18 February 2018
Manchester City seem to have the league wrapped up and despite a minor hiccup against Liverpool at Anfield a few weeks ago, they seem to be pretty comfortable and can afford to drop points in the Premier League to go for glory in Europe. So, if Manchester City have first spot locked up then which two others teams out of the “Big 6” will miss out of Top 4. I’ll take a closer look at how I think will get top 4 and who I think will miss out. Essentially, it will be my top 6 predictions as of February with 11 rounds to go.
6th Place) Arsenal FC
Arsene Wenger has struggled again this season and despite the promising acquisitions of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, Arsenal fans seem to be forgetting what they’ve lost in order to gain the ex-Dortmund duo. Alexis Sanchez’s departure is a major blow for Arsenal and the main reason I’ve got them as 6th, the countless times he’s risen to the occasion and saved valuable points for Arsenal is unbelievable and his presence at the Emirates will be missed. Attacking with the threat of a player of his quality frightened any defence in the Premier League and although Aubameyang’s lightning pace and Mkhitaryan’s outstanding passing ability, Arsenal will struggle. Koscielny and Mustafi’s inconsistency as well as a poor season from Bellerin has given Monreal a lot to do and despite him stepping up to the task and contributing goals and assists, defensively, Arsenal have been poor. A defensive signing was in order but Konstantinos Mavropanos doesn’t seem to be a sufficient solution. Arsenal will continue to struggle but Wenger should be aware that the Premier League isn’t his only path to European football for next season. After already saying that their top 4 hopes have taken a major downfall following their North London derby defeat, Wenger may have been hinting at the idea of focusing on the cups for the rest of the season, a similar approach to what Jurgen Klopp invested into in the 2015/16 season. The Frenchman will be hoping it works out better for him and with the Carabao Cup final against City a week away, Wenger will be desperate to get his hands on some silverware. He will however, be aware of the potential to win the Europa League if his side fails to get their hands on the League Cup. This won’t come easy though, Aubameyang is cup tied in the Europa League but the reward for winning this competition brings much better rewards if they can do it. Champions League qualification via the Europa League would undoubtedly keep Wenger at the helm of the sinking Arsenal ship but valuable silverware could be the key to attracting more quality and reviving Arsenal from their modern-day slum.
5th Place) Tottenham Hotspur
Many will disagree with this choice but I truly believe that come the end of the season, the two North London teams will be missing out on Champions League football for the 2018/19 season. Arsenal are definitely bigger contenders to miss out than their rivals and even though I’ve predicted Spurs to finish below Chelsea, I wouldn’t consider for a second that Spurs don’t have a chance to even come second, that’s how tight it is at the top. So, for me to make such a bold statement I’ve got to back it up and here’s why I don’t think Spurs will make top 4. They’ve got 11 Premier League matches to go and they’re still in the FA Cup and the Champions League. Despite getting a fantastic result in Turin and having a good chance of progressing, I don’t see them as favourites to win the Champions League nor do I see Chelsea with a chance. Spurs pride themselves on being a very English team and their appreciation for and desire to win the FA Cup is most definitely above Chelsea’s. That’s not too say that Chelsea will write themselves off but that it too say that Spurs might sacrifice Premier League performances to give themselves a chance to get their hands on some silverware for the first time since 2008. When Spurs go up against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge I only see one winner, I see Chelsea coming out on top and although Antonio Conte is in a slump right now he will always have the brilliance of Eden Hazard, Fabregas, Kante and other players of that quality to pull through for him. I think that Chelsea will understand the importance of having European football next season and understand that Hazard could be heading out the door if they don’t get European football. It will definitely be tight but I predict Chelsea to come out on top.
4th Place) Chelsea FC
Oh how the mighty have fallen, reigning Premier League champions Chelsea are struggling right now but that doesn’t mean anyone should be writing them off just yet. It was a difficult decision to choose between Chelsea and Spurs to miss out on Champions League but I chose Spurs and let me explain why. There’s something about Chelsea that I don’t see in Spurs, perhaps it’s their ability to get a result even when things don’t go there way or their ability to pull themselves out of a crisis or even their ability get a win or a draw when it didn’t seem possible, and that very something isn’t visible at Tottenham in my opinion. The magic of Eden Hazard up against the ruthless finishing of Harry Kane will be the main battle for the 4th spot but I think Chelsea’s strengths in all aspects of their squad with suitable backups in nearly every position is something that Spurs don’t have. Despite the recent acquisition of Lucas Moura, Chelsea also strengthened and if someone gets injured at Chelsea they seem to have a backup in every position. Chelsea definitely have a hard string of games coming up but if Antonio Conte managed to win the Premier League last season with these very players, it would make sense to back him to do considerably worse this season in getting 4th at the very least.
3rd Place) Manchester United
A season that was expected to go much better for Manchester United hasn’t gone as planned. Their city has been taken over by Guardiola’s unstoppable side and they look destined for another season below the standards for Manchester United. Getting hold of the FA Cup would be a major boost for Mourinho and if this is to be his final season, he’ll want to go out with a bang given his incredible ego. United have some very tough games to come, first they have to get past Sevilla which won’t be easy and in the meantime they’ll be taking on 4 of their fellow Top 6 teams, with Spurs being the only team they don’t face again this season. These will inevitably be tough games, games that United have typically struggled in when Mourinho sets up to defend. Their recent defeat to Spurs, as well as their losses to Chelsea and City earlier in the season has left them looking a rather weak side in these big matches. The acquisition of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal could be promising but if they’re looking to hold onto 2nd place, they should expect a massive fight from the other Top 6 teams and in my opinion I actually expect Liverpool to clinch it. Those two are still yet to play a second time this season and a rather boring draw at Anfield disappointed all fans including the neutrals. The showdown at Old Trafford will mean much more to these two teams than just who gets 2nd and who gets 3rd. Their fans are fierce with each other, the bragging rights at stake are so very valuable for these fans. If Liverpool and Manchester United are both to have trophyless seasons then the battle for 2nd will be of even more significance. We wait to see how United get on in their tough run of fixtures to May.
2nd Place) Liverpool FC
As a Liverpool fan, bias is somewhat natural in this discussion and many may believe that to be the primary reason for putting Liverpool at the top of this list, however, with as much bias put aside as possible, I genuinely believe Liverpool to be in the best position to get 2nd. As the only side this season to be able to defeat Manchester City, they appear to be a major force coming through. The signing of Virgil van Dijk and the temporary spark in the form of Loris Karius has given Liverpool fans reason to believe that 2nd spot is achievable. Although it doesn’t count for much, as I mentioned earlier, finishing above Manchester United is every Liverpool fans hope at the start of the season, no one wants to be below their rivals. The incredible form of Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino has been a major threat for Liverpool going forward with the Egyptian reaching 30 goals in all competitions in their 5-0 victory over Porto in the first leg of their European knockout tie. This result made a statement, a very bold one and with just 2 Top 6 matches to go this season, Liverpool will fancy their chances as do I. The loss of Coutinho has been brutal for Liverpool but they seem to be doing reasonably well without him, that being said, an injury to one of their front 3 could be a major threat to their top 4 hopes, let alone their hopes for a 2nd place finish. If they can keep their momentum going and get even draws against Manchester United and Chelsea then they’re almost certainly guaranteed 2nd place assuming that they don’t drop many points along the way to other teams. It will be a photo finish and probably come down to the final day but Jurgen Klopp will be desperate to get Champions League football again and they appear to be in a great place right now, hoping to attract players in the summer to add to their midfield as well as blistering attack, mind you a defender or two wouldn’t be a waste either.
Thanks for reading, let us know what you think about the Top 4 situation…
featured image credit This Is Anfield