Last week, I looked at the teams vying for promotion from the Championship, concluding that Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield would all be playing Premier League football next season. Now it’s time to look at the battle for the top division title, or if there’s actually any battle at all.
- Current position: 1st (Games played: 27 / Points: 66)
- Current Premier League title odds: 1/16
Key Player – N’Golo Kante
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa may grab the goals and the headlines, but N’Golo Kante is the man that makes Chelsea tick, just as he was somewhat in shadows of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as Leicester won the league last season. The Frenchman is set to claim a successive winners’ medal, and it will be the least he deserves after another campaign of endless stamina, interceptions and key passes. Hazard has likened playing with the Frenchman to lining up alongside twins, such is the level of Kante’s defensive work rate.
We’ve seen too many dramatic comebacks in football to know that it’s not over until it’s over. Just ask Barcelona. But if Chelsea were to lose the league title from the position that they’re in now, ten points clear of anyone else, it would be unbelievable. The Blues’s 3-4-3 system has got the better of most of the division, and for that Antonio Conte must take huge credit after a tough start. Considering they have only lost once since October, it would take one huge capitulation and a consistent set of results from another team, something which we’ve rarely seen this season, for someone other than Chelsea to lift the trophy in May. 1st
- Current position: 2nd (Games played: 27 / Points: 56 (GD +33))
- Current Premier League title odds: 20/1
Key Player – Dele Alli
Harry Kane’s injury has come at the worst possible time for Tottenham who will be counting down the days until his return, but Dele Alli could be the man to calm their fears. 2015-16’s PFA Young Player of the Season is already having a better campaign than last year, scoring 13 goals and getting three assists in an attacking midfield position that he has made his own. The 20 year old also got on the scoresheet as Spurs thrashed Millwall 6-0 in the FA Cup last weekend, proving that the North Londoners could still play some impressive football without Kane, with Son Heung-Min’s hat-trick an especially promising sign.
Tottenham spent much of the latter half of 2015-16 trying to chase down Leicester to no avail before ending up in third place, and I fear that we may see a repeat this campaign. By beating Chelsea earlier in the season, Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed they can match the champions in waiting, but the injury to Harry Kane may very well hit them hard with Vincent Janssen failing to live up to expectations and Son Heung-Min not a natural central striker. The likes of Alli and Christian Eriksen combined with the joint best defence in the division should see Spurs finish comfortably in the top four, and if it’s any consolation for not winning the title, above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years. 3rd
- Current position: 3rd (Games played: 27 / Points: 56 (GD +24))
- Current Premier League title odds: 18/1
Key Player – Sergio Aguero
The fact that Sergio Aguero is only 18 goals away from becoming Manchester City’s all-time top scorer just six years into his time at the club speaks volumes for how good a player the Argentine is. So far this season, Aguero has 12 league goals which perhaps isn’t quite up to his previous tallies, but that should not put into question his world class ability. Strong on the ball for someone of his size and one of the most clinical finishers in the world, there have been recent rumours linking the 28 year old to Real Madrid.
There’s no doubt that Pep Guardiola has found the Premier League tougher than he and many others expected. But his City side have found form of late, as they are unbeaten in six and looking dangerous with a menacing front three of Raheem Sterling, the aforementioned Aguero and Leroy Sane. It is certainly promising for next season, when I’d expect them to make more of a push for the title with Pep Guardiola fully adapted to English football and Gabriel Jesus, who made an electric start before getting injured, returning from the sidelines. The gap this year though is too big to close, but City might well finish as the best of the rest. 2nd
The (Massive) Outsiders
- Current position: 4th (Games played: 28 / Points: 55)
- Current Premier League title odds: 66/1
Jurgen Klopp’s side seem to cope well against the top sides, shown by wins over Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal already, but their slip-ups against teams lower down the table have cost them this season. Defeats to relegation-threatened Hull and Swansea were errors that they could not afford to make as serious title contenders. Their challenge was effectively over after a miserable start to the calendar year. 4th
- Current position: 5th (Games played: 26 / Points: 50)
- Current Premier League title odds: 150/1
It’s the same every year at Arsenal. The Gunners were right in the mix at the start of the campaign, winning six games in a row in the Autumn, but things quickly veered off course around Christmas time. Throw in a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, rumours of Alexis Sanchez’s growing discontent and the most criticism Arsene Wenger has ever faced in North London and you find yourself with a poisonous atmosphere at the Emirates. They’re even facing a battle to finish in the top four, and the last time they didn’t achieve that was 1996. 5th
- Current position: 6th (Games played: 26 / Points: 49)
- Current Premier League title odds: 200/1
Winning the EFL Cup has somewhat smoothed over a disappointing league campaign in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge at Old Trafford, which on the surface has seen little progress from Louis van Gaal’s time at the helm. But the former Chelsea boss is on the way to returning the Red Devils to their former glory, and no team has lost less home games than United (two) so far this season. Paul Pogba and the currently suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic have given the squad some much needed star quality, but both will need to be on top form as they fight for a place in next season’s Champions League. 6th
Disagree with my predictions? How do you think the race for the title, or perhaps more interestingly, the race for Champions League qualification, will pan out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter!