The top six is warping into its final shape with ten matches left for each club (11 if you’re Chelsea), so for this discussion we are going to assume Liverpool and Manchester City finish in the top two slots and we’ll predict the final landing spots for places three through six.
The table currently looks like this:
Fixtures left for each club below:
Manchester United - Southampton, @ Arsenal, Watford, @ Wolves, West Ham, @ Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea, @ Huddersfield, Cardiff
Chelsea - Brighton, @ Fulham, Wolves, @ Everton, @ Cardiff, West Ham, @ Liverpool, Burnley, @ Manchester United, Watford, @ Leicester
3. Spurs: they’ll do it. Their home games are relatively easy, Southampton and Bournemouth should both be wins.
4. Manchester United: I know they have a lot of injuries right now, but they’re about to be out of the Champions League, which will help. The match next week could be defining, and they play both Manchester City and Chelsea, but crucially, both at home.
5. Arsenal: Between juggling the Europa League and trying to finish in the top 4, and some difficult away games, I’m not sure I see it. Arsenal’s away record under Emery is slightly better, but this club have also lost at Southampton, West Ham, BATE Borisov, and drawn with Brighton. Away fixtures against Wolves, Everton, Watford, Leicester City and Burnley will be tough, especially as those first three teams outplayed Arsenal at the Emirates.
6. Chelsea: Not the easiest run-in, will also be juggling the Europa League, and quite frankly it still seems like the players want to get the manager sacked. And their away form is absolutely rancid.
I think from the jump we can take Chelsea out of the equation, as they’re whatever the not-overdone-meme equivalent of a dumpster fire is right now. So that leaves Arsenal, Manchester United, and Spurs fighting for spots 3-5. I can’t see Spurs finishing lower than fourth - I mean, I can, but only in my most banterific dreams - so that, in turn, leaves one Top Four Trophy spot for one of Arsenal or Manchester United.
Looking at those two teams right now, honestly, I’d give the edge to Arsenal; United have a slightly harder run-in, but they’re also physically falling apart almost daily, thanks to the IN MY DAY WE RAN A MARATHON WEARING A 50 LB BACKPACK IN TRAINING EVERY DAY methods of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I don’t think he’ll keep destroying players, but I do think that any attempt to attain peak-season fitness in February, instead of in September, will have consequences that will give an Arsenal team that has recently found a good vein of form enough momentum to put some unbridgeable daylight between themselves and Manchester United. So:
5. Manchester United
As much as I want to avoid being a homer, I truly think that Arsenal can get back to the top 4. Despite the log jam between 3-6, we have the most manageable schedule out of all. For me, it all boils down to the home and away splits of the remaining teams. As I wrote about in my recent column, I think Arsenal should reasonably be expected to take 4 points between their matches against Spurs and United. I worry, though, about away trips to Wolves and Leicester. Those scream “trap games” to me.
No matter the outcome of this weekend’s North London Derby, Spurs still have to deal with Liverpool at Anfield and City at whatever stadium it is that Tottenham call home that week. If we somehow win the NLD, there is a good chance that we could celebrate a late-season St. Totteringham’s Day, as they could, at best, split the two. A deep run into the Champions League resulting in losing in the quarter finals would keep them incredibly busy and potentially vulernable in the league.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have away trips to both Liverpool and City, which could be too much for Chelsea and their
grumpy old grandpa new manager to handle. Despite doing us a solid and handing Tottenham the L, their schedule does not look forgiving. Coupled with their own Europa League campaign, and they may be forced to abandon the Premier League and go all in on the EL.
United probably have the most manageable schedule, while also being the team I worry about most. Considering they are most likely going to be eliminated from the Champions League next week, their schedule will be less burdened with only the Premier League and the FA Cup left on their schedule. Hosting City and Chelsea will give them the benefit of home field advantage, and I’m 95% sure that OGS will have the Red Devils in next year’s Champions league.
3. Manchester United
Arsenal will finish third. Lock it in. Don’t @ me. United will have just enough gas to get to fourth, but with all their injuries, they look like a team running on fumes and held together by duct tape and dreams. They could conceivably finish fifth. United’s saving grace, however, will be Spurs Spursing all over the place and turning what looked to be an outside shot at a title into missing the Champions League altogether. On the bright side, their shiny new stadium will look great on Thursday nights. And LOL @ Chelsea. That team has completely quit on Maurizio Sarri.
4. Manchester United
Let’s start with the easy two; Spurs are finishing 3rd and Chelsea are finishing 6th. Spurs, for their recent struggles, have the point advantage and a cohesive team that’s bought into their manager’s vision. Despite losing two North London Derbies (save that for later), it still be a fairly routine run out to their season. No real bobbles, no trophies, 3rd place forever. Their only risk is the team checking out which I just don’t see.
Chelsea are the opposite. I’m not sure how long patience with Sarri will continue but my guess is the play will be to prioritize winning Europa for the Champions League spot. That’ll sacrifice the remaining league games to some poor run outs and keep them lower down.
Which leaves the race for 4th in very exciting hands between Arsenal and Manchester United. I, honestly, like Arsenal’s schedule more. Their big games are right now and have a pretty routine finishing stretch, full of teams who’ll not have much else to play for but pride. Should Emery put out his strongest teams (re: use Ozil more, damnit!), they have a clear shot to make it back to the Top Four. Manchester United have a few trickier fixtures, a few injuries but no Champions League to distract them. There is, however, the FA Cup which I could see Solskjaer pushing for as a sign he deserves a long stretch as coach. Either way, the upcoming match between the two at the Emirates will go a long way for either side’s hopes and I would peg the winner of that match (should there be one) as the 4th place finisher.
Let’s be positive for once.
5th: Manchester United
I’ll say the same as Aidan. I think Tottenham is the best of the bunch, and though they have to play Liverpool and Manchester City away, the rest of their schedule shouldn’t be too difficult. Picking between Manchester United and Arsenal is tough. The match at the Emirates will be crucial, but the fact that Manchester United won’t have to worry about the Champions League soon and they have the fewest away games remaining is enough to sway me. They are the only team of the four to still be in the FA Cup, however.
Maybe this is solely because I see Arsenal’s flaws more regularly than any other team’s, but it’s hard for me to feel confident about any of their remaining away games. Talent-wise, Chelsea is good enough to steal a top-four place, but they seem like a mess right now, have the Europa League to fight for, and face a few tricky away games ahead.
4. Manchester United
Setting myself up for disappointment, but:
5. Manchester United
I’ll take a European trophy as much as the next person wanting silverware, with that said, I’m going with Arsenal focusing on the league more than Europa League.
3. Spurs - since they do not draw games this season apparently, I think they’ll drop 6 points to the top two sides and that’s it. Any other points is added bonus for the chase for top four
4. Arsenal - we’ve been up and down, and look to be rounding into some type of form. Ask me after this six pointer against Spurs this weekend and my entire answer may change. Unai’s men must take a least a point from this NLD.
5. Manchester United - I’m only putting them at fifth because Chelsea has the utmost potential for the bottom to fall out from match to match.
6. Chelsea - although they have looked really solid their last two matches, they also have the weird composition of a football club from owner to manager to players that is a ticking time bomb at all times. #KepaForever
3. Manchester United
The Short Fuse’s final table predictions added up will see the table stay exactly as it lies today (Spurs, Arsenal, United, Chelsea). How exciting! Naturally this means Chelsea will end up in third somehow since we unanimously voted them sixth overall.
Let us know how you think the 3-6 spots will finish in league play below in the comment section.
And now enjoy this video of our striking bromance below