The sight of Liverpool sitting at the top of the Premier League with such a huge advantage has led to some suggestion that this season’s Premier League is boring.
However, below the league leaders, it’s a long time since there has been such a competitive top division, with every team still with something to play for.
It would be both unprofessional and foolish for the players or staff at Liverpool to suggest that the title race is over, for no team has been crowned champions on 67 points, and there’s still some work to be done before any silverware is secured.
But only a monumental reversal to Liverpool’s form would allow Man City back into realistic contention, and there’s little sign of Liverpool dropping the amount of points needed for them to be put under serious pressure.
Man City are still on course to finish in second place, with Leicester currently performing well enough to hold on to a top three spot – despite recent losses that have seen them fall behind Man City.
As covered before Christmas, the race for fourth looks like one which no one wants to win. Chelsea occupy the much-coveted position at present, but have done everything possible to keep other clubs in contention having dropped 22 points during the last 12 matches.
Had Wolves continued the impressive form which saw them climb from the relegation zone into sixth place over the space of just a few weeks towards the end of 2019, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team may already be in pole position for a Champions League place.
But dramatic victories over Man City and Southampton sandwiched a run of five matches without a win, and while performances against the very best opponents have been excellent, Wolves still need to show a greater consistency in matches against lower placed teams if they are to compete for anything more than a Europa League place.
The strongest challenge to Chelsea may yet come from Man United, who have closed the gap between the teams from 10 points in early December, to a current deficit of six points.
It could have been an even smaller gap had United not been deservedly beaten at home to Burnley last week, and even though the 20-time English champions have recorded by far the club’s worst points total at this stage of a Premier League season, there have been enough wins collected over the last six weeks to suggest that they’ll be in contention if they can remain relatively close behind Chelsea.
The two teams meet next month in one of a number of upcoming fixtures involving clubs aiming for a top four position, and the outcome could prove decisive at the end of the season.
Moving on to the league places which could result in qualification for next season’s Europa League, it becomes even more difficult to confidently predict the outcome. With potentially three places up for grabs, depending on the identity of the two domestic cup winners, it’s a realistic target for any of the teams currently placed between 4th and 14th in the table.
This group of teams includes some big names, as well as the likes of Sheffield United, who have performed exceptionally in the club’s first season back in the Premier League. A European place is not out of the question, but it’ll still take a huge effort to achieve due to the nature of the table, and even a top ten finish would represent an excellent season for Chris Wilder and his players.
The greatest pressure to secure a European place will inevitably be on the likes of Arsenal and Spurs, but recent form would suggest Southampton and Everton are every bit as likely to be involved as the two North London clubs. The gap of just four points separating the ten clubs from Man United in 5th down to Newcastle in 14th ensures that every win is huge and every defeat costly.
Consistency has been a problem for most teams, and even a run of just two or three wins in a row might be enough to catapult one of those teams above their rivals and move into the driving seat ahead of the final weeks of the season.
With a seven point lead over those in the relegation zone, Burnley and Newcastle fans can focus on the teams above rather than being overly concerned of the threat of being dragged into a relegation scrap.
But that isn’t the case for any of the six teams below them, none of whom could claim to be safe from the drop.
Watford have enjoyed a real resurgence under Nigel Pearson, but a loss at Aston Villa emphasised just how precarious a position they remain in.
Conversely, Bournemouth have been in freefall for the last couple of months. But even after suffering 10 losses in 12 matches, a win against south coast rivals Brighton in last week’s round of league fixtures was enough to put them level on points with three other clubs in the bottom four. That result also saw Brighton pulled a little closer to the bottom three than they’d like to be.
The fate of Norwich may already be sealed by the time they next face one of the other teams fighting relegation, as each of their next eight league games are against teams positioned in the top two-thirds of the league.
So while the expectation of many Premier League fans is that it’s only a matter of time before Liverpool are declared champions, there’s still plenty of other matters that remain undecided, with something at stake for each participant of virtually every game left to play.
And although the table has a stranger look than usual, mostly due to the sheer inability of regular top-six-placing clubs to string a series of positive results together, there’s little in the claims of the league either lacking quality or being boring.