Arsenal, Liverpool or United? A complete analysis of the top-4 race in the Premier League

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Arsenal, Liverpool or United? A complete analysis of the top-4 race in the Premier League

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Faizan Qadiri

03/09/2017

€1.3bn! That is the amount shared among the European clubs who took part in the Champions League this season. Forget the money, it is the glory and the sheer attraction of the League that keeps most European circuits alive until the last day of the domestic campaign.

The Premier League is already done and dusted, and has been for over a month, as no team appears to have the capability or the consistency to keep up with Chelsea who sit pretty atop the table. Such has been their dominance that the five teams following them ten points behind are separated by just seven points. North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, Manchester giants United and City along with Liverpool are all in the mix that will see two of the teams miss out on next season's journey to the biggest stage in club football.

  GW 28 GW 29 GW 30 GW 31 GW 32 GW 33 GW 34 GW 35 GW 36 GW 37 GW 38 Games in hand Points tally from Games Final points tally
Manchester City   Liverpool (H) Arsenal (A) Chelsea (A) Hull City (H) Southampton (A) West Brom (H) Middlesbrough (A) Palace (H) Leicester (H) Watford (A) United (H)  
Predicted result   1 1 0 3 1 3 3 1 3 3 3 22 78
Tottenham Hotspur Palace (A) Southampton (H) Burnley (A) Swansea (A) Watford (H) Bournemouth (H) Leicester (A) Arsenal (H) West Ham (A) Man United (H) Hull (A) N/A    
Predicted result 3 3 1 3 3 3 1 3 3 1 3 N/A 27 83
Liverpool Burnley (H) Man City (A) Everton (H) Bournemouth (H) Stoke (A) West Brom (A) Palace (H) Watford (A) Southampton (A) West Ham (A) Middlesbrough (H) N/A    
Predicted result 3 1 3 3 3 1 0 3 1 3 3 N/A 24 76
Arsenal Leicester (H) West Brom (A) Man City (H) West Ham (H) Palace (A) Middlesbrough (A) Sunderland (H) Spurs (A) Man United (H) Stoke (A) Everton (H) Southampton (A)    
Predicted result 3 1 1 3 3 3 1 1 1 1 3 3 24 74
Manchester United Southampton (H) Middlesbrough (A) West Brom (H) Everton (H) Sunderland (A) Chelsea (H) Burnley (A) Swansea (H) Arsenal (A) Spurs (A) Palace (H) Man City (A)    
Predicted result 3 3 3 3 3 0 1 3 1 1 3 0 24 73

Tottenham Hotspur - Played 27, Points 56

What a ride they had last year! It was only their inexplicable meltdown in the final straight that saw them go from title contenders to finishing below Arsenal yet AGAIN. Most people expected them to compete with the big boys this season as well, but there were hardly any supporters who expected them to be second at the beginning of March. However, the London club has surpassed all expectations having actually improved on last season's results and are two points better off than they were in 2016.

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Spurs are 10 points off Chelsea and still have 11 games to play. Being knocked out of continental competitions might just help their cause. On the injury front, they appear to be in decent shape with just Erik Lamela out for a considerable time. Form-wise, Harry Kane has just hit top gear and is only one goal away from becoming the second Englishman to score 20+ goals in three consecutive seasons.

Opponents 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Reverse Fixture
Leicester (A) N/A N/A 1 – 2 1 – 1 1 – 1
Arsenal (H) 2 – 1 0 – 1 2 – 1 2 – 2 1 – 1
West Ham (A) 2 – 3 2 – 0 0 – 1 1 – 0 3 – 2
Man United (H) 1 – 1 2 – 2 0 – 0 3 – 0 1 – 0

Realistically, Spurs should win six of their remaining 11 games quite easily. Their first major "roadblock" would be a trip to Turf Moor to face a resilient Burnley team that has lost only three matches at home. Additionally, Spurs don't have a great record on the road winning just four out of their 13 matches so far. They also have tough trips to a resurgent Leicester and West Ham pending and would have to do really well to get all six points from those games.

Their main test would come against direct rivals Arsenal and Man United in a span of two weeks that could very well decide where they would end up at the end of the season. The good news is that both these games are at the Lane where they have dropped only two points all season.

Final Points Tally - 83

Final position - 2nd

Manchester City - Played 27, Points 56

The Catalan Messiah's first attempt at the Premier league title has not panned out as most people thought it would. Pep Guardiola started the campaign with ten wins on the spin and the Citizens would have you believe that they were going to turn into Barcelona come December. However, they are now 10 points behind the leaders and even though City look the most likely to challenge Chelsea (if that is even possible), even Guardiola would have to accept that it might just be a step too far this season.

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City have not been at their best this season, and we have hardly seen the flowing football that they or their manager are known for. But, they don't have too many injury concerns which is just as well because their fixture list is as hard as it comes. Half of their remaining games are against teams that are more than capable of causing them problems.

Opponents 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Reverse Fixture
Liverpool (H) 2 – 2 2 – 1 3 – 1 1 – 4 1 – 0
Arsenal (A) 0 – 2 1 – 1 2 – 2 2 – 1 2 – 1
Chelsea (A) 0 – 0 2 – 1 1 – 1 0 – 3 1 – 3
Southampton (A) 3 – 1 1 – 1 0 – 3 4 – 2 1 – 1
Leicester (H) N/A N/A 2 – 0 1 – 3 4 – 2
United (H) 2 – 3 4 – 1 1 – 0 0 – 1 1 – 2

City are scheduled to play four games in 11 days which includes trips to Middlesbrough and Monaco before hosting Liverpool at the Etihad. After the international break, they travel to London to face Arsenal and Chelsea in consecutive games - a period that will largely decide their final standing. Subsequently, they have to face Southampton and Leicester, teams that have troubled them in the past with a system specifically set up to stop possession-based teams. Then, there is also the small matter of the Manchester Derby in a rescheduled game.

City have been through tougher runs in the past and could quite easily pick up maximum points but their inconsistency, as they showed in their match against Stoke, makes it a very difficult set of fixtures. If they do qualify for the next round of the European Cup and the FA Cup, it is going to be three games a week right till the end of the season and based on their bench strength, City might have to pick which battles to fight.

Final Points Tally - 78

Final position - 3rd

Liverpool - Played 27, Points 52

The biggest enigma in English football right now. The current Liverpool team are like Schrodinger's cat - you don't know what team will show till the match starts. The Merseyside club will lose to strugglers Hull City one week, convincingly beat Spurs the next and lose to Leicester in the very next game. Until January, they were within a game of Chelsea but have won just one match in the first month of 2017.

Liverpool have had some bad luck with injuries as well this season with important players missing out on important games throughout the year. The return of Coutinho was quickly followed by injuries to Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson and has left them well short of bench strength yet again.

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Even though the Merseyside club have done better this season - 14 points more than they had at this point last season - it is their struggles against the "minnows" that has seen them join this fight rather than the one with Chelsea. Their biggest advantage is their lack of other commitments, and as such they can continue playing their taxing style of football without worrying too much about fatigue.

Opponents 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Reverse Fixture
Man City (A) 2 – 2 2 – 1 3 – 1 1 – 4 1 – 0
Stoke (A) 3 – 1 3 – 5 6 – 1 0 – 1 4 – 1
West Brom (A) 3 – 0 1 – 1 0 – 0 1 – 1 2 – 1
Palace (H) N/A 3 – 1 1 – 3 1 – 2 2 – 4
Southampton (A) 3 – 1 0 – 3 0 – 2 3 – 2 0 – 0
West Ham (A) 2 – 3 1 – 2 3 – 1 2 – 0 2 – 2

They just face one direct rival in their remaining games. That would normally be good news for any team, but not this Liverpool team who have defeated direct rivals only to succumb to the minnows. In the big games, they now just have to travel to City - a ground where they don't have a great record. Following the Merseyside Derby, a fixture they have dominated over the years, their biggest challenge will be posted by Stoke (A), West Brom (A), and Palace (H). Liverpool have taken just 12 points in their last 11 meetings with the clubs over a period of four years. Should they emerge unscathed from this period, it will hold them in good stead in the race for a Champions League place.

Final Points Tally - 76

Final position - FOURTH

Arsenal - Played 26, Points 50

Some things in life are constant. The sun rising from the east, seasons changing and Arsenal imploding midway through the season. The Gunners are one point worse than they were at this point last season but there is a massive difference in the two sides. Last year, the team was showing some grit and determination to get into the top-4 and stop Spurs from finishing above them for the first time since 1995. This time, however, Wenger is under immense pressure.

 © Getty Images

Arsenal have already lost Santi Cazorla for the remainder of the season, Danny Welbeck is always a knock away from an injury, and Mesut Ozil, too, doesn't appear to be completely fit. They were in a great position to secure a top-4 place a month ago and even put some pressure on Chelsea but three losses in the last four games has put Wenger and co under serious pressure and the 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern didn't help as well.

Opponents 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Reverse Fixture
Manchester City (H) 1 – 1 1 – 1 2 – 2 2 – 1 2 – 1
Tottenham Hotspur (A) 2 – 1 0 – 1 2 – 1 2 – 2 1 – 1
Manchester United (H) 1 – 1 0 – 0 1 - 2 3 – 0 1 – 1
Stoke City (A) 0 – 0 1 – 0 3 – 2 0 - 0 3 – 1

Subsequently, Arsenal have the "easiest" fixtures among all the teams till the end of the season. After facing Leicester and City at the Emirates, the Gunners have an easy run till the end of April. Then comes the truly testing set of fixtures where they face Spurs and United in back to back games before facing Stoke - a fixture they have failed to win since 2010. They end the season by hosting Everton, who will be in the hunt for a European spot.

Arsenal's biggest problems, in recent years, has been their struggles against the big teams so they are safe in that regard and Wenger's experience is going to be key if they are to qualify for the Champions League for a 19th consecutive season. The biggest question right now, however, is if the Frenchman still has control of the dressing room and Alexis Sanchez.

Final Points Tally - 74

Final position - 5th

Manchester United - Played 26, Points 49

If this season has any clear indication, it is this - United are destined to finish SIXTH. With a win over Swansea, early November, United managed to secure the sixth spot, and four months and eight wins later, they are still there.

United have not lost a league game since October but they have failed to win games in which they outplayed their opponents. They have already secured the first piece of silverware this season and are still very much alive in the FA Cup, Europa League and the race for a top-4 spot. The depth they possess is worthy of envy from any team in the world so squad rotation should not be an issue, but the question is whether they can actually close the deal on all fronts.

 © Getty Images

United are still to play four teams that are currently above them in the table and three of those fixtures are away from Old Trafford. The game at home is against an unstoppable Chelsea side that beat United 4-0 at the Bridge. Apart from these four massive games, United have to host West Brom at home, a fixture in which they have a 50% success rate in the last four seasons, and Burnley at Turf Moor, who are virtually unbeatable at home. United have their work cut out for them and it is going to take one hell of an effort to get into the top-4 this season, even with Jose Mourinho at the helm.

Opponents 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Reverse Fixture
West Bromwich Albion (H) 2 – 0 1 – 2 0 – 1 2 – 0 0 – 2
Chelsea (H) 0 – 1 0 – 0 1 – 1 0 - 0 0 – 4
Burnley (A) N/A N/A 0 – 0 N/A 1 – 1
Arsenal (A) 1 – 1 0 – 0 1 - 2 3 – 0 1 – 1
Tottenham Hotspur (A) 1 – 1 2 – 2 0 – 0 3 – 0 1 – 0
Manchester City (A) 2 – 3 4 – 1 1 – 0 0 – 1 1 – 2

However, they do have a lifeline for the Champions League next season as they look strong contenders in a weakened Europa League field this year.

Final Points Tally - 73

Final position - SIXTH

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