very time they end up on Arsenal's schedule, Villa will have likely been relegated for weeks by the time they come to the Emirates for their Premier League sendoff. Four of the next five weeks' matches come against teams that are in the league's Irrelevant Zone at 11th through 14th.
If there's reason for optimism, it's in the way that the final section of the season sets up for all the teams. However, it's contingent on Arsenal doing something it hasn't done since December -- stringing together three wins in a row.