As we start to enter the final stretch of the Premier League season, there are a few things that seem to be set in stone already. Either Manchester City or Liverpool are going to win the League. Chelsea, despite being eliminated from this year’s Champions League competition, will more than likely qualify for next year’s tournament. Norwich and Watford seem likely to drop back into England’s second tier Championship campaign.
What is still up in the air however is who will land in that fourth spot and qualify for Champions League football for 2022/23. If the season were to end today, it would be Tottenham. But there’s plenty of season left for the cards to get shuffled further.
Is Arsenal in freefall?
Arsenal looked to be in pole position, as they had multiple games in hand and a handful of what should have been winnable games. But after injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey, and devastating losses to Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion, the Gunners don’t look like the shoe-in they did just a few short weeks ago. And their run in isn’t going to be easy.
Of their eight remaining matches, half of them are going to be played against the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, and West Ham United, all of whom are fighting for Champions League football themselves. While they have a couple of games in hand on some of those clubs, further losses could be devastating not just for their Champions League hopes, but also their European hopes. While it’s highly unlikely they’ll tumble all the way out of Europe, it still remains a mathematical possibility. They’ll need to sort themselves out on the flanks against Southampton or this could become an embarrassing end to the season for the North London outfit.
Spurs are heading in the other direction
A little further north, in London’s N17, lies quite the opposite story. Antonio Conte’s Spurs side seemed for a bit to struggle for consistent form, but now appear to be firing on all cylinders. The addition of Dejan Kulusevski in January has made the Tottenham attack arguably the most lethal in Europe. Spurs have won six of their last seven, and are having a 2022 to remember.
Since the turn of the new year, Tottenham have taken more points than any team other than Liverpool, and have scored the most goals, which is what they lacked at the start. They own the goal difference, as of now, against their North London rivals, and with a North London Derby still to play next month, the Lillywhites hold the cards.
Wolves have an outside chance of finding their way through, but they’ve played more games than all the others in the running aside from West Ham. So, while Wolves may not realistically get to the Champions League, they have a legitimate shot of getting into either the Europa League or Europa Conference League.
West Ham has been the dark horse of the season in the Premier League. While they may be getting a lot of guff for their more recent form, the fact that David Moyes has commanded consistency from his small squad and they’re still in the running is amazing. I’m a far reach from caring about the bubble squad, but Moyes may be on to something in East London. They’re unlikely to find their way into Champions League via their league position, but still being alive in the Quarterfinal of the Europa League could give them a chance to find their way through. They’re probably as good as anyone left not named Barcelona.
(Not so much) glory (as of late) Man United
Then there’s Manchester United. When they beat Tottenham via a Ronaldo hat trick in mid March, it seemed they may be able to truly find their way into the top four. But since then, they have drawn with Leicester and lost to an Everton side who is fighting for relegation. They should be able to skate past Norwich, but have matches against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea still to go. They also have matches against both Brighton and Palace, who have been having a good time playing spoiler for clubs higher in the table. It seems like United is most likely to lose its grip on Europe.
Plenty of possibilities still exist, but ultimately Tottenham now seems to be the club most likely to fight their way into Champions League football for next season. And, if that happens, Conte may get his own statue on Hotspur Way. But there’s plenty of football left to play, so anything could happen.
- / 11 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.