The Premier League Top 4 Is A Surprise, But Can It Stay That Way?
The Barclays Premier League is a little over halfway mark for the season, with each of the 20 teams playing 22 out of 38 games.
1. Arsenal - 44 points 2. Leicester City - 44 points 3. Manchester City - 43 points 4. Tottenham Hotspur - 39 points
Leicester City, who finished 14th in the table last year have been the surprise of the Premier League.
Striker Jamie Vardy is scoring goals at will, while attacking midfielder, Riyad Mahrez, is stifling defenses and is 5th in the league with seven assists.
And veteran manager, Claudio Ranieri, has the Foxes competing at an extremely high level, but pundits still cite their lack of depth as proof that they will fade toward the end of the season.
Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, has been on the cusp of the top four for the past few years and have been the team most likely to compete against the big boys of the Premier League.
The Spurs have finished fifth, sixth and fifth in the last three years, respectively, but this year, Mauricio Pochettino’s young and hungry squad aren’t just relying on England International striker Harry Kane to lead them to the UEFA Champions League.
They have combined the likes of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Érik Lamela and other attacking midfielders to become a formidable attacking force.
The “Big Four” dominance of the 2000s, which saw Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United dominate the league seems to be part of the past.
Although Arsenal seems the most likely to lift the trophy this year, the other three teams have struggled to find their identity and form on the pitch.
Manchester United sits fifth in the table, where they are seven points off the league leaders and two points behind Tottenham for fourth.
Liverpool is ninth (13 points off the leaders), and Chelsea a surprising 14th (19 points off the leaders).
Usually, English soccer follows a fairly predictable script with these Big Four clubs all in the mix for a top four finish.
The discussion was more about where they will finish in the top four, but this year has been quite the opposite.
Due to the influx of increased financial might, this year is one of the most unpredictable English title race in recent memory.
Parity in the league usually diffuses in November, but here we are in January and still don’t truly have a good grasp on who will lift the trophy.
At this point, it is looking like Arsenal will win the league, with Manchester City trailing not far behind. Arsenal look like a well oiled machine -- despite all the injuries -- and are looking to bolster their squad in the January transfer window.
Elsewhere, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero showing signs of regaining their form, Manchester City’s attacking prowess looks to finally be taking shape but it may be too late to capture the top spot in the league.
Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur will be battling with a semi-resurgent Manchester United for the final two spots in the league, but Van Gaal’s Red Devils seem to be gaining some momentum and breathing down the necks of the Foxes and the Spurs.
But the lack of consistency, and goals, from Van Gaal’s men will most likely see them finish right outside the top four and the loss of his job.
At the end of the season, my prediction for the top four will include the same teams but in different order:
1. Arsenal 2. Manchester City 3. Tottenham Hotspur 4. Leicester City