The 2020/21 Premier League campaign has been the season of unpredictability, upsets and inconsistency so far, and in a condensed table where just six points separates Leicester in 2nd from West Ham in 10th, it feels like just about anything can happen.
In the race for Champions League qualification, the erratic and exciting nature of the results has opened wide what has traditionally been a closed shop, and a number of dark horses and perennial also rans are making a charge for a top four finish.
Leicester City and Everton – conquers of North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal at the weekend – currently occupy spots two and four in the current standings, while an impressive Southampton team and Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur also look firmly part of the same conversation.
Below, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the clubs pushing through the Premier League’s top-four glass ceiling.
Remember – we’ll be covering all of the top flight developments with betting tips and match previews on our Premier League predictions page.
Top four talk remains a tentative conversation among Leicester City supporters, which is understandable given the Foxes’ dramatic collapse in the second half of the previous campaign.
Brendan Rodgers’ team still have to prove that they have the staying power to last the distance this time around, though Leicester’s impressive 2-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday showed that the Foxes certainly have plenty of quality.
Somewhat ironically, Leicester’s youthful team still relies heavily on the dynamism of their talismanic veteran Jamie Vardy however, and the marksman – who turns 34 in January – cannot run out of gas in the new year like he did last January if City are to push on.
While Leicester are currently flying high, the Foxes (5) have already tasted defeat more than any other team in the Premier League’s current top 10 – and that record could hamstring their efforts when the going gets tough in the second half of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton moved up into fourth spot this week following their excellent 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Goodison Park – a triumph that followed hot on the heels of equally good wins over top four rivals Chelsea and Leicester.
Like the majority of the teams around them, the Toffees have been mixing highs and lows this season, but with Ancelotti’s experience key and an attacking line-up that includes Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Rodriguez, the Blues have enough high-calibre protagonists both on and off the pitch to make them a dangerous prospect for any opponent.
Everton’s highest Premier League finish in the last six years was 7th in 2016/17 however, and with competition for a top four berth stiff, bridging the gap in a single season might be too big an ask.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s slick Saints have been one of the Premier League’s biggest success stories this season, though Southampton’s 1-0 reverse at home to Man City on Saturday showed just how brittle any positive looking progress can really be this year.
Southampton’s loss to the Citizens was only their second defeat in 12 Premier League assignments, though the setback was enough to for the Saints to plummet out of the top four and down to sixth place to within just three points of 10th.
And while Southampton’s easy-on-the eye football is among the division’s best, their squad looks worryingly thin when compared to their rival’s options, and with fixtures piling up, the Saints’ intense work-rate and hard-running style could leave them burned out by the spring.
While lumbering Tottenham with a dark horses tag might feel a little disingenuous, a top four finish for the potential title challenger would still represent a major triumph for manager Jose Mourinho and his players.
With grumbles about Jose Mourinho’s cautious tactical approach suddenly becoming more audible, and negativity starting to swell following a run of three games without a win, Spurs dropped out of the top four for first time in months this week however, though Tottenham have enough quality to push through the gloom soon.
Spurs have the depth to cope with an assault on multiple fronts this season, and in Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, they wield two of the Premier League’s most potent attacking weapons. You get the feeling however, that Mourinho will have to loosen his leash if Tottenham are to crack the top four code.
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