To say that the Premier League has failed to live up to its pre-season hype would be a bit of an understatement – it has been far worse thus far. The riveting 2016/17 that we had all hoped for has only had glimpses of being one – at least until now – since it has all been about Chelsea, their domination and their obliteration of the opponents. Judging by the recent turn of events, it should in all probability be a one horse race, should there be no vicissitude in place for the Blues.
Antonio Conte’s Invincibles virtually guaranteed the top spot, we are left with the question as to who would the other three to join them in the top four spots be. Truth be told, the race for the Champions League spots is more exhilarating than the title race and one that will certainly go down to the wire if all the so-termed big boys continue to be as inconsistent as they have been nearly all season.
With just 13 fixtures remaining in the Premier League, it’ll beyond peradventure, only get tighter and tougher for those aiming for the Champions League spots. Will Arsenal miss out? Will Manchester United defy the odds to gain automatic UCL qualification? Let’s assess each of the top six’s chances.
Arsenal’s season took a turn for the worse when they lost a midweek fixture to Everton, having led the game at one stage. For some, it was a minor blip but for the others, it was the start of another familiar implosion. A couple of months later, the Gunners have fallen nine points behind Chelsea with four defeats in their last 10 matches.
Arsene Wenger’s side are the most obfuscating of all in the sense that they are very-very good once they get going but an unmitigated disaster when they don’t, so it’s hard to tell as to where will they end up. However, going by all of Arsenal’s recent campaigns and others’ inconsistencies too, they may yet finish strongly.
England’s best team by a million miles and worthy residents of the summit, Chelsea have been more than a force under the newly appointed Conte, a reflection of which is their nine-point lead over title rivals. Ever since their switch to 3-4-3 following a 3-0 hammering at The Emirates Stadium at the hands of Arsenal, they haven’t looked back and only got better.
There being no suggestion of the Blues slowing down, it’s only a matter of when rather than if for Chelsea to be crowned the Champions of England.
Liverpool in 2016 and Liverpool in 2017 are two very different teams – one was a bottle of champagne and the other a mere bottle. Like Arsenal, Liverpool too weren’t far away from Chelsea during the festive period, but have fallen behind since with just one major win in 2017 (2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur), bringing about an end to their title challenge.
So it’s back to aiming for UCL qualification for Jurgen Klopp’s side, unless, of course, they go on some kind of a run and Chelsea blow it away, in which case, the title race will be blown open too. Liverpool’s win drought now done and dusted with a win against Spurs, they can get themselves back on track and see what happens.
The most disappointing team among the current top six. For all of Manchester City’s bloated riches and the overhyped appointment of Pep Guardiola, they’ve been a total shemozzle. Not that the manager is to be blamed, but Pep can’t be spared either for not improving the defence and spending heavily on forwards.
A win against Bournemouth may lift City to second position in the table, but they don’t seem like they can finish among the top four, the issues being as they currently are.
But for their drop in form after an excellent start to the campaign, Manchester United could have been in the hunt for the title. Unbeaten in the Premier League for some time now, Jose Mourinho’s side have improved, even if the league position might not reflect it.
Presently, the luck isn’t just favouring the Reds, but they must be patient and keep playing the way they are – the reward will eventually come.
It’s not too often that any Tottenham Hotspur side puts up a genuine title challenge in consecutive seasons, so for Mauricio Pochettino’s team to do that speaks a lot about how well have they played under the Argentine despite the daunting presence of the big four.
Tottenham’s slow start to the season will most likely prove to be decisive come the end of the season, but the runner-up spot appears to be a realistic aim.
Final Top Four:
4. Tottenham Hotspur