Premier League top four race analyzed as Man Utd take narrow lead into midweek fixtures


With just over three months of the season remaining, eight teams still have a great chance of qualifying for Champions League football next term.

Three of those clubs – Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea – are almost guaranteed to compete in Europe’s elite club competition after pulling away from the chasing pack.

Pep Guardiola’s leaders are 20 points clear of fifth place, while Jurgen Klopp’s chasers and Thomas Tuchel’s European champions are 11 and 10 points clear respectively.

That leaves five Premier League teams battling for fourth place: Manchester United, West Ham, Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves.

Here, Mirror Football assess each team’s chances of winning the top four race.

Who do you think will qualify for the Champions League? Let us know in the comments below!

Man Utd

Ralf Rangnick is hoping to salvage something out of Manchester United’s season
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A few weeks ago, United’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League appeared slim. They were languishing in seventh and had fulfilled more fixtures than their rivals.

Now, however, their prospects are looking better. The Red Devils have jumped up into fourth, opening a one-point gap on West Ham and two-point gaps on Arsenal and Spurs.

Ralf Rangnick’s side won their crucial game against the Hammers at Old Trafford on January 22, with England international Marcus Rashford scoring a last-minute winner.

United have only played once since that game, losing to Championship outfit Middlesbrough in the FA Cup last weekend. Their inconsistency remains a worry.

That said, they’re currently leading the race and can take confidence from that. They face basement boys Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday evening.

“Without a doubt,” said Roy Keane when asked if United will finish in the top four. “The strength in depth that Man Utd have got.

“West Ham are doing well, Arsenal have probably got a slightly better squad. Tottenham, the starting XI is decent, but XI players is not enough.

“It’s the squad of players that get you over the line. The next few months, there’ll be injuries, suspensions, international games, whatever it might be.

“That’s when you need the squad like Man Utd showed [against West Ham]. It’s where West Ham might come up short and, certainly, where Tottenham will come up short.”

West Ham

David Moyes’ team are slipping out of the top four race
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The Hammers may always be blowing bubbles, yet their current one is on the verge of being burst.

David Moyes’ side have lost back-to-back Premier League games – against United and Leeds – and were almost knocked out of the FA Cup by a non-league side.

West Ham needed a last-minute equalizer from Declan Rice to overcome Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend. They need to start picking up some results – and fast.

Their next league game is against Watford at the London Stadium on Tuesday, which won’t be easy. Roy Hodgson’s team are under new management and fighting for survival.

West Ham have also played a game more than United and three more than Tottenham. The Hammers aren’t out of this yet, although few will be putting money on them.

“We don’t necessarily see ourselves as quite there yet [being a top-four club]but we want to try and challenge them and have a good go at hanging in there,” said Moyes last month.

“Let’s be fair, the level of competition for those spots is very strong.

“Over recent years, it’s been quite a regular group of teams who have been there, with maybe the likes of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur too.

“It’s not an easy group to break into. We’re going to keep trying to hang in there, and see where we end up.”

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta is feeling the pressure at Arsenal
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Mikel Arteta’s side haven’t enjoyed an easy start to 2022.

The Gunners have been dumped out of the FA Cup and EFL Cup. They’ve also lost ground in the top four race, only managing a goalless draw against Burnley last time out.

Despite this, Arsenal have a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League. They’re still only two points behind United with a game in hand.

And, unlike United and West Ham, they don’t have European football to worry about. The Gunners can put all their eggs in their Premier League basket.

Arsenal’s game against high-flying Wolves at Molineux on Thursday will be a big test of their credentials. Bruno Lage’s side are currently eighth and remain in the hunt for fourth.

Analyzing their Champions League hopes last month, Keane asked: “Can they really push on and make that top four? I’m not so sure.

“I still think they’re a bit soft at times, especially against the bigger teams.”

Tottenham

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are on the charge
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Antonio Conte finally lost his first Premier League game as Tottenham manager before the winter break, suffering a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The loss suggested Spurs are far from the finished article, although they remain in a good position. Conte’s side are just two points behind United with two games in hand.

They also breezed past a very good Brighton side in the FA Cup at the weekend, with a rejuvenated Harry Kane scoring twice in a 3-1 home win.

With Kane and his team-mates playing well, Spurs fans will be confident of beating Southampton at home on Wednesday evening.

Tottenham’s next five Premier League fixtures – all in February – could define their season. After the Saints, they face Wolves, Man City, Burnley and Leeds.

Harry Kane is back to his best
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If they’re in the fourth after this month, they must be considered as favorites for the position.

“I think the reason why Spurs are the favorites is because of the manager,” said former England international Gabby Agbonlahor last month.

“They’ve got the best manager out of the other teams trying to get into the top four – West Ham, Manchester United, Arsenal. He’s proven.

“Look what he’s done with Inter Milan, Chelsea, but especially with Inter Milan last season. To win the Scudetto when Juventus had been on top for nine years winning it.

“Him at that club now, he will be the reason they are my favorites for top four.”

wolves

Bruno Lage is doing a great job at Wolves
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Since our last review of the top four race, Wolves haven’t gained any places on their top four rivals. Their form, however, is much better.

Lage’s side haven’t lost a Premier League game for nearly two months. In fact, the only two teams to beat them in their last 10 league fixtures are Man City and Liverpool.

During that time, they’ve beaten Brighton, United, Southampton and West Ham. They’ve also held Chelsea to a goalless draw.

The only real blip Wolves have had in recent weeks was their 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Norwich at Molineux last weekend.

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The West Midlands outfit are now just four points behind United with a game in hand, although losing Adama Traore to Barcelona will hamper their bid for European football.

Like Tottenham, the next few weeks are likely to define their season. Wolves face Arsenal, Spurs, Leicester, Arsenal again and West Ham before the month draws to an end.

Wolves love to hunt, but whether they can catch United, West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham remains to be seen. It promises to be a fascinating race.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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