There are just eight weeks’ worth of games left in this chaotic season and still the Premier League shows no signs of returning to normalcy. Leicester City is five points clear on top of the table. Tottenham Hotspur, which has not won the league since 1962, is in second place and looks as though it will be the only team capable of knocking the Foxes off the top spot. Arsenal is currently in its usual third place and playing decently, although it has an 11-point difference to make up. Manchester City is in fourth, an incredible 15 points out of first place, and faces stiff competition from West Ham United and Manchester United for the precious final Champions League spot. With less than two months to go in this wonderful season, I would like to spend this week predicting the top four teams based off the current standings.
Leicester City is the feel-good story of the year. It is almost impossible to imagine that just a year ago, the team was in last place and facing almost certain relegation. Like many people whose teams do not really have a chance of winning the league, I sincerely hope that Leicester City wins the league. For one, it would be great for the Premier League because it signals a shift from the traditional and predictable top finishes from Chelsea or either of the Manchester teams. Leicester City has posted its first-ever profit this year, and it will only continue to skyrocket in value. Finally, there is just something inspiring about seeing a little team that nobody expected to do well continue to defy expectations. With a victory over Crystal Palace this weekend, the championship is looking more and more like a possibility. Naysayers have been expecting Leicester City to falter, but seeing asthere has been no sign of that at all, it seems highly unlikely. Predicted finish: first place.
If it weren’t for Leicester City’s amazing run, it is very likely that Tottenham would be the exciting story of the season. Over the years, Tottenham fans have become used to seeing their team fizzle out and languish somewhere in the midtable range. There is even a website dedicated to counting down the years Tottenham has gone without the title. This is not the case this year. Thanks to brilliant striker Harry Kane, who is currently tied with Leicester striker Jamie Vardy for most goals; a wonderful manager in Mauricio Pochettino; and solid goalkeeping, Tottenham is almost certain to qualify for the Champions League next year. Although the Spurs were just eliminated from the Europa League, this could actually be a blessing because it allows them to focus on a title charge. Unfortunately for Tottenham, however, I just do not see Leicester City losing steam. Predicted finish: second place.
I feel sorry for Arsenal fans. This year really seemed like the year Arsenal would finally win the title, due to the fantastic start that the Gunners had. Rather predictably, however, Arsenal seems to be unable to finish strong. It is not that the Gunners are playing poorly — indeed, many teams would be grateful to play the way Arsenal does. But for whatever reason — injuries, fatigue, nerves — Arsenal has cooled off. Following both a Champions League and an FA Cup exit, the pressure will really be on manager Arsène Wenger to finish strong and try to win the title for the first time since the 2003 season. At this point, this seems to be highly unlikely, seeing as both Tottenham and Leicester would need to fail spectacularly. I would not be surprised if this were the season Wenger is pushed out the door. Predicted finish: third place.
I can only imagine how Pep Guardiola is feeling right now. Even though Manchester City won the Capital One Cup — in penalties, mind you — it has done rather poorly in the Premier League. It has not won a game all season against any team currently in the top five and has been thoroughly thumped by Liverpool twice. City does not look like a championship-caliber team at all right now, and it is almost mathematically impossible for it to win the title. City also faces fierce competition from West Ham for that final Champions League spot. West Ham is playing like last year’s Crystal Palace: consistently beating teams like Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham. Seeing as West Ham is just one point behind City, I think there is a very good chance that City misses out on the Champions League next year. In fact, I will go out on a limb here and say that the fourth spot will go to West Ham. Predicted finish: fifth place.
If I am right, this year’s top four will feature only one traditional top-four finisher — an exciting end to a crazy season.