Premier League Title Race: At a Glance
Written by: David Crichton
With 2 months until the Premier League season ends, now is a good time to catch up on an ever-tightening top 4 and title race. Currently, Manchester City and Liverpool are gunning for the top spot, with City 6 points ahead of the Red, but Liverpool have one game in hand. Sitting in a comfortable 3rd place is Chelsea, who are too far behind the top 2 to have a legitimate shot at the title, and 5 points clear of their closest challenger. In typical Premier League fashion, the fight for the 4th and final Champions League spot is heating up down the stretch. As it stands, Arsenal controls the fourth spot, with Manchester United and Tottenham within striking distance. For a look at how the summer and winter transfer windows have gotten us to this point in the season and predictions on how the season will finish, keep reading below.
Being the runaway title winners from last season, City faced pressure to run it back. In an effort to cement themselves as perennial title winners, they bolstered their already stacked roster by signing midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for a record $130M transfer fee during the summer window. The move flexed the belief by City’s ownership group that money was no object in the chase for trophies. City began the season in a fashion fans have become accustomed to, rolling their way to the top spot, and separating themselves from the pack. Although City were winning games, it was hard to measure Grealish’s impact on those wins. Grealish has 2 goals and 2 assists in 17 appearances this season, which has left a lot to be desired from the $130M man. Still recovering from an injury, no one can be certain that when he does come back, he will help City separate from Liverpool in the standings.
Unlike Manchester City, Liverpool made their biggest purchase of the season during the winter transfer window. Liverpool acquired left winger Luis Díaz from FC Porto for a $50M transfer fee to relieve some attacking pressure off the shoulders of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. In a very small sample size of 4 games, he’s fit into his role quickly, already netting one goal against Norwich City. Liverpool started this season off a little slower than fans would’ve liked with a couple of draws putting them a few points behind the league leaders, Man City; however, if City were to slip up down the stretch, there’s no reason the Red couldn’t push past them and nab the title for themselves.
Chelsea made a splash during the summer transfer window when they brought back Romelu Lukaku, paying a $124M transfer fee to get him from Manchester United. Lukaku played one season for Chelsea from 2011-2012, and never produced much, coming off the bench in 7 of his 8 appearances. Coming off two stellar seasons for Inter Milan in Serie A, fans were looking for more from Lukaku this time around…and they got some of what they asked for. In 17 appearances for Chelsea, Lukaku scored 5 goals but assisted on none. Recently, he’s been publicly feuding with manager Thomas Tuchel over his management style, which has created tension within the organization. Lukaku’s play has also struggled during the last few months, which Lukaku has blamed on Tuchel. Despite these accusations, Tuchel remains in support of his striker and continues to have him in the starting lineup week after week. Chelsea have had a solid season so far and if they continue in the form they’ve been playing in, they’ll lock down the 3 spot for the rest of the season.
Arsenal’s summer transfer window has proven to be the most impactful window for any of the top six clubs. Their two major signings, Martin Ødegaard and Ben White, have played instrumental roles in securing Arsenal’s 4th place position. In midfield, Ødegaard has found the back of the net 5 times this season and assisted on 3 goals in 23 appearances this season. During a 6 game span in December, he scored and assisted on 3 goals, which earned him a player of the month nomination. Although it took a few games for Ødegaard to get situated in Arteta’s system, he now proves to be a steal for his $38M price tag. On the defensive side of the ball, Ben White has been a solid addition to the team. In 23 appearances for the Gunners, White has 11 clean sheets, 28 tackles, and 30 interceptions. White has lived up to his $64M transfer fee with commendable performances this season, especially in the last 3 months as Arsenal has taken off. With Arsenal having 3 games in hand against Man United and West Ham, they will look to distance themselves and finally make it back to the Champions League for the first time since 2016.
Manchester United had the most star-studded summer transfer window in the Premier League this season. They signed wonder kid Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund for a $94M fee, and shocked the football world when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus for a measly $16M fee. While the Sancho signing represented the future for United, Ronaldo’s was a return to the club's storied past. With Ronaldo, Manchester went on an impressive run, winning 3 straight Premier League titles from 2006-2009. Ownership hoped to return some of this magic to Old Trafford by bringing the Portuguese national back to where his career began. On the season, Ronaldo has 9 goals and 3 assists in 23 appearances, which is good from an individual standpoint, but United have struggled since he arrived. They have been pummeled by top tier competition, and suffered embarrassing losses and draws against lesser tier clubs. The problem Ronaldo presents is that his presence demands the ball. The team suffers as a result because his teammates feel the need to force him the ball in order for him to work his magic. The way United is currently playing, it is unlikely they will reclaim their 4th position in the table.
Tottenham are an interesting case as their transfer windows saw more departures than arrivals. In the summer, the Spurs lost two talented wingers, Gareth Bale and Erik Lamela, in addition to midfielder Moussa Sissoko. On the back end, they lost two aging defenders in Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld. To replace this massive outflow of talent, Tottenham signed winger Bryan Gil, who hasn’t touched the pitch much, and right-back Emerson Royal from Barcelona on a $28M transfer fee. In Royal’s 20 appearances, he has recorded only 3 clean sheets and has conceded 22 goals. Recently, his play has come under increased scrutiny, causing him to be benched for the squad’s most recent game against Leeds. As a whole this season, Tottenham have been expectedly average as they sit inside the top 8 where most people predicted them to be. They currently sit in 7th place, but have a strong chance to push past West Ham and Man United given their 3 games in hand against both clubs. After a strong 3-2 victory against the league leaders Manchester City a few weeks ago, there’s no telling where the ceiling is on this team.
Now with discussions on how we got to this point in the season out of the way, we move to predictions on how the rest of the season will turn out. In a surprise to most people, I have Liverpool pulling past Manchester City and raising the Premier League trophy at the end of the season. The pivotal game occurs on April 10th, where Liverpool and Manchester City meet at the Etihad to likely decide who wins the title. If both teams win out to that point, which I anticipate they will, Liverpool will be three points behind City, meaning that a win for Liverpool puts them level. Liverpool currently boast the best goal differential in the league, only over City by 1 goal, but I believe it will be enough for Liverpool to win the trophy when it's all said and done. In terms of what the rest of the top 4 will look like, I have Chelsea holding firm in 3rd, and Arsenal holding on to 4th from here on out. Saka, Ødegaard, and Martinelli are playing in top form for Arsenal, and I don’t see them slowing down any time soon.