Analysing the Race for the Premier League Top Four

Whilst leaders Chelsea currently hold an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League, the gap between second-place Manchester City and rivals Manchester United in sixth is much less. In what is essentialy a five-team race for the last three Champions League spaces, City and United are separated by only four points, with Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool all in between.

Analysing the Race for the Premier League Top Four

With only 13 games remaining in the season, the race for the top four is about to heat up.

Manchester United

The Red Devils have seemed virtually unstoppable in the Premier League of late. Unbeaten in their last 16 league games, United have regained ground in the race for the top four.

Manager José Mourinho has his team firing on all cylinders and will be encouraged by the form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has netted seven times in his previous ten league games. However, despite improved performances from players such as Juan Mata and Ibrahimovic, the overall lack of goals for United has been a concern. Scoring only 38 times all season, United have the fewest goals of any top-six side.

The lack of goals for United has also proven a problem during their unbeaten run. Despite holding a league run of 16 games without a loss, the Red Devils have succumbed to draws in seven of those games, taking only 34 points from a possible 48. If United are to mount a serious challenge for next year’s Champions League, they will have to be more consistent and find the ability to turn draws into wins.


When the Reds outclassed rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday night, they looked like the Liverpool that ended 2016. Much of that was down to the return of their talisman, Sadio Mané. The Senegalese winger, who scored both goals in the 2-0 win against Spurs, missed the majority of Liverpool’s January whilst on duty at the African Cup of Nations. The Reds recorded only a solitary FA Cup win against Plymough Argyle in January, failing to win a league game, as they fell from second place to fifth. However, the return of the team’s leading scorer could see the Reds recapture some of their 2016 form.

Despite this, Liverpool have struggled to find consistency throughout the campaign. Whilst the Reds are yet to lose to a top-six side this season, the team has also fallen short against opponents such as Burnley, Hull City and Swansea. If Liverpool are set to make a return to Europe’s elite, Jürgen Klopp must remove the complacency that occurs when his side faces teams further down the league.


The Gunners have not failed to qualify for the Champions League in 17 consecutive seasons. A place in Europe’s most prestigious competition is almost routine for Arsenal. Currently holding the fourth and final qualification spot for next season’s competition, Arsene Wenger’s men look in prime position to qualify once again.

However, a recent dip in form has seen the Gunners lose two of their past three league games. After a crushing 5-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in Germany on Wednesday night, the North London side have become stagnant in recent weeks. With recent losses against Watford and Chelsea, Arsenal have also struggled to find consistency.

To maintain a strong push for qualification, Arsenal will need star players such as Mesut Özil to recapture their form of earlier in the season, in order to make it 18 consecutive trips into Europe.

Tottenham Hotspur

Despite falling to Liverpool on Saturday, Spurs have been impressive in recent weeks. Recording a win against leaders Chelsea and a hard-fought draw at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City, the other North London side will also be pushing for Champions League qualification.

The main boost for Spurs is their solid defensive performances. Starting with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the back four that is held together by centre-back pairing Toby Alderwiereld and Jan Vertonghen has only conceded 18 times all season, and are tied with Chelsea for the best defensive record in the Premier League. With equally efficient attacking play from Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Spurs look set to make a return to the Champions League next season.

Manchester City

The closest competition to Chelsea, City are still eight points adrift from the league leaders. Consequently, a return to the Champions League has to be a priority for Pep Guardiola and his team.

The Manchester side has also impressed in recent weeks, losing only once since the turn of the year. Not only are City in the strongest position to qualify, but they have shown they have the ability to grind out tough wins against weaker sides, the latest coming in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Monday night.

The main concern for City will be defensively. There is no doubt the Sky Blues have all the attacking threats to win games, but for a side that has conceded 29 goals, there is some cause for concern. In similar fashion to rivals Liverpool, City have looked shaky at the back throughout the course of the season. However, Guardiola will be buoyed by the return of captain Vincent Kompany from injury, as well as the introduction of goalkeeper Willy Caballero to the side, who has conceded only four goals in his six starts this season with two clean sheets.

Last Word

The race for the top four is becoming more intense every week, with little room for error. With only four points separating second and sixth, consistency will be the key for the remainder of the season. Whatever side is able to string together an impressive run during the final 13 games will ultimately secure European qualification.

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