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Why Arsenal fans will want to see a Spurs win at Everton

For a brief moment when studying the table, Arsenal fans can enjoy the sight of their team basking in a five-point lead on Chelsea, their nearest rivals in the league.

Arsenal are currently 4/1 to win the Premier League title.

A win for either Everton or Tottenham in the early kick-off will chisel away at that gap – an away win for Spurs will cut Arsenal’s lead to three points.

Surely the draw would be preferable for Gunners’ followers then, as that would preserve the gap at five points?

Not if you look at Arsenal’s record of exploiting big, early season leads at the top of the table. Leads of five points or more before the end of the year don’t happen every season. But when they have happened to Arsenal in the last eleven seasons, nothing good has come of them.

In that time, eight teams have held leads of five points or more in the pre-January part of the season. Five of them have gone on to win the title that year. Two of the three who failed were Arsenal, in 2004/5 and 2002/3.

In 2004/5 they held a five-point lead over Chelsea in October. By the end of the year, however, Chelsea had snatched that lead away and turned it into a five-point gap of their own, which they carried through to their first Premier League title. A couple of draws against ordinary teams were all it took to wreck the Gunners’ momentum.

In 2002/3 they had also seen in the new year with a five-point lead over Chelsea and Manchester United. Again, too many draws did them in, while United put in a run of 15 wins and three draws in their last 18 games.

In the Invincible season, by contrast, they weren’t even top on January 1.

With trips to Dortmund and Manchester United coming up, the more pessimistic Arsenal fans fear that this could be another of their famous weeks when the wheels come off.

There have been plenty of occasions in recent seasons when all has seemed set fair only for Arsenal to fall out of contention of several trophies in short order, usually picking up a few serious injuries on the way.

So perhaps Arsenal would be better off handling the pressure of a narrow lead, rather than the pressure of a big one. Basking doesn’t suit them.