The fight for the Premier League’s top four places is set to be feverish when football returns, with at least five teams from outside the Champions League places still harbouring hopes of qualification. Chelsea and Leicester City are currently in pole position, but with the current campaign suffering unprecedented levels of disruption it is difficult to predict how any of the sides involved will respond.
The financial situation at a number of clubs has been negatively impacted by the season’s suspension and therefore, European qualification will prove more important than ever. We have already seen how Arsenal have fallen as a result of their recent failure to qualify for the Champions League and given the global economic situation the impact of missing out could be heightened further. Clubs are also likely to have less money than ever to spend on transfers and wages this summer too, so rebuilding and strengthening their squads will become even harder.
Arsenal are the side in contention that are most in need of a rebuild, but with a nine point gap to fourth they are very much outsiders, which is reflected in the odds offered by Nostrabet.com and other bookmakers. Their form has improved under Mikel Arteta, but they are still inconsistent in terms of performances and results and will most likely come up short so would not be the team to back to win this race.
The same can also be said for Tottenham Hotspur. One point ahead of their North London rivals, they have lacked consistency under Jose Mourinho and will have to rely on the fitness of Harry Kane if they are to have any hope of qualification.
The three sides ahead of the Gunners and Spurs, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, are all in a better position though. Wolves and Sheffield United have been somewhat surprise packages, but both have built their charges on a solid defensive platform. Only Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than the Blades this season, while the Wolves have added more flair to augment their usual three at the back setup. Concerns remain over both, with Wolves having to manage their run-in with a Europa League campaign and Sheffield United and Chris Wilder lacking experience at the top level, but they are still in with a shout.
Finally, Manchester United are probably the biggest threat to Leicester and Chelsea, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side really finding their groove in recent weeks. United have won three of their last four and with Bruno Fernandes in midfield they are more of an attacking threat than they have been in a while. All in all, it is set to be a fascinating run-in when the Premier League gets underway once again.