Praise the lord, the Premier League has returned!
We’ve not set our eyes on the self-proclaimed greatest show on earth since the 23rd of January. A deadline day and an FA Cup fourth round have come and gone since then, and it feels like a lifetime. Yes, we know Burnley and Watford played out a 0-0 draw this Saturday gone, but if you watched it, you’d know it wasn’t the best spectacle on the eye…
Winter in Europe’s best league (™) has been a higgledy-piggledy affair – Covid postponements have seen fit to leave us confused and dazed, and not really sure what anyone’s actual position is, especially when it comes to the top -four race.
There is a three-game differential between rivals West Ham and Tottenham, with Arsenal and Manchester United falling somewhere in the middle, making it difficult to paint a true picture of how things stand. But we’re always up for a challenge, so let’s give it a go.
We’re not looking at Chelsea (1/33 for a top-four finish) here, but with a Club World Cup to compete in and having played at least one more game than all of their top-four rivals – they’ve played four more than Spurs – that picture could start to look markedly different in quick fashion.
Let’s take a look at the odds…
Premier League Betting Odds
Man United – 6/4
Who are Manchester United? Where are they going? What are they trying to do? These are questions that still persist, despite now having had a good couple of months under interim boss Ralf Rangnick. It remains unclear where the disconnect is.
They look better defensively, but look lost in attack. One might argue the latter is a direct consequence of the former, with Rangnick seemingly ‘going back to basics’ before looking toward a more expansive style of play at the other end.
Back in December, United were odds-on at 8/11 to finish in the top-four, but their inability to take advantage of a favourable fixture list has seen them drift back above EVS – albeit still favourites for that all-important final spot.
Defeat to Wolves at the turn of the year, followed by a draw with Aston Villa, was the nadir, but they put that right somewhat with victories over Brentford and top-four rivals West Ham before the break.
They may have failed to take full advantage over the holiday period, but United still have what looks like a generous set of fixtures – at least until they travel to rivals Man City early next month, where things start to get considerably tougher.
Tottenham – 13/8
There have been some considerable lows so far under Antonio Conte – notably the defeat to NS Mura in late November in the Europa League, as well as a two-legged EFL Cup exit to Chelsea where they didn’t look close to their London rivals.
But look a little closer and you’ll see it’s not been half bad, especially considering where they were when the Italian took over. The north London outfit have lost only once since the former Inter manager came to town – again to Chelsea last time out.
A scramble on deadline day led to the exit of Dele Alli, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski both came in on loan deals from Serie A giants Juventus.
It may not have been the window Spurs fans were hoping for, but Conte is slowly but surely starting to shape his squad.
It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to convince the Italian to commit to the project beyond the end of this season, but finishing fourth would surely help in that respect.
Arsenal – 5/2
Much like nearly all of their top-four rivals, it was a quiet January transfer window at the Emirates.
There was of course the exit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who Mikel Arteta appears to have held in such disdain he was happy to let go for free to Barcelona.
There were other exits too, all seemingly geared towards a mass reduction in the wage bill with a view to some serious spending in the summer. Arsenal fans will be hoping so, anyway.
The Gunners haven’t experienced Europe’s premier cup competition since 2017, so it can’t be underestimated how much of a boost it would be to their current project were they to return.
Despite the stop-start nature of their season since the Christmas period – playing just two Premier League games in January – Arteta’s side have four wins in their last six… but a defeat to Man City then a draw with Burnley dampened growing expectations.
On the bright side, their next six games look very winnable indeed, meaning they’re likely to stay in the mix right up until May.
West Ham – 9/1
Back in December, when we first took an in-depth look at the race for the top-four, West Ham were 5/1 to finish in the Champions League spots – but, after just three wins in their last eight Premier League games against bottom half teams, David Moyes’ side have drifted considerably.
The Hammers are back in action on Tuesday evening against Watford, looking to stop a run of two straight defeats after losses to Leeds United and Manchester United.
While you would expect them to pass such a test, there’s definitely signs that Moyes’ boys may just be starting to huff and puff as the season reaches crunch time.
January reinforcements could have been crucial, but the window ended in frustration for the Londoners as a move for Jesse Lingard failed to materialise and an audacious attempt for Kalvin Phillips was, as expected, rebuffed by Leeds.
If we’re to have the claret and blue grace the world’s most glamorous club competition next season, a pick up in form needs to happen, and soon.
Football Betting Odds