The Race for the Premier League Top Four: Games in Hand and Head to Heads Central to Exciting Finish

Premier League top four
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The race for the Premier League top four is hotting up with Manchester United, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal all vying for the final place and qualification for next seasons’ Champions League. Games in hand and head to heads look like being important as the race leads toward an exciting conclusion. Manchester City and Liverpool will battle it out for the title and whilst Chelsea in third place can still mathematically catch them it seems unlikely, so third place is theirs to lose leaving the rest to battle it out for fourth.

Five Teams, One Place: Premier League Top Four Race Heats Up

As It Stands

Chelsea would need a substantial downturn in form to drop out of the Premier League top four meaning that there are five teams left vying for the final place. Wolves sit in seventh place having moved ahead of an increasingly inconsistent Tottenham in eighth. Manchester United are in fifth thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick against Spurs, West Ham are sixth and Arsenal are in the box seat in the Premier League top-four race following their win over Leicester City.

Games In Hand

Games called off due to bad weather and Covid outbreaks have left the remaining fixture list of the season disjointed, with teams having played more or less than their opponents and this is one area that could affect the top-four race.

Arsenal have games in hand on all of their rivals. They have a one-game advantage on their North London rivals but are also six points ahead of them. They have three games in hand on the other four sides, further reinforcing the point that fourth place is theirs to lose.

Tottenham have two games in hand on Manchester United, West Ham and Wolves which gives them an advantage and could see them reaching fifth place. However, failure to secure a top-four finish would be seen as another poor season for Spurs and see them fall once more behind their neighbours.

Despite having games in hand, they still need to be turned into points and Mikel Arteta will be aware that his team have achieved nothing just yet and the chasing pack are waiting to seize their moment.

Key Fixtures – Three Standout Games for Each Club

Arsenal

There are three stand out fixtures that could be vital in Arsenal’s push for the top four, starting with a quick return to action on Wednesday, March 16 at home against Liverpool. With Liverpool pushing Manchester City for the title, this is arguably Arsenal’s toughest game between now and the end of the season but two other games will really show if they are going to take that fourth spot.

On April 23, they face Manchester United at home and knowing which United will turn up is tough to fathom. Without Ronaldo against Spurs, it is not inconceivable that they would have lost that game and with Arsenal having over 20 shots in their last two league games, they will go into that game as favourites to take all three points. Tottenham were given a host of chances by United and only poor decision making in the final third stopped them from getting a point so Arsenal will go for the jugular.

The standout match comes against David Moyes’ Hammers at the London Stadium. Moyes has worked wonders with West Ham, taking them from a crisis team to a team doing well in Europe and looking to break into the top four for the first time in the history of the Premier League. West Ham are just three points behind the Gunners but a win in this fixture could potentially close that gap and having played three games more will need to win to keep in the race.

Manchester United

Three games stand out for Manchester United. The aforementioned tie with Arsenal will be huge as well as the home game against Chelsea on May 15, and they will not be able to drop any points in these games if they want to ensure they remain in the picture through to the final day of the season.

One game that has yet to be scheduled though is the game that always grabs attention from around the world and that is against Liverpool at Anfield. Liverpool destroyed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United at Old Trafford, winning 5-0, but although performances have still been questioned under Ralf Rangnick they are still capable of taking points and will be out for revenge.

The intent to sit deep against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool and a questionable defence does make this game a big ask but with pride at stake as well as the top four it could provide them with the confidence they need.

West Ham United

For West Ham United, their attempts to break the top four are all about London derbies, starting with an away trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, March 20. This game is always tense, high intensity and the atmosphere will be loud with neither team daring to drop points in this one with more than just London pride at stake. Defeat for West Ham would potentially leave them on the same points as Spurs and would be a huge blow to their top-four hopes.

April 23 sees another short trip across the capital as they take on Chelsea, followed seven days later by a home game against Arsenal which could be pivotal for all concerned. Moyes has made West Ham’s London Stadium a much tougher place to visit these days and with a partisan crowd, this will be a huge moment in this race to ensure Champions League football for next season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves have an interesting run in to the season, facing two tough games toward the end of the campaign. They travel to Chelsea on May 7 and then end the season at Anfield when Liverpool could require three points to win the title if that battle does indeed make it that far. Whilst those two games are huge, it is perhaps more likely that other games will be more important to Bruno Lage’s side in terms of taking points to keep them in the equation.

Home games against struggling Leeds United, Norwich City and an out of form Brighton & Hove Albion are all opportunities to take maximum points, as well as an away trip to Burnley. Points in these games may help Wolves keep the pressure on those around them.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs are capable of beating anyone on a good day as they proved beating Manchester City twice this season to become the only team to have accomplished that so far this term. But, too often, they follow up positive results with abject displays and undo all of the good work. Defeats to Burnley and the self-implosion against Manchester United as well as losses to Wolves and Southampton have epitomised their season so identifying the standout games for Antonio Conte’s men is tricky.

The home game against West Ham is a must-win for both sides and one of their better displays against Liverpool away on May 7 could prove to keep the dream alive. A home tie against Leicester City, where Harry Kane likes to get amongst the goals, may also be a good opportunity to pick up points and with ties at home to Burnley and Brighton to come, Spurs can still be ready to pounce if others should falter.

The Premier League Top Four Race – Who Will Win?

All five teams are still within touching distance of the top four but only one club can secure that final spot. Tottenham are too inconsistent and whilst they may produce a shock against Liverpool, they may still drop points against teams like Norwich and Brighton when they should be taking maximum points. In reality, Tottenham need to win the majority of their remaining games but finishing fourth is looking like it could elude them for another season.

The Premier League top four is uncharted territory for Wolves but they are a stubborn team with some real quality and can’t be counted out of the race. Their inexperience at being in this position will just be enough to rule them out but a top-six finish would still be a superb achievement for the Midlands side.

West Ham may not have a better chance to reach the top four and those games against North London rivals Spurs and Arsenal could boost their chances no end. Moyes has done a fantastic job and they have earned their right to be in the battle to take fourth spot. If they can win those games then they may just be the team to break the top four and leave others thinking about what might have been.

Manchester United find themselves in touching distance of fourth place and considering some of their poor performances over the season, it is amazing to think they have still hung on to the coattails of that place in the league. What could stop them from achieving their goal will be the fitness of Ronaldo who has struggled with different issues throughout this season and he is the one player who can win games when they struggle. If they keep him fit then they will have a chance to defy the odds and take fourth spot but both seem unlikely based on the season to date.

Arsenal’s to Lose

Form, points and games in hand mean Arsenal will take the fourth spot at the end of the 2021/22 season. Arteta has slowly nurtured a team of talented youngsters mixed with experience and has every reason to be confident of Champions League football next season. They still have work to do to get over the line but if they fail to make the Premier League top four they will only have themselves to blame.

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