Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham and Manchester City are separated by just six points after 11 games of the season. Here we assess how they may fare over the remaining games of what promises to be a thrilling campaign.
“What we have learned is not only that Manchester United could beat Arsenal, but everybody can beat everybody in this Premier League. Maybe the whole quality of the league has gone up.”
That was the verdict of Arsene Wenger in the wake of the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, and while the north London side remain out in front in the Premier League, their advantage has been cut to two points and eight teams are packed together within six points of the summit.
Several shock results this season would give weight to Wenger’s argument.
Manchester City losing to Sunderland on Sunday was the latest in a succession of unexpected outcomes which has seen United beaten at home by West Brom, the Gunners humbled by Aston Villa at the Emirates, Chelsea slip up at Newcastle, Liverpool fall at home to Southampton and struggling Norwich inflict the third-placed Saints’ solitary defeat.
But there is an equally valid counter-claim. Rather than the chasing pack catching up, there is evidence that the established elite have faltered. Managerial changes for all of last season’s top three were bound to have an impact – particularly at Old Trafford following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson – and the extent to which United, Chelsea and City have allowed points to slip away cuts through the cloak of invincibility they may have enjoyed in the past.
Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, there has only been one season in which the top eight have been more compact at this stage – back in 2001/02, when leaders Aston Villa were just four ahead of Tottenham, with Arsenal going on to be crowned champions that term by seven points from Liverpool in second.
With 27 games of the campaign still to come, we assess the top eight and evaluate how they will fare in what promises to be the most competitive Premier League title race in over a decade.