Midway through the season it’s evident that the top two are all but decided. Whether it’s Chelsea or City that end in first is still a tossup but either way those two are walking away from the rest of the pack. Even with a shock draw to Burnley – Burnley! – City are at 43 points with Chelsea at 46 and third-place United at 36.
Manchester United are finding their form and a top four finish that looked laughable at the beginning of the season looks very possible now. Liverpool are far down the table in 10th place and pose no threat. Tottenham are currently in 7th place and clearly finding form but drew against United at White Hart Lane. They may yet claw their way back up the table and challenge for the top 4 or 5. Last year’s 5th place, Everton, are struggling in 12th place behind Stoke who just nailed a 2-0 home win against WBA. Everton is still a quality side and may slide upwards by the end of the season but a top-five finish is a challenge.
The last of the majors, Arsenal, have the talent but star striker, Olivier Giroud, sat himself on the bench for three games after he lost his discipline and head butted QPR defender, Ned Onuoha, earning him a red card and a three game penalty. That will likely cost them dearly however they beat a solid West Ham (2-1) side at Boelyn Ground. This win brings them above the Hammers into 5th place tied with Southampton on points (33) but behind on goal difference (Saints 17, Hammers 11). West Ham sit in 6th with 31 points. This is a congested area.
West Ham looked solid this year with Enner Valencia powering down the right side and the return of Andy Carroll gave one hope. After two straight losses there are cracks in the façade.
The real question is Southampton. They’ve been strong against lesser sides but have shown palpable fear against bigger clubs. They positively shrank against Manchester City. They did rise up against Chelsea and drew 2-2 at St Mary’s though.
They have the talent but not the depth. As the season wears on exhaustion and injuries will take its toll. They do not currently have a European campaign and that does help. In the Premier League they are still in the top four (4th place at 33 pts). They’re out of the Capital One Cup with a loss to League One side Sheffield Unitied but still have the FA Cup to go. They begin that campaign in the third round against Championship side Ipswich. It’s always best to peak later in the season and nip wins away from other sides suffering from injuries and one wonders whether the Saints may have peaked too early.
Looking at the table and current momentum, we can see Chelsea, City, United, Arsenal, are the likely contenders for the Champions League. Tottenham, Southampton, and West Ham may yet surprise but are at least the current bets for the Europa League slots.