Why Arsenal and Liverpool Are in Danger of a February Collapse

"A week is a long time in politics."

It is a phrase usually attributed to former British Prime Minister Howard Wilson, the suggestion being that a lot can change in such a small space of time. The same can, of course, be said for many areas in society, particularly football.

Just a matter of days ago, on December 3, Arsene Wenger insisted that Arsenal was not done in the race for the Premier League title. His Shetland pony was still capable of catching Pep Guardiola's City stallion, he said, despite falling 12 points behind the runaway leader.

But it's already got worse. The first hurdle may have proved fatal. Guardiola's team eased past Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday (December 10) just hours after Arsenal had been held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton, seeing City's lead grow even further. Arsenal, fifth in the table, is now closer to the relegation zone on points than it is to the Premier League summit.

The situation isn't much better for Liverpool, one place above in fourth, as it also looks at the gulf that continues to open up above. But the situation could be about to get a whole lot worse.

January tends to offer a time for teams in the healthy parts of the table to get stronger, to bolster further in an attempt for an even higher finish come May. Yet both Liverpool and Arsenal will be wary of what the new year could bring.

In north London, at the Emirates Stadium, the precarious situation over the future of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil continues. Both players will be free agents at the end of the season, so far unwilling to sign a contract extension at Arsenal and therefore free to speak to any club they wish next month.

Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger
Jurgen Klopp, left, and Arsene Wenger at Anfield, Liverpool, England, January 13, 2016. The January transfer window could harm Liverpool and Arsenal's chances of a top-four finish. Alex Livesey/Getty

The 17-point gap between Arsenal and City could get even larger if Guardiola gets his man, with the Catalan coach keen on taking Sanchez to the Etihad. City saw a summer bid for Sanchez rejected but is expected to return again in January as Guardiola seeks domination not only in England but across Europe.

Ozil could end up joining Sanchez on the new year's trip up north as the German playmaker is wanted by Jose Mourinho, his former coach at Real Madrid who is now trying to lead a revival at Manchester United.

Liverpool, meanwhile, holds a more powerful position. The Merseyside club has already rejected Philippe Coutinho's attempts to leave Anfield for Barcelona, but the Brazilian continues to suggest he is preparing to leave.

"I do not know how the future is going to be," the Brazilian said last week. "What will happen in January, we will know it in January. I do not know if there will be an offer." The La Liga leader is expected to return once again for Coutinho, and this time the temptation may be too hard to resist.

The Premier League's so-called "super six" managers—Guardiola, Mourinho, Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte—cannot all succeed, as we are frequently told.

Six does not go into four; two will fail to qualify for next year's Champions League. If January ends up going the way many suspect it will, Wenger and Klopp could end up being the two left without an invitation to the European party next year.