The 2020-21 fans-less season of the Premier League is coming mercifully to its conclusion, and while the title has been long wrapped up (congrats, Manchester City) and the bottom three have been pretty much set for almost as long (bye-bye Fulham, West Brom, and Sheffield United), the battle for the top-four remains must-see TV.
(It is perhaps appropriate that this is the last dramatic frontier in the league in a year that also saw The Super League make the leap from a vague idea to actual possibility, threatening to destroy this very facet of the domestic competitions.)
The race for the top-four is often of the slow boat variety, with teams vying to become the best among the not-quite-best, and reaping the rewards of the Champions League by virtue of managing to mess up less often than the other contenders. You might say that’s the case in any competition, but it’s especially noticeable when it’s supposedly good teams trying to navigate such treacherous waters.
Unlike last year, Chelsea’s journey in the league this season saw quite a few days outside the top four, having only recently recovered the position that is seen as the bare minimum expectation each and every season. But the gap to the teams below remains very small, and with a daunting schedule ahead, there remains very little room for error.
Chelsea had opened up a six-point gap temporarily to fifth with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Fulham, but West Ham came back against Burnley yesterday thanks to two goals from a once again fit and firing Michail Antonio to win 2-1 and close back to within three points. Chelsea do have a much better goal differential, which gives us a potentially crucial tie-breaker, but West Ham’s schedule is a relative walk in the park on paper (Everton H, Brighton A, West Brom A, Southampton H).
Others aren’t too far behind the Hammers either, with
José Mourinho’s Ryan Mason’s Tottenham Hotspur just two points behind in sixth and Liverpool just a point behind them with a match-in-hand. Liverpool’s match against Manchester United was postponed this weekend thanks to the anti-Glazers fan protest outside (and inside) of Old Trafford that got a bit out of hand.
We do control our own destiny, which is always a good thing, and we might even push for third especially as one of our four remaining league games is against Leicester City. We also have to face Manchester City away and Arsenal at home before ending the season away at Aston Villa. Add in a Champions League semifinal (and hopefully final) and an FA Cup final, and it’s going to be a most dramatic month of May.