Premier League top four race analysis

With Manchester City seemingly waltzing away with the title and Chelsea and Liverpool inching towards a top-three finish, seven sides are left in contention for the remaining Champions League spot.

Do not let a sizeable 12-point gap between fourth-placed West Ham United and 10th-placed Leicester City trick you, games in hand could change the landscape of a keenly-contested top-four race. 

Another COVID-19 induced crisis in the Premier League has forced a host of match cancellations, leaving several current mid-table teams with realistic chances of eking out a fourth-place finish come May. 

But let’s take a look at the four leading candidates to secure next season’s Champions League football. 

West Ham United

Position: 4th

Matches played: 21

Points: 37

Back-to-back defeats at the hands of Arsenal and Southampton in the second half of December looked to have thrown a spanner in the works, but high-flying West Ham are back on the rails.

David Moyes’ men have hit the ground running in 2022, winning both league games over Crystal Palace and Norwich City to leapfrog the Gunners into fourth.

However, plenty of stern tests await in the wings, with the Hammers’ set to travel to Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea amongst others in the remainder of the season.

Since they are unlikely to pull off any big-money signings in the January transfer window, the Irons will rely on their well-knit roster, headlined by Declan Rice and Michail Antonio. 

So if they are to record their first-ever Premier League top-four finish, West Ham will have to rediscover their blistering form from the beginning of the season.


Position: 5th

Matches played: 20

Points: 35

A run of three embarrassing defeats to start the 2021/22 season suggested Arsenal could be in for another troublesome Premier League campaign.

However, Mikel Arteta has inspired his side’s sensational comeback as the season progressed, steering the Gunners to fifth in the table, only one point adrift of a coveted fourth place. 

Seeking their first top-four finish since 2015/16, the Londoners will have to prove their Champions League credentials at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend.

A trip to bitter north London rivals will provide an insight into Arsenal’s chances of prevailing in an intense top-four run-in following a heartbreaking 2-1 home defeat to Man City on New Year’s Day. 

With the club on the verge of parting with former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, there is a feeling the Gunners will have to intervene in the market to bolster their chances of regaining fourth place. 

Though Arteta stayed coy when asked about Arsenal’s interest in the Serie A top-scorer, the London heavyweights seem to be working around the clock to convince Fiorentina to sanction the move, and according to Sports View there are likely to be more transfers over the next couple of weeks. 

As a start, Vlahovic’s potential arrival at the Emirates could be a season-changing point for the Gunners. Add another good transfer or two, and they could become unstoppable.

Tottenham Hotspur 

Position: 6th

Matches played: 18

Points: 33

Tottenham could not have picked a better moment to sack Nuno Espirito Santo and appoint Antonio Conte as the new chief of staff, handing the Italian manager plenty of time to navigate Spurs’ return in top-four contention.

Under the stewardship of the ex-Chelsea boss, the Londoners are unbeaten in all eight Premier League fixtures, whittling down the gap on fourth-placed West Ham to a mere four points.

With two games in hand, Spurs must be eyeing up another Champions League qualification following a one-season absence, though awkward challenges are lying ahead.

Conte may not have to wait long to understand his side’s top-four chances, as Tottenham face a brutal schedule in the next few weeks.

They will follow up Sunday’s all-London meeting with Arsenal with a tricky trip to Leicester before heading to Stamford Bridge for a mouth-watering clash against Chelsea. 

So Spurs are likely to define their position in a top-four run-in across the upcoming three Premier League fixtures, albeit recent Carabao Cup performances have shown the signs of weakness. 

Conte’s men lost both legs of their League Cup tie versus Chelsea without scoring, further emphasising their well-documented struggle in high-profile match-ups. 

Moreover, with two games in hand yet to be fitted in, fatigue could be catching up with Tottenham sooner rather than later.

Manchester United

Position: 7th

Matches played: 19

Points: 31

Despite going unbeaten in four of his five Premier League matches in charge, new interim boss Ralf Rangnick has yet to spark Manchester United’s potential to life. 

The Red Devils’ showings under the German have flattered to deceive and disappointed United fans worldwide tuning into soccer streams to watch a flailing outfit, with a lacklustre 1-0 home loss on New Year’s Day highlighting United’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. 

Rangnick boasts one of the most intimidating attacking departments in European football, but Cristiano Ronaldo and co have been seemingly off the pace.

It will be up to the ex-RB Leipzig strategist to piece United’s comeback efforts together in the second half of the season, particularly in light of growing tensions in the dressing room.

If Man United are to mount a genuine top-four challenge this term, Rangnick will have to figure out how to get an out-of-sorts playmaker Bruno Fernandes back on track. 

The 27-year-old used to be a standout performer at Old Trafford before Ronaldo’s return in the final days of the summer transfer window. 

However, something has gone wrong for Fernandes since his international colleague re-signed for Man United. 

The Portuguese ace has scored only twice in his last 17 Premier League appearances since bagging a hat-trick against Leeds United on the opening weekend. 

Premier League top four race analysis

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