New Year positions suggest title for Arsenal and no top-four for Man Utd
Arsenal may sit top of the Premier League standings at the midway point of the season, but Arsene Wenger’s men are still third favourites at 9/2 to remain in this position at the end of the campaign.
Looking back at the last four seasons, being on top at the start of the new calendar year is certainly a major positive, with every champion in this period leading the way on the morning of New Year’s Day.
The remaining fixture list doesn’t look too bad for the Gunners either, as although they still have to travel to Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham, they do face the current bottom six in the standings at the Emirates, having already beaten five of these on the road.
Much could come down to how successful and busy Wenger is in the January transfer window, with at least one more striker almost certainly needed.
Olivier Giroud in particular has had a busy opening part to the campaign and has shown some signs lately of needing a rest, while Aaron Ramsey will do well to maintain his high level of form.
But, on the more positive side, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are just on the comeback from injury and will effectively feel like new signings for the second half of the campaign.
What is also noticeable about the last four seasons, is that every team to finish in the top four in this period have been no worse than fifth in the standings at the New Year point.
This is obviously far from ideal for Manchester United, who still sit sixth in the standings despite winning their last four Premier League games.
In the last decade, two teams from sixth have gone on to sneak fourth, but none have made it any higher in the final table. Taking this all into consideration, Man Utd’s odds of 4/5 to finish in the top four do look a little on the short side.
Tottenham are 4/1 for a top-four finish, but history suggests that this is practically impossible from a New Year position of seventh.
Currently sitting fourth heading into 2014, Everton look the only team at an odds-against price that it is worth considering to finish among the Champions League places.
Bolton and Aston Villa are among the teams to have blown such lofty positions at this stage of the season previously, but Everton held their nerve to finish fourth in the one instance in the last decade where they were in such a strong position at the halfway point.
Everton are 7/2 to finish in the top four.
It is Manchester City that remain the 1/1 favourites to win the Premier League and it is widely agreed that they have the best squad depth to maintain their challenge, while being earmarked by Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers as the team to beat.