The Premier League title race could also be virtually a foregone conclusion because of Manchester City‘s dominance once more this season — although Liverpool, 12 points behind forward of Thursday’s conflict with Leicester Metropolis, can nonetheless make it attention-grabbing with a prolonged successful run — however the battle for the fourth, and the ultimate Champions League spot, is intensifying.
Forward of sixth-placed Arsenal’s (36 points) journey to eighth-placed Wolves (34) on Thursday, solely six points separate West Ham (40) in fourth with Wolves. In the meantime, Arsenal, Wolves and seventh-placed Tottenham (36) have additionally all performed three video games fewer than David Moyes’ Hammers.
Manchester United (39), who sit fifth, are some extent behind West Ham with a recreation in hand after failing to safe a win at Burnley on Tuesday. With Liverpool (48) and Chelsea (47) seemingly away from the golf equipment scrambling to complete fourth, the race is shaping as much as be a five-team battle.
United, Arsenal and Spurs have all suffered from inconsistency, poor kind and, within the case of United and Spurs, managerial change this season, whereas West Ham and Wolves have proved to be severe contenders to upset their larger and wealthier rivals.
So with three months of the season nonetheless to play, how will the race for fourth play out? And which membership will declare the ultimate Champions League spot?
David Moyes’ group have received 5 of their final 12 Premier League video games, however Tuesday’s 1-0 win at residence to Watford noticed them bounce again from successive losses towards Leeds and Manchester United. The query mark above West Ham’s prospects pertains to the depth of their squad and whether or not Moyes has sufficient high quality inside the ranks to deal with a top-four push in addition to ongoing involvement within the Europa League and FA Cup.
Regardless of a profession that has seen Moyes largely ship constant high 10 finishes within the Premier League, the previous Everton and Manchester United supervisor has by no means received a trophy and achieved only one top-four end in over 20 years as a top-flight supervisor.
So can Moyes efficiently rotate his squad and overcome his historically cautious strategy to ship success in one of many three competitions that West Ham are nonetheless concerned in? The followers will need a trophy, however Moyes will prioritise ending within the Premier League high 4. The inconsistency of their rivals will assist, however extended involvement within the cups will work towards them.
The place will they end? seventh
With such an array of attacking high quality — together with Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford — United shouldn’t have any considerations over a top-four end, however their season has lurched from one low-point to a different and there are many pitfalls looming within the weeks forward.
When interim-manager Ralf Rangnick arrived to exchange Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December, United have been about to embark on a run of 13 league video games towards groups beneath them within the desk (except for a house conflict with West Ham). However, having now performed 9 of these, they’ve received simply 5 and dropped points in attracts towards relegation-threatened Burnley and Newcastle. All of United’s star gamers are struggling and Rangnick has solely been capable of encourage a marginal enchancment within the group’s performances. United will all the time possess the attacking risk to win matches, however they face a tricky run-in, with journeys to Manchester Metropolis and Liverpool subsequent month and a probably decisive fixture at Arsenal on April 23.
With some daunting video games forward, it’s tough to see United placing a successful run collectively towards the highest sides, so they might want to arrange for all times exterior the Champions League underneath their new supervisor subsequent season.
The place will they end? sixth
Arsenal’s 17-year streak of Champions League participation got here to an finish after they did not safe a top-four end in 2016-17 and so they have been absent from Europe’s premier competitors ever since. However Mikel Arteta’s group are nicely positioned to finish their absence after overcoming their worst top-flight begin in historical past this season.
Arteta has made some massive calls on transfers since changing Unai Emery in December 2019, together with offloading former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona without cost final month, and the advantages are actually starting to be seen with a hungry, younger aspect now rising on the Emirates.
An absence of targets might but derail Arsenal — with children Emile Smith Rowe (8) and Bukayo Saka (6) their main scorers within the league to this point — and, previous to the journey to Wolves, the membership had failed to attain in 4 successive video games in all competitions. However though the Gunners have their weaknesses, their fixture listing is beneficial and so they have a transparent run with out cup distractions (having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest within the third spherical), so Arsenal are favourites to assert fourth place.
The place will they end? 4th
Craig Burley cautiously picks Tottenham to complete high 4 after bringing in a number of former Juventus gamers in the course of the January switch window.
Inconsistency has haunted Tottenham all season and their 3-2 residence defeat towards Southampton on Wednesday, after they led 2-1 earlier than conceding twice within the last 10 minutes, typified their marketing campaign. Antonio Conte’s appointment as supervisor in November, following Nuno Espirito Santo’s 17-game spell in cost, has led to an enchancment in performances and outcomes. However after an unbeaten begin to his reign within the Premier League, Conte has now seen his aspect lose successive league video games and so they have blown an incredible probability to climb into the highest 4 and transfer away from their rivals.
Spurs have a tricky run of fixtures arising, with away video games at Manchester Metropolis, Man United and Liverpool, so their latest lack of kind might show expensive on the finish of the season. However Conte will all the time encourage massive performances from his gamers and will be capable to depend on forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min to attain towards even the perfect opponents. Conte has a tricky problem forward, although, and the injury achieved by the final two defeats could nicely show to be vital sufficient to value his aspect.
The place will they end? fifth
After ending thirteenth final season, a push for Champions League qualification underneath new supervisor Bruno Lage appeared unlikely this time round, however the former Benfica coach has shortly established his strategies at Molineux and Wolves’ 1-0 win at Manchester United final month showcased their high quality in midfield and skill to dominate towards supposedly extra illustrious opponents. However whereas Wolves are a technically spectacular group, their lack of targets is more likely to stop them from significantly difficult for fourth spot.
Forward of Thursday’s encounter with Arsenal, Wolves had scored simply 19 targets in 21 Premier League video games — by far the bottom return of the top-four chasers. Solely Burnley and Norwich, each within the backside three, have scored fewer than Wolves. The flipside is that their document of conceding 16 league targets is second solely to Premier League leaders Manchester Metropolis, who’ve shipped 14 targets in 24 video games.
The subsequent 5 video games are more likely to be key to deciding Wolves’ destiny: they play Arsenal twice and journey to Spurs and West Ham. Do not count on many targets in any of them, however provided that Wolves can emerge unbeaten from that run would possibly they keep away from lacking out on Europe solely.
Where will they finish? 8th