The Premier League season is nearing its end and the race for the final two Champions League places is heating up. Tottenham Hotspur in third with a three-point lead over Manchester United, while Arsenal and Chelsea are just one and two points off fourth. Plus, the Blues have a game in hand. Who among them will finish third and fourth in the Premier League?
Let’s use their previous results this season to shed some light on the question.
The Race for The Top Four
The process is simple: calculate the average points taken by each club per match thus far this season against both their big six rivals and the ‘little 14’, then multiply the average points earned by the number of remaining fixtures against both types of opposition.
This will take some bias out of the process and give a fairly accurate answer.
Spurs have occupied third place for the majority of the season. However, after some poor results recently, their grip on a Champions League place is beginning to look tenuous.
So far this season they have played big six opposition eight times, winning two, drawing one and losing the other five. So, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have taken seven points from eight matches against big six opposition, for an average of .875 points per game.
As they still have two matches against big six opposition, Liverpool and Manchester City away, they should earn 1.75 points. Since we cannot have fractions, Spurs get credited with two more points for these two matches.
Meanwhile, they have played 21 matches against all other clubs, winning 18 for 54 points. This is an average of 2.57 points per game. Spurs will play the other 14 clubs seven more times, which gives them 17.99 points. Again, we can’t have fractions, so that number is rounded to 18.
So, if Tottenham hold their average form from the league this season, they should earn another 20 points. Add that to their current 61 and we get a predicted total of 81 points.
The Red Devils looked down and out under Jose Mourinho. However, since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over at Old Trafford they have looked a team reborn. They have even clawed their way all the way up to fourth as of the time of writing.
So far United have taken six points from seven big six encounters, for an average of .86 points per game. They have fared far better against the other 14 clubs, amassing 52 points from 22 matches, for an average of 2.37 per game.
Solskjaer’s men still have three matches against the big six and six against all others. If averages hold they would earn 2.58 points against the big six, rounded to three, and 14.22 against the little 14, rounded to 14.
Add those 17 points to their current 58 and we see their predicted total comes to 75. A very respectable total considering how their season has gone.
Arsenal have been in and out of the race for fourth this season. Runs of anonymous form saw them drop as many as ten points below their north London rivals as recently as February. However, they are currently just one point off of fourth with nine matches to play.
Unai Emery’s men have taken nine points from their nine matches against big six opposition for an average of one point per game. Meanwhile, they have earned 48 points from the other 20 matches this season, for an average of 2.4 per game.
Arsenal have just the one match against big six opposition remaining this season, against the Red Devils at home, so should take one point. The other eight matches against other clubs should yield 19.2 points, which is rounded down to 19.
They are currently on 57 points, so if averages hold the Gunners would finish the season on 77 points, just edging out Manchester United.
The Blues started the season on fire, with Maurizio Sarri receiving praise for his exciting, attacking style of play. However, Chelsea’s season has turned and there are rumours that Sarri will get the sack even before the summer.
Chelsea have fared better against the Premier League’s top clubs compared to the others on this list, taking 11 points from their eight matches against the big six. This is an average of 1.375 points per game.
So, their two matches against big six clubs should get them an average of 2.75 points, which is rounded to three for our purposes.
Meanwhile, their encounters with all other clubs have yielded 45 points from 20 matches, for an average of 2.25 per game. So, they should bag 18 points from their final eight matches against lesser opposition.
These extra 21 points added to their current 56 would see them finish on 77 points, level with Arsenal. However, as of the time of writing, the Gunners have a slightly better goal difference, +22 to +19.
Should averages hold, the current table will get shaken up a bit. Spurs would retain third and finish on 81 points. Both their London rivals would finish level on 77 points, but Arsenal’s superior goal differential would see them take fourth over Chelsea.
Finally, Manchester United’s return to form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wouldn’t be enough for Champions League qualification as his side would finish two points off of fourth in the Premier League.
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