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EPL Table Week 17: Separating Contenders from Pretenders in the Standings

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Fernandinho of Manchester City celebrates scoring their fifth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on December 14, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2017

Things are starting to tighten up.

Manchester City ensured that when they defeated Arsenal, drawing within three points of the table-leading Gunners, while Chelsea pulled within two points. 

Meanwhile, clubs like Everton and Manchester United handled their business, staying in the hunt for a top-four spot. With Liverpool and Tottenham on tap, we should head into Week 17 with a better idea of who the contenders and who the pretenders are atop the table.

 

Premier League Table
POSTEAMPLDWDLFAGDPTS
1Arsenal16112333171635
2Liverpool16103339182133
3Chelsea16103332181433
4Manchester City16102447182932
5Everton1687127151231
6Newcastle United168352122-127
7Tottenham Hotspur168351521-627
8Manchester United167452519625
9Southampton166642015524
10Swansea City165562221120
11Aston Villa165471621-519
12Hull City165471319-619
13Stoke City164661520-518
14Norwich City165381529-1418
15Cardiff City164571222-1017
16West Bromwich Albion163671722-515
17West Ham United163581319-614
18Crystal Palace1641111124-1313
19Fulham1641111530-1513
20Sunderland1623111230-189
Sky Sports

Contenders

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium  on December 14, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Cli
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Arsenal are really struggling now, having drawn Everton and lost to Napoli and Manchester City in their last three matches, but they'll have a chance to remind everyone they are still a contenders with a match upcoming against Chelsea. 

And if nothing else, Arsenal have done well all year to win the games they are expected to win. Anything less than a win against Chelsea will be disappointing, but also keep in mind that the Gunners have dealt with a lot of injuries and are just now starting to get healthy. There are a few players who are probably a bit run-down at this point.

Obviously, both Chelsea and Manchester City are very serious contenders and are each starting to prove why they were the two most popular picks to win the league heading into the season. They have the deepest rosters and a smorgasbord of stars between them.

Liverpool had struggled against top competition this season, but they ended that in a big way against Spurs. The Reds had taken just five points against Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton, Newcastle and Everton, but they absolutely smoked Tottenham, 5-0.

The Reds aren't to be taken lightly.

And then there is Everton, who just keep on picking up points. The Toffees have lost just one game on the season and continue to look like a team that will be hard to keep out of Europe next season. While a league title probably isn't in the cards, it wouldn't be shocking if Everton remained in that conversation for much of the season.

They are a very, very dangerous team.

 

Pretenders

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Referee Mike Jones speaks with Fabrizio Coloccini and Michael Williamson of Newcastle United during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St James' Park on December 14, 2
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Gareth Bale ain't walking through that door, Tottenham.

Spurs didn't just lose to Liverpool, oh no—they lost by five goals. At home.

Yikes.

Spurs have resembled a team with a lot of very good players but lacking a dynamic, game-changing force they can base their style of play around. At this point, a top-four finish looks like it will be very difficult to obtain unless Tottenham figure things out.

It was fun while it lasted for Southampton, which have dropped down to ninth on the table after hanging around near the top of the table earlier in the season. The club hasn't won since November 9, losing to Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa in that time and drawing with Manchester City and Newcastle.

They are a good team, there is no question about that—and a top-10 finish would be an excellent accomplishment—but it's become clear that there is a clear delineation between them and the top Premier League sides.

Ditto for Newcastle, which can beat any team on any day but lack the consistency to make a serious run at Europe. That was clear enough against Southampton over the weekend, when the Magpies let three points slip through their fingers in the second half.

The team that has beaten Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United and drew Liverpool has also lost to Hull City and Sunderland and was blown out by Swansea City, 3-0. If they could consistently play at a top level, they'd threaten for Europe.

But for now, it appears more likely they'll be the thorn in the side of the top clubs but finish outside of the top five.

 

Pending

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Tom Cleverley of Manchester United celebrates as he scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park on December 15, 2013 in Birmingham, England.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Manchester United looked excellent against Aston Villa, but consistency has been the issue. With Robin van Persie out to injury, we'll find out a lot more about this United team in the next month. They could insert themselves back into the title race given the talent they have, but it won't be an easy task, as they are still 10 points behind Arsenal.

They shouldn't be dismissed, but at this point, a top-four finish seems like a far more obtainable goal than another league title.

 

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