Robbie Savage: Who will make the Premier League's top four?

Robbie Savage

In his regular BBC Sport column, Robbie Savage studies form and remaining fixtures and gives his verdict on which teams will make the Premier League's top four, and who will miss out on the Champions League places.

The race for a top-four Premier League finish has turned into a sprint to the finish line that will be settled by the smallest of margins.

With 10 games to go, only five points separate Arsenal in third and Southampton in seventh, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham the teams in the middle.

It is the games between those teams that will prove pivotal, particularly when United host Spurs on Sunday and travel to Anfield the following weekend.

Chelsea are still my choice to be champions and Manchester City would have to completely collapse to drop out of the Champions League places.

This is who I think will join them in the top four.

Arsenal

Current position: 3rd54 pointsForm: WLWWWW
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Wenger has seen his side win four and lose one of their last five Premier League games

Prospects: One of their biggest strengths is that they have been in this situation many times before.

They know what it takes to qualify for the Champions League because they have done it for the past 17 seasons and they have all the experience they need to handle the pressure of the run-in.

The Gunners suffer the occasional blip but they have plenty of goals in their team.

They are also in good form domestically and knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford this week was a massive confidence boost for them - just like it was when they beat Manchester City at Etihad Stadium in January in the league.

Run-in: They play three of the other teams in the top seven but only one of those games is away - at United. Six of their last 10 games are at home.

Savage's predictions for Arsenal's fixtures
Home (six games)Away (four games)
West Ham (14 Mar) WINNewcastle (21 Mar) WIN
Liverpool (4 Apr) DRAWBurnley (11 Apr) WIN
Chelsea (26 Apr) DRAWHull (2 May) WIN
Swansea (9 May) DRAWMan Utd (16 May) DRAW
West Brom (24 May) WIN
Sunderland (TBC) WIN
Predicted points out of 30: 22Projected points total: 76

Verdict: Third place. It's been a normal season for Arsenal in lots of ways and this is probably as good as it is going to get for them in the league at the moment.

Did you know? The Premier League has had four Champions League places since 2002. In nine of the past 13 seasons, the top four with 10 games to go has been the same at the end of the season. Arsenal are the only team to have been ever-present, but have not finished higher than third since 2005.

Manchester United

Current position: 4th53 pointsForm: WDWLWW

Prospects: The most bizarre thing about their situation is that at this stage of the season and with a manager with Louis van Gaal's track record, we are all still guessing about what team, and in what formation, he is going to put out next.

Man Utd manager Louis van Gaal
United's FA Cup exit means Van Gaal is almost certain to end his first season at Old Trafford without winning a trophy

The United fans are chanting for their team to 'attack, attack, attack' but Van Gaal wants possession football. His midfield prefers to play slowly and sideways.

Yes, United have got the highest average possession rate of any Premier League team at the moment but there is no way you would say that is helping them play well.

There are some positives like David de Gea's form in goal and seeing Wayne Rooney back up front, but overall? Something has to change.

Run-in: They are fourth at the moment so at least their fate is in their own hands, but United have got the toughest run of games.

They must play all of the other five teams in the top six and also go to Goodison Park, where they have been beaten on their last two visits.

Savage's predictions for Man Utd's fixtures
Home (five games)Away (five games)
Tottenham (15 Mar) DRAWLiverpool (22 Mar) LOSE
Aston Villa (4 Apr) WINChelsea (18 Apr) LOSE
Man City (12 Apr) LOSEEverton (26 Apr) WIN
West Brom (2 May) WINCrystal Palace (9 May) WIN
Arsenal (16 May) DRAWHull (24 May) WIN
Predicted points out of 30: 17Projected points total: 70

Verdict: Next weekend's trip to Anfield looks pivotal and, at the moment, I think Liverpool will blow United away. With the money that Van Gaal has spent, to finish fifth and fail to win a trophy is shocking.

Did you know? The lowest finishing position of any team in the top four with 10 games to go came in 2003-04. Charlton were fourth after 28 games with 43 points and finished seventh, with 53 points.

Liverpool

Current position: 5th51 pointsForm: WDWWWW

Prospects: Unbeaten in 12 Premier League games since 14 December. They have found their form for the run-in and look very strong.

I have heard a lot of talk about the success of Brendan Rodgers' system but, against Blackburn in the FA Cup, Liverpool went 3-4-3 and then 5-3-2 and Rovers defended well and held out.

That just shows that, whatever your system, people can defend against them and work you out. And if your players don't play well in it, it won't work.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool's last Premier League defeat came at Old Trafford against Manchester United

Rodgers has landed on a 3-4-3 formation and he has got some fantastic players playing well. That is the key to their recent rise.

Run-in: The Reds play three of the other top seven teams and six of their last 10 games are away from home.

Savage's predictions for Liverpool's fixtures
Home (four games)Away (six games)
Man Utd (22 Mar) WINSwansea (16 Mar) WIN
Newcastle (13 Apr) WINArsenal (4 Apr) DRAW
QPR (2 May) WINHull (18 Apr) WIN
Crystal Palace (16 May) WINWest Brom (25 Apr) DRAW
Chelsea (9 May) LOSE
Stoke (24 May) DRAW
Predicted points out of 30: 21Projected points total: 72

Verdict: So many of their forward players are flying. By my calculations they will make it and finish fourth, but it depends on them winning against Manchester United next week in what will be a massive match for both clubs. That is how close this race is - if United win that game, then it is back in their hands, and it would also tip my projected points table in their favour.

Did you know? The biggest gap between fourth and fifth was the 11 points between Liverpool and Everton in 2007-08. They were both level on 53 points with 10 games to go but Liverpool finished with 76 points, to Everton's 65.

Tottenham

Current position: 6th50 pointsFORM: WWLDWW

Prospects: I am a big fan of what Mauricio Pochettino has done since he took charge of Tottenham.

Pochettino has taken them to a cup final and got them playing with a high intensity. He also has brought Harry Kane through really well, and the whole team has made big strides recently.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane
Kane has scored 26 goals in 41 games in all competitions this season

Their defence is suspect, however. They have conceded at least nine more league goals than the other teams in the top six, and they always seem to let the opposition back in games.

Run-in: Another team with only four home games left, but they should win three of them against Leicester, Aston Villa and Hull. Their first big game is their next one, at Old Trafford, where they have to try to avoid defeat. They also host Manchester City and travel to Southampton.

Savage's predictions for Tottenham's fixtures
Home (four games)Away (six games)
Leicester (21 Mar) WINMan Utd (15 Mar) DRAW
Aston Villa (11 Apr) WINBurnley (5 Apr) WIN
Man City (2 May) LOSENewcastle (19 Apr) DRAW
Hull (16 May) WINSouthampton (25 Apr) DRAW
Stoke (9 May) WIN
Everton (24 May) DRAW
Predicted points out of 30: 19Projected points total: 69

Verdict: Along with Liverpool, Spurs are the most-improved top-flight team not to have changed manager since the start of the season but I still think their season will end with another near-miss. Sixth.

Did you know? The smallest gap between fourth and fifth was the one point between Arsenal and Tottenham in 2012-13. Spurs had been third with 10 games to go, on 54 points. The Gunners were fifth with 47 but ended up finishing fourth with 72.

That was the second time Spurs had missed out after being overhauled by their north London neighbours, who did the same to them in 2007-08 and Aston Villa in 2008-09 too. Along with Charlton (2003-04), those are the only four occasions out of a possible 52 since 2002 where a club has surrendered their top-four place after being there with 10 games to go.

Southampton

Current position: 7th49 pointsFORM: LWDLLW

Prospects: Only dropped out of the top four in mid-February but it is hard to see them climbing back up there now, not just because of their own form but because of how the teams above them are doing.

Saints still have a fantastic defensive record, and have conceded the fewest goals - 20 in 28 games - in the Premier League this season, as well as faced the fewest shots and fewest shots on target.

But the goals have dried up, at a crucial time of the season.

Southampton's Graziano Pelle scores against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup
Saints striker Graziano Pelle scored 12 times before Christmas, but has netted only once - this goal against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup - in 14 appearances since

Run-in: Travel to leaders Chelsea on Sunday and defending champions Manchester City on the last day of the season. They also host Tottenham but their other three home games are against teams fighting relegation.

Savage's predictions for Southampton's fixtures
Home (four games)Away (six games)
Burnley (21 Mar) WINChelsea (15 Mar) LOSE
Hull (11 Apr) WINEverton (4 Apr) DRAW
Tottenham (25 Apr) DRAWStoke (18 Apr) LOSE
Aston Villa (16 May) WINSunderland (2 May) WIN
Leicester (9 May) WIN
Man City (24 May) LOSE
Predicted points out of 30: 17Projected points total: 66

Verdict: I think they will finish where they are now, which is seventh. Some Saints fans might be disappointed with that, but I think that would still mean an unbelievable season, especially considering where they were last summer after losing their manager and several key players.

Did you know? The average total for the team finishing fourth since 2002 is 69 points. The highest total by a team finishing fifth is 72 points, by Spurs in 2013 and Everton in 2014.

Robbie's projected Premier League table using the above results (3rd to 7th place)
Position/TeamWDLPts
3. Arsenal2210676
4. Liverpool219872
5. Man Utd2010870
6. Tottenham209969
7. Southampton2061266

Robbie Savage was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

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