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Arsenal’s success against top opponents may be deciding factor

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Emirates stadium went absolutely crazy following Danny Welbeck’s header deep into extra time against league-leading Leicester City on Sunday afternoon. Welbeck, who came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute, had missed nearly 10 months of action due to a serious knee injury prior to the weekend. The England international was on the pitch for only 12 minutes before turning the Premier League title race completely on its head. The 2-1 narrow victory for the Gunners places them only two points back from the surprise package, Leicester City.

Welbeck undoubtedly has his fair share of skeptics, and while he certainly has never been one to be near or at the top of any goalscoring lists, the former Manchester United player has scored some vital goals for the Gunners during his short time as an Arsenal player. Prior to suffering the aforementioned knee injury last season, Welbeck tormented his former club by scoring the eventual match-deciding goal in the FA Cup quarterfinals at Old Trafford. Add this to his latest triumph and Welbeck is turning into a fan-favorite, despite his flaws.

SEE MORE: 5 reasons why it didn’t make any sense for Man United to sell Danny Welbeck.

The Arsenal win on Sunday was not only crucial in the title race, but it continued the club’s impressive form against fellow top five Premier League clubs on the season. During the current campaign, the Gunners have racked up four wins, one draw and zero losses against clubs currently sitting in the top five of the table (Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United). The four wins against top opposition are more than the previous three seasons combined.

Arsenal’s positive results against successful teams in the 2015/16 seasons is certainly dissimilar from their recent history. Over the last decade, the Gunners have only recorded 21 victories out of the 80 matches played against clubs that finished inside the top five (26% win rate). In fact, the last time in which the north London club picked up four victories during these matches in a single season, club legend Dennis Bergkamp had just retired and Joey Barton was plying his trade for Manchester City (2006/07).

(The table below shows matches against eventual top five opponents during Premier League play.)

WinsDrawsLosses
2015/16410
2014/15143
2013/14134
2012/13125
2011/12314
2010/11323
2009/10116
2008/09341
2007/08332
2006/07431
2005/06134

The Gunners still have three matches against top five opponents remaining on the schedule: Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester City. All three of these massive matches are away from the Emirates Stadium.

SEE MORE: Predictions of remaining Premier League title race results and final table.

With these tricky away fixtures still on the schedule, Arsenal will have an uphill battle to lift the trophy come season’s end (despite the fact that the Gunners are currently the title favorites). Nevertheless, seeing the team play much more confidently against top clubs is surely a welcome change for Arsenal fans. The team’s inability to compete against fellow contenders has unquestionably greatly hindered their title hopes in recent memory. If Arsenal can continue their positive run for the trio of title-tilting games, the north London could be in pole position to collect their first league title in over a decade.

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