Clear separations between teams can be both good and bad for competition, it simply depends on the splits between the teams in those groups.
This season, the neutral may have more to look forward to than any other Premier League campaign. Tight battles for pivotal places are in progress at every level of the table.
Of course, the title race and survival fight take precedent, but the opportunity to secure a Champions League spot next season is on the mind of many teams.
Chelsea, Brentford and Fulham are 50/1, 100/1 and 250/1 respectively to make the top four, and it’s fairly easy to dismiss them as a result. It’s safe to say two of the five teams at the top of the market will fill the places.
Premier League Top 4 Finish 2022/23 odds (via Sky Bet)
- Manchester United – 1/5
- Newcastle – 1/1
- Liverpool – 2/1
- Tottenham – 2/1
- Brighton – 9/2
Odds correct at 1200 GMT (22/03/23)
Manchester United: 3rd – 50 points
Talk of a Manchester United title charge was understandably short lived.
Erik ten Hag’s side are a level below Arsenal and Manchester City this season, dropping into this fight recently. They do appear to be a comfortable choice to finish in third place on all known evidence, however.
Perhaps other commitments will distract United, chasing a cup treble in the 2022/23 campaign, but fixtures are rather kind at the back end of the season, which bodes well for a team that has done well against teams outside the ‘big six’, despite the rough start they had.
Indeed, United have averaged an impressive 2 points per game versus the other 14 clubs thus far this term, with only Chelsea (h) and Tottenham (a) to come from the ‘big six’ in the remaining 12 league matches.
United’s underlying performances are good enough to consolidate third and cap a terrific first season under Ten Hag, especially with the upcoming schedule.
Tottenham: 4th – 49 points
Antonio Conte’s rant rather sums up the latter part of Tottenham’s season thus far.
Spurs’ underlying performances have been fairly dreadful since the World Cup, as shown by the severe decline in their rolling xG averages under Conte in the Premier League.
If reports are true, the Italian appears to be set for the sack, a swift demise after starting so well for Tottenham, but something clearly has to change at a club synonymous with underachievement.
There really is an opportunity for the interim manager to get Tottenham back on track, though, currently still in a UCL qualification spot with a bit of a buffer to sixth.
Conte was correct in some of his complaints, however, making this international break a vital one for the Tottenham hierarchy.
Newcastle: 5th – 47 points
Newcastle are way ahead of schedule. Not many would have expected them to be challenging for a Champions League spot so soon, but here they are, two points from fourth place with two games in hand.
Encouragingly for the Geordies, there is areas to be improved upon, although they will need to do just that if they wish to qualify for the UCL. Away displays are a particular domain of interest.
Although they’ve gained 21 points on their travels this term, Newcastle’s underlying numbers leave a bit to be desired for a team so dominant as hosts, posting a +5.0 expected goal difference on the road.
Eddie Howe’s side are good enough to beat anyone at St. James’ Park, such is the level their produce in front of their own fans.
They host Manchester United immediately after the international break, but it might well be that the three consecutive away matches against West Ham, Brentford and Aston Villa will decide the direction of an exceptional campaign.
Liverpool: 6th – 42 points
Liverpool looked to have put themselves right back in the race for the top four with five clean sheets in a row and 13 points from a possible 15. The Reds then lost to Bournemouth in a desperate performance at the Vitality.
Jürgen Klopp’s men still displayed some semblance of the defensive deficiencies that have marred their season during that positive run, though.
They’ve allowed 72 big chances in the 26 games played, conceding a league-high average of 0.17 expected goals (xG) per shot.
It makes backing Liverpool to be consistent enough to challenge for a Champions League place a tough sell, especially with their immediate Premier League fixtures.
Liverpool visit Manchester City and Chelsea before hosting Arsenal in an eight-day span that may conclude a calamitous season.
Brighton: 7th – 42 points
Just to be in the conversation for this is a huge achievement for the impeccably run Brighton, not least with a change of manager in the middle of the season.
Roberto De Zerbi has lived up to the pressure of replacing Graham Potter, seemingly advancing the Seagulls further from an excellent foundation.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Brighton’s season is the fact they haven’t relied on overperformance on underlying numbers or many other variables to go well to sit so high, they are simply good enough to be in this race.
Sitting fourth in the Premier League on Infogol’s expected points (xP) metric, picking De Zerbi’s side to finish in top four is not long shot at this point.
Although they face crunch matches with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City in April, with at least one game in hand on every team above them, Brighton are a live contender.
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