fter Arsenal were held to a draw at Anfield on Sunday, the momentum in the title race swung in the direction of Manchester City.
The Gunners are six points clear of City with just eight matches to go, but Pep Guardiola’s side have a game in hand and, crucially, host Arsenal on April 26. That match is already being billed as a title-decider, but before then Arsenal have the chance to open up a nine-point lead.
City may be many people’s favourites for the title, but Arsenal have an advantage when it comes to the fixture schedule. After being knocked out of the Europa League, Mikel Arteta’s side sole focus is the Premier League.
It has provided them with clear weeks, like this one building up to West Ham on Sunday, and their hand has been strengthened further by the fact the Hammers were playing Gent in Belgium on Thursday night in the first leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final.
Arteta knows all about the challenges of playing Thursday, then Sunday, and the fact his side have been spared it and their opponents have that exact issue is a big bonus.
After West Ham, the Gunners then host Southampton next Friday before travelling to the Etihad the following Wednesday. Had they been in Europe, the schedule would have been far worse. Arsenal would have played on Thursday night, travelled to West Ham three days later, before facing another European game on Thursday and then hosting Southampton on Sunday.
The fixture gods have been even kinder, with the news that Arsenal’s game against Chelsea on April 29 has been moved to May 2. Suddenly, instead of playing the Blues just three days after City, the Gunners have a full five days of training in between.
With City having to juggle both the Champions League and FA Cup, the onus is on Arsenal to make the most of their clear calendar, starting on Sunday. Arsenal boast a good record against the Hammers and have lost just one of their past 14 League games against them.
West Ham are expected to sit deep and try to frustrate the Gunners, who have improved at breaking down low-block defences this season.
Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are both in double figures for League goals this season, while they also have good memories of playing West Ham. Saka has scored or assisted in each of his past three League games against them, while Martinelli has scored or assisted in all four of his League starts against them.
The two wingers are expected to play on Sunday, but Leandro Trossard is pushing to start and Eddie Nketiah is back fit after six weeks out with an ankle injury.