MX23RW : Friday, April 23 15:27:21| >> :120:5338:5338:

A closer look at the battle for a top-six Premier League finish

Some of the usual suspects are under threat this season.

The race for the Premier League's top six is approaching its crunch point, with Manchester City enjoying a commanding lead despite their derby day setback.

However, if Pep Guardiola's men are odds-on favourites to regain the title they surrendered to Liverpool last season, the remaining five places among English football's elite are very much still up for grabs.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at this season's runners and riders, and the trends over the 28 seasons of the Premier League era to date some of them are attempting to buck.

Breaking the mould?

West Ham have been one of the current season's surprise packages
West Ham have been one of the current season's surprise packages (Ian Walton/PA)

Few eyebrows would be raised at the presence of Manchester duo City and United and Chelsea among the current top six with the finishing line in sight. However, the absence of Liverpool and Arsenal and Tottenham is notable, and that is down not only to their own failings, but the excellence of Leicester, West Ham and Everton. The Foxes have only two previous top-six finishes to their name, one of them as champions in 2016, while the Hammers have made it only once before, a fifth-placed finish in 1998-99. The Toffees' seven comprise three sixths, as many fifths and one fourth place.

Gatecrashers not welcome

Leicester captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri lift the Premier League trophy in 2016, the club's first foray into the top six
Leicester captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri lift the Premier League trophy in 2016, the club's first foray into the top six (Nick Potts/PA)

The top six is an exclusive club, but just how difficult is it to secure membership? Only 20 clubs have ever made it, and just seven of those – Manchester United (13), Blackburn (1), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (5), Manchester City (4), Leicester (1) and Liverpool (1) have won the title. Tottenham (13), Aston Villa (9), Newcastle (8) and Leeds and Everton (7) have been relatively regular visitors, but the Foxes have gained entry only twice while eight clubs – Norwich, Nottingham Forest, QPR, West Ham, Ipswich, Wimbledon, Bolton and Southampton – have managed it only once.

The usual suspects

The identities of the 'big six' statistically will come as no surprise. Thirteen-times champions Manchester United have finished in the top six at the end of 27 of those 28 campaigns, missing out only once by a single place in 2013-14 with David Moyes at the helm. Arsenal's return of 25 and three titles puts them in second place with five-times winners Chelsea third on 23. Liverpool are only one worse off, but had to wait until last season for their first title, while Tottenham (13) are yet to lift the trophy. Manchester City, however, have won the league on four occasions from only 11 top-six visits.

Keeping it tight

As the season neared the halfway stage, the race for the top six was on course to be the tightest ever with just eight points separating leaders Manchester United and Everton in sixth, but events since have seen Manchester City pull clear of the pack and establish a 19-point advantage over the men from Goodison Park five places below them. The gap between first and sixth at the end of the campaign has been fewer than 20 points on only five occasions – the lowest was 16 in 1996-97 – and hit a record 40 last season.

Money talks

Newcastle have been relegated twice since Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007
Newcastle have been relegated twice since Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007 (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

Tangible success and money are rarely far apart in modern football and heavy investment has gone hand-in-hand with Premier League success in recent years. Chelsea's five titles have all come since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and funded its rise, and Manchester City have won the league four times since Sheikh Mansour's vast wealth was brought to bear in 2008. By contrast, Newcastle made the top six on seven occasions between 1992 and 2007, when Mike Ashley launched a successful takeover and embarked upon a campaign to make the Magpies self-sufficient. They have managed it once since – fifth place in 2011-12 – and been relegated twice.

It's a long way back

There is no room for complacency at the top end of the table and for some of those who have fallen from grace, it can be a struggle to return. Aston Villa and Newcastle have both spent time in the Sky Bet Championship having once been regarded as regulars, but no side has suffered more than Leeds. Champions League semi-finalists in 2001, they finished fifth at the end of the following campaign before a financial implosion which ultimately saw the club plummet to League One during a 16-year exile from the top flight.

ID:438447: cacheID:438447:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:restore:11937:
Restore Data
Share this article now:
Did you know...?
Brentford's Ivan Toney celebrates scoring their first goal against Middlesbrough on February 6, 2021
Read Next:
Wolves to rival Arsenal for Brentford's Ivan Toney?
>
Read more about Pep Guardiola Football

rhs 2.0
Todays Game Header Right
Premier League
Bundesliga
Ligue 1
Eredivisie
Scottish League Two
Turkish Super Lig
Ukrainian Premier League
NIFL Premiership
League of Ireland Premier
Welsh Premier League
Belarusian Premier League
Segunda Division
2.Bundesliga
Eerste Divisie
Copa Libertadores
Copa Sudamericana
AFC Champions League
Australian A-League
Chinese Super League playoffs
Premier League 2 - Div 1
Premier League 2 - Div 2
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City33245469244577
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd32199464352966
3Leicester CityLeicester32185958372159
4Chelsea321510750311955
5West Ham UnitedWest Ham32167953421155
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs331581056381853
7Liverpool32158954381653
8Everton31147104340349
9Arsenal32137124436846
10Leeds UnitedLeeds32144145050046
11Aston Villa31135134435944
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves32118133241-941
13Crystal Palace31108133352-1938
14Southampton32106164058-1836
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3298153553-1835
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton32713123338-534
17Burnley3289152645-1933
18Fulham33512162543-1827
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom3259182862-3424
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3242261756-3914

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!