Predicting the future is pretty much impossible – no matter what that lady in the tent in Blackpool told you.
Predicting the Premier League though, is as difficult as gravel-throated Sean Dyche singing falsetto.
Fear not though, there are certain pointers and clues between the lines that can shorten the odds and ease your mental anguish.
Fourteen games into the thirty eight that consist of a Premier League season, it is as typically tight as ever. Can Arsenal finally break their thirteen year hiatus from the title? The football odds suggest so.
The clues are there, but how much faith can we place in them when Leicester City won the title last year? The Foxes pretty much cantered the league and the season prior, they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. Can form really last over a whole season like it did with Ranieri’s men?
One thing Leicester did well was deal with the big teams. The clubs who begin every season with genuine title aspirations were undone by Vardy, Mahrez and company as their pragmatic style and switched-on defending were the rocks which Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and pretty much every other team crashed upon.
Everyone but Arsenal, that is.
The Gunners – and Liverpool once – were the only teams to break down the equation that was Leicester’s gameplan and Arsenal did it both home and away. Yet Arsene Wenger’s team finished a distant ten points behind the Foxes in second place – and lost four more games than the eventual champions.
The fact remains though, that it is usually how you deal with the big games that keeps your ship on the correct course. Those that crumble on the big occasions can be found in a heap, crawling towards the Europa League.
On that front, approaching the halfway point, Arsenal are faring well. In four matches against their traditional rivals (United, tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool) hey have picked up five points from a possible twelve. Not exactly fanfare-inducing, but crucially, they have lost only once – the first game of the season against Liverpool with a makeshift backline.
Jose Mourinho has made a career from playing crunch fixtures with the mantra ‘Do not lose.’ He sends his troops into battle happy to play for a point, and they will get back to winning ways against the weaker swimmers. It has served him well and even with an unsettled team at United, his eleven are still a formidable test.
Arsene Wenger has assembled a far stronger unit that in previous seasons, and possess one of the most lethal strikers in the league in Alexis Sanchez.
Last season the Chilean was out on the left which is his preferred position, but this campaign has seen a move to a central striking spot – and Alexis now sits atop the scoring charts. Every title challenger needs a prolific goalscorer and Arsene Wenger has once again worked his magic and made some subtle changes to create a goalscoring threat.
Just one of the reasons why Arsenal are vastly improved from last season, and one of the biggest lies with the Gunners annual malaise come each November.
Their yearly wobbles have seen them first clumsily stumble, then cruelly trip over their own feet in years gone by in the eleventh month of the year. This season, as well as their more stoic outlook in the bigger games, has seen that stiff upper lip affect their statistically weakest moments.
Three Premier League matches were played by Arsenal in November – and none were lost. They weren’t pretty, in fact they were the antithesis of what Arsenal represent, but they did not taste defeat. One win and two draws were bagged and if we were to count cup games as well, then there would be only one loss in six.
They kept pace with Chelsea at the top of the league, they present a much stiffer challenge to their title rivals, and their squad is well stocked in all positions.
These are the pointers, the clues between the lines, that say that Arsenal are nearer than ever to holding aloft the trophy they haven’t touched in thirteen years. There are huge hurdles to overcome yet – at least twenty four of them – but Gooners everywhere can be filled with optimism that they are on the right track.
The bookies see Arsenal as one of the favourites as well as a few others. Perhaps they might be onto something.