Monday 18 December 2017 / 04:08 PM

Top four: the most intriguing subplot so far

Three results this weekend ensured that as far as the race for Champions League spots goes, the plot has definitely thickened.

Prior to Saturday evening’s kick off at Selhurst Park, Tottenham had taken 14 points from their last seven games, and with Harry Kane in remarkable form, many pundits were tipping the North London lilywhites to break into the top four and secure a Champions League place for the first time in four years.

By the time the final whistle blew, everything was up in the air again.

Although Spurs had the better of the game in South London, recognisable frailties re-emerged and saw them throw away a one-goal lead and end the game with nothing.

On that sort of form, Spurs won’t be getting into the top four, and their relapse will definitely have been of serious comfort to their North London rivals, who stormed to a victory at home to Stoke City. Another brace from Arsenal’s shining light Alexis Sanchez secured the three points for the Gunners, and given that Arsene Wenger’s side often have a much better second half to the season, the Frenchman and his charges will be confident of fighting off the challenge from their not-so-noisy neighbours this time around.

Another two sides definitely hoping to be in the hunt for the top four were in action on Sunday afternoon, with Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side visiting Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Saints sealed a 0-1 win against Louis van Gaal’s charges with a 69th-minute winner courtesy of Dusan Tadic, allowing them to leapfrog the expensively assembled Red Devils outfit.

As things stand, Tottenham have drifted down into sixth, three points shy of fourth placed Man Utd and a full five behind Southampton. Arsenal join them outside the Champions League places in fifth.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the race for the top four is that it very much seems like Saints are going to do the unthinkable and actually last the distance. It is not uncommon for a side to perform above expectations for a good chunk of the season, only to fall by the wayside as we get into the business end of the season. In the case of Southampton, that is looking less likely by the week.

 

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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