With the Premier League heading for a much-needed winter break, the table makes for interesting reading at this midway stage of the season. The large number of Covid-related postponements means that there are some teams who have played a couple more matches than others, leaving things curiously poised ahead of the campaign’s latter stages.
While Manchester City are emerging as clear favourites in the Premier League winner odds, Liverpool and Chelsea are desperately clutching at their coattails, the battle for the coveted fourth Champions League spot is considerably more up in the air.
Currently occupying that spot is Manchester United, who have recovered from a couple of disappointing results in January to seal two successive victories over Brentford and West Ham United. Interim head coach Ralf Rangnick hasn’t exactly set the world alight at Old Trafford so far, with a number of 1-0 wins defining his early days in charge. However, results are what matter most, and the German has put United on a strong footing for the rest of the campaign.
West Ham, meanwhile, were dealt a real blow by that late Manchester United winner at Old Trafford. They sit a point behind Rangnick’s men, having played one game more, and there is a sense that the Hammers are struggling to find consistency in the Premier League. For David Moyes and co, there is still the added distraction of the Europa League knockout stages to come this season, so it would be no surprise if the Hammers were to fall away domestically.
Then you have North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur — both tied on 36 points. The two teams will be desperate to assert themselves on the top four and catch up with the three teams at the top of the table. Arsenal were looking good at one stage, but a combination of Covid-related absences, injuries and suspensions has seen their form dip slightly. A 0-0 draw with Burnley is the latest blemish on their record.
As for Tottenham, a heroic comeback to beat Leicester City 3-2 was followed by an insipid performance in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea. Antonio Conte will need his team to find some consistency if they are to make a serious charge for the Champions League places, otherwise they could find themselves in the Conference League once again.
Quietly going about their business are Wolverhampton Wanderers, and although they are two points behind Arsenal and Spurs, Bruno Lage’s side have been in a rich vein of form lately and could be peaking at the right moment. If Wolves are to have any chance of sneaking into the top four, they’ll need to find a way to beat the biggest teams, which is an area they’ve struggled in this season.
All in all, it looks set to be an intriguing second half of the season. It could well prove that one of the teams pulls clear and becomes the dominant favourite in the EPL predictions, but with the title race looking pretty one-sided, it would be great if we had a bit of drama for that last Champions League spot.