One of the most fascinating races every single season in the Premier League is the one that takes place at the top of the table – in the battle for the top four. A spot in fourth place or higher ensures Champions League football for the following season and while teams who qualify don’t always take advantage of that, it certainly sets them up for some level of success.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the main runners and riders as the competition begins to heat up.
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West Ham United have managed to maintain the strong form they showed last season and now, they’re genuinely in the mix for the top four; which will happen when you’re in it after we hit the new year. They’ve played a few games more than everyone else but they seem to have something resembling consistency in the big matches, which is more than can be said for many of their rivals.
Now that Arsenal don’t have the FA Cup to focus on, Mikel Arteta should be pouring everything he’s got into making sure the Gunners can reasonably contend for fourth place – or perhaps even higher. They aren’t exactly a million miles off the pace and for the first time in a long time, they look like the kind of team that can handle severe spells of pressure; as they displayed recently against Liverpool.
The backlog of games is going to be tough for Tottenham Hotspur to overcome but if they can manage it capably, they’ll be well on their way to the top four. Antonio Conte acknowledged that there’s a great deal of work that needs doing if Spurs are to become one of England’s elite once again, and that means they may ultimately run out of steam. Even if they do, though, the future is bright under the Italian.
Manchester United are still trying to figure out their identity under Ralf Rangnick and, more importantly, get to the heart of the issues they’ve been facing. It’s been a long, uncomfortable road to get to this point and United fans know how much further there is to go. The top four is achievable, but everything would have to click into place perfectly for it to happen in May.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have legitimate momentum on their side and that’s a huge boost for a club that was panicking about their lack of squad depth just a matter of weeks ago. If they can bring in one or two more faces in January then they’ll really be off to the races but really, this is a tale of a team chasing Europe in any way, shape or form. They’re definitely good enough to reach those heights, but Bruno Lage’s men need to start finding the back of the net more so than they have been – and that much is obvious.