The Premier League’s title race might have ended on Sunday, but the top-four race is healthier than ever before. It didn’t stay up late on New Year’s Eve; no, it went to bed at 9 p.m., woke up at 5 a.m. the next day, went for a hike at 6, and by 7 a.m. was contemplating the year ahead — clear-headed and hangover free — from atop a quiet nearby peak. The year before, everyone thought they knew the top-four race; there was really only one word to describe it: predictable. But not anymore. With everyone else still asleep or groggy from the night before, the top-four race stated its intention for the first half of 2022: COMPLETE CHAOS.
Heading into the second half of the season, just four points separate seventh from fourth in the table. According to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, there are four teams (Arsenal at 38%, Tottenham at 31%, West Ham at 16%, Man United at 13%) who all have at least a 10% chance of finishing seventh, sixth, fifth and fourth. Unlike the title race, where every dropped point for Liverpool and Chelsea felt like an aberration and an ultimatum against the constant three-point churn of Manchester City, the teams in the race for the final Champions League qualification slot just simply aren’t as good. They drop points all the time! None of them average more than 1.8 points per match. There was even one stretch where Arsenal took nine points from six games … and actually moved up into fourth place. There’s plenty more of this to come, too:
Before we continue, a word for the teams on both sides of this cluster. Liverpool and Chelsea are both closer to fourth than to fifth right now, and per FiveThirtyEight, there’s a combined probability of 16% that one of them ends up in the fourth slot. But only a massive run of bad luck or suddenly awful form — or, frankly, both at the same time — would see either one dip any farther than that. Liverpool are 99% to finish top four, while Chelsea sit at 92%. As for Brighton, Leicester and Wolves, there’s a combined probability of 8% that one of them qualifies for the Champions League. Wake us up when one of you gets to 10%, would you?
So, let’s take a look at the four teams in the thick of the top-four race and the reasons they will — and why they won’t — be the ones sitting in fourth come late May.
Jump to: Arsenal | West Ham | Tottenham | Man United
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