Thursday 21 September 2017

Is it really a six-horse race for the Premier League title? Analysing each club's chances of lifting the trophy

David Lyons

Tottenham supporters weren't the only ones celebrating their brilliant victory over league leaders Chelsea this week. Fans of Arsenal, Liverpool and both clubs in Manchester also would have fist pumped the air in delight.

The result has fans drooling at the thought of a six-horse race for the Premier League title.  But is this a reality, or just a line trotted out in hope?

Independent.ie analyses the possibility of a six-horse race and found none of the current top six can be ruled out.  Here's why. 

CHELSEA

Chelsea are clearly the side to catch. After a club record-breaking run, the Blues still find themselves five clear of their nearest rivals and a full 10 ahead of sixth-place Manchester United. Antonio Conte seems to have adapted very quickly to the Premier League, but has their bubble burst?

Why they can win the league: They are defensively solid and possibly the most pragmatic side in the division. As we know, that can go a long way to being crowned champions in England. They also have a very comfortable cushion over their rivals and are odds-on favourites with every bookmaker.

Why don’t won’t win the league: There aren’t many pins you can stick in the Chelsea bubble in the hope it will burst. But commentators suggesting their peak run is now at an end may have a case. A tough April will test them, but are they likely to still have their comfortable cushion by then?

LIVERPOOL

Jurgen Klopp has done a miraculous job with what has to be labelled the weakest squad of players in the top six. But that’s why Klopp’s a genius. He makes the sum of the parts much better than the parts themselves, that’s how he won back-to-back titles at Dortmund. Liverpool have been very impressive against their fellow top six clubs in head-to-heads and that could be their ticket to a first title in 27-years.

Why they can win the league: They seem to score for fun. If Liverpool can maintain their form against the big sides and beat Manchester United later this month, then they may well put some distance between themselves/Chelsea and the rest yet again. They need to maintain their strut and ensure they don’t lose the strong mentality that has got them to where they are today.

Why don’t won’t win the league: They do have the weakest squad on paper and an injury or two could really derail their aspirations. They also have a bizarre run of fixtures between now and the end of March where they play a bottom half team followed by a really tough fixture. This could cause inconsistency and knock them off course.

TOTTENHAM

Spurs aren’t going away despite some dismissing them as serious contenders throughout the campaign so far. Mauricio Pochetinho is doing a much better job than he is getting credit for and - as we witnessed against Chelsea - they can be the best team in the league on their day. But can they be the most consistent?

Why they can win the league: If - and it’s a big IF - they manage to beat both Manchester City and Liverpool on the road over the next five weeks, Spurs will find themselves above both and Chelsea’s biggest threat. They’ve turned over the leaders so far this year so there’s no reason to think they can’t burst the bubbles of City and Liverpool, but it is a big ask. Win those and a title run is on. 

Why don’t won’t win the league: Alternatively, if they were to lose those two fixtures over the next five weeks, they may well find themselves back in sixth and struggling for a top four finish. That’s how big these two fixtures are; the results could be the difference between 2nd or 6th. Their Europa League involvement won’t help them after that.

MAN CITY

Don’t be fooled by the commentators that suggest Pep Guardiola is losing the plot at the Etihad. The Spaniard knew exactly what he was doing during his media commitments last week, ensuring the headlines were all about him and not his side’s lack of discipline. Guardiola has only ever lost one league title in his career and knows exactly how to navigate a run-in. Rule City out at your peril.

Why they can win the league: They have the manager in charge to lead a side to glory. They also have, in my opinion, the best squad in the league.  Injuries won't hurt them and they are capable of putting a massive run together in the danger months. 

Why don’t won’t win the league: They have two tough periods which could derail them. Late January is tough on paper and then in late March/early April they will be tested to the max. They face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea is quick succession and those clashes will tell us all about Pep’s City revolution. If they falter then, they will be out of the running.

ARSENAL

Those close to the club are worried that this is Arsene Wenger’s last campaign at the club and wouldn’t it be just the perfect au revoir for the Frenchman if he were to wrestle back that Premier League trophy. I personally felt like this was their best chance of a title a couple of months ago but they seem to have met the same irritations that has cost them in the past.

Why they can win the league: The Gunners are devastating in attack and on their day they are the best side in the division. If Olivier Giroud can remain hot between now and May, Arsenal could be the biggest threat to Chelsea. 

Why don’t won’t win the league: They have a tough second-half to the campaign, fixture-wise and have to play Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea away from home. There is also a set mentality at Arsenal where they finish with approximately 75 points every season and that will be nowhere near good enough this season. They’d need at least 10 more than that and it’s hard to be positive that they can achieve it.

MAN UTD

Jose Mourinho finally has United looking like the best team in England again but a run of disappointing draws in October and November has set them so far back that a title win would be pretty miraculous from here. However, their recent displays suggest they can’t be ruled out and with the top six bunching up quite close to each other, surely anything can happen…right?

Why they can win the league: They are the form team in this division and that shouldn’t be forgotten. United had an impressive Christmas campaign, better than all of their rivals and if they can maintain that sort of form over the second-half of the campaign, they may well do what was deemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago and pip all of their rivals to earn a 21st league title.

Why don’t won’t win the league: They’ve so much ground to make up. Even if they do maintain their form, they need to topple five other sides to get to the summit. They also have the Europa League to contend with which is far more an annoyance to League form than most like to admit.

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