Premier League 2013/14: The Race for the Top Four

ArsenalPain and despair from Tottenham, jubilation and ecstasy from Arsenal. Wenger secured his 16th consecutive qualification for the Champions League, while Tottenham were left scratching their heads as to why they were foiled again. The top four race will again be interesting next season; a North London battle is bound to commence again, while Liverpool will look to enter as outsiders.

Arsenal spoke of their ambition to challenge for the Premier League title next season. After no serious challenge for a number of years, Wenger feels a transition period for Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United may pave the way for Arsenal’s first league success since 2004:

“We want to do that next season (win the league title). Let’s not forget the consistency we’ve shown over the years in qualifying for the Champions League and knowing everybody is desperate to get in there.”

Arsenal secured 26 points from the final ten games of the season as they stormed to Champions League qualification: form worthy of a title. Arsenal could be bold in the transfer market, and a top striker in the form of Stevan Jovetic could arrive at the Emirates. His influence in the Fiorentina team this season was compelling as they nearly secured Champions League qualification at the expense of Milan. An injury free season for Jack Wilshere added with another productive season for Cazorla and Podolski, and Arsenal may afford to dream of their best season in years.

For Tottenham, the work load proved too much, and attempting to balance the Europa League with the League was their undoing. A costly away game in Milan against Inter was perhaps the pointer, brought into extra time, and they lost the home game with Fulham on the Sunday after in sluggish fashion. Andre Villas Boas will again look for success in the Europa League, a competition he holds in high regard. However with Liverpool looking to enter the frame without the baggage of the Europa League, he could come to bemoan it.

Tottenham HotspurOn their scintillating best, Tottenham are unstoppable, a team styled like title contenders at times. This does only come in sporadic bursts, and their vulnerable nature proved costly throughout the season, such as their first half display at Chelsea when they were outplayed. Encouraging news has came out of Spurs since the seasons’ end: Gareth Bale looks to have sealed a contract worth £150,000 per week, keeping him at the club for at least another season. A new striker such as Leandro Daimao, a lighting season from Bale and the very best from Lewis Holtby, and we could see Tottenham challenging for the highest honors next season.

Liverpool look to enter the frame for Champions League qualification as outsiders; the importance of qualification is monumental for Rodgers. This led him to be open about rejecting the Europa League:

“I want to get there through the right means, through our performance level, and if we have to have a year where we are not in Europe it is going to give us an opportunity to push on.”

Liverpool began to prosper as the season drew to a close; the Suarez incident did blight their season close, but the form of Coutinho did well to neutralize it. Sturridge could be key next season. A hat-trick at Fulham on the penultimate day showed his class in front of goal; a confident player under Rodgers since his arrival, and next season could be his most productive yet. The transfer market will prove essential to Liverpool, as talk recently emerged of a move to sign Kolo Toure. The Ivorian would be an ideal replacement for Jamie Carragher; his performances for Manchester City this season were consistent and reliable.

Arsenal are only looking up now, a bold transfer market and they could dreaming of a league title. For Tottenham, consistency will be the buzz word next season. The signing of a world class striker could push them on to shock. Meanwhile, Liverpool are developing an exciting style of football in a mix of passing and pace that is very much in transition. The developments of these three sides will be most intriguing.