Who will make the Premier League’s top four this season, there are plenty of teams with a chance…
This year’s Premier League is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet. With Chelsea and Manchester City locked in a fierce, most likely two-way battle for the title, attention turns to the two remaining Champions League spots.
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Just eight points currently separate third place Manchester United and eighth place Liverpool, who moved to within five points of the top four with Monday evening’s victory over Swansea City at Anfield.
The other contenders include Arsenal, Tottenham, as well as surprise packages Southampton and West Ham, who have both enjoyed record breaking starts to the season in terms of their own success.
But the eventual top four could come down to who does the best business in January. The perennial contenders, particularly two of last year’s top four – Arsenal and Liverpool – have had their weaknesses exposed this season, and that has opened the door for others.
All of the sides mentioned are likely to strengthen in the New Year, but there will be at least two disappointed sets of fans come the summer – with West Ham and Southampton supporters surely pleased to just be involved in the discussion.
Manchester United have clearly benefited from the Louis van Gaal regime, particularly the part where he spent £150m on new players in the summer. Their wealth of attacking options is almost unrivalled, and they have no Champions League football to distract them – a factor which greatly benefited Liverpool last season.
But they have sometimes lacked fluency and are still waiting on top class replacements for departed trio Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, who all left Old Trafford in the summer. If Van Gaal spends big again, he’d do well to focus on offering more support to star goalkeeper David de Gea, before he goes after more in attack.
Arsenal have also bee caught out at the back this season, and Arsene Wenger surely regrets not signing a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen. Like United, they look good going forward – particularly through summer signing Alexis Sanchez – and yet they’ve been linked with transfer moves for a never ending list of forward players, such as Edinson Cavani.
If both teams can sure up their defence, they should close out the two remaining Champions League spots. However, unlike in many previous seasons, they will find themselves being punished if they slip up.
In recent weeks, Liverpool looked to have rediscovered a bit of their swagger, and were impressive in dispatching the Swans. With Daniel Sturridge still to return from injury, and with Adam Lallana finally hitting his stride, the Reds’ top four hopes aren’t over yet.
Brendan Rodgers desperately needs a goalkeeper to spread confidence through the team – and would ideally like someone of the calibre of Petr Cech. However, it remains to be seen if he sticks with calamity duo Simon Mignolet and Brad Jones. A centre back and a holding midfielder also wouldn’t go amiss.
After a poor start to the season, Tottenham’s rise under Mauricio Pochettino has gone somewhat unnoticed. They are still a couple of players short, most notably a striker capable of easing the pressure on young Harry Kane, but they are heading in the right direction again.
To reiterate, the top four will come down to who buys best next month. The introduction of one of two big names could potentially lift a team from mid-table to the Champions League. Whatever happens, it’s hard to see the race not going right down to the wire.
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