With Spurs beating Chelsea last week, the top four race is now wide open. Certainly wider than the title race at least, where it’s just a two horse race this time around.Chelsea and Manchester City will certainly make the top four this season, there is no question about that. But regulars, like Arsenal and Manchester United will not find it easy to finish in the Champions League places. Liverpool, who finished second last season are struggling to find any rhythm and may lose out on their top four spot.Let’s take a look at the new contenders who can disturb the order and qualify for the Champions League:
Was there anyone in his/her sane mind, at the start of this season, who would have said that in the New Year, Southampton will be above Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, and just a point behind Manchester United. Despite the mid-season blip, which began at Villa Park, where they drew 1-1, and then went on to lose their next four games, Southampton have come back well to be sitting in fourth and still be having a realistic chance of finishing in the top four this season.
Each and every player has given their all, but to single out a few, the rampaging full backs Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne, the energetic central midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and the foreign recruits, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle, who have settled in ever so well, have been magnificent.
Squad depth, however has always been a concern for Koeman’s side. They have a fantastic starting XI, but the bench always has two or three players who haven’t yet played Premier League football or have played very little. That number will further increase, with Saido Mane (who scored against Chelsea and Arsenal recently), Emmanuel Mayuka and Maya Yoshida all leaving to play for their national sides for the rest of the month.
Taking a look at their fixtures, they travel to Old Trafford this weekend, with visits like Saint James’ Park, Stamford Bridge, The Britannia and The Etihad Stadium (last day of the season) yet to come.
Let’s hope The Saints’ play Champions League next season. What a delight that would be!