Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs rounded off the top four teams for as the 2018/2019 English Premier League came to an end on Sunday.
A few weeks ago I made some predictions about who I think will finish in the top four of the English Premier League. I got all four teams correct, but I thought that Chelsea would have finished fourth and not third. The race for top four, which was really between Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs, was simply tumultuous. These four teams kept passing their chances around like it was a hot potato and they didn't want to get burnt.
It was such a stark contrast to the title race between Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of quality of football and consistency. Towards the latter part of the season, Manchester City and Liverpool had pulled so far ahead of the other teams in terms of points (98 and 97 points respectively) that the other teams had to settle for third as the best case scenario.
Let's analyse the teams that were truly in contention for the 3rd and 4th place spot.
Chelsea, the team that finished third with 72 points, did so by the smallest of margins. They finished just one point of fourth place Spurs to guarantee their place in the Champions League next season. Chelsea held Manchester United 1-1 at Old Trafford. The Red Devils, who were struggling this season, actually took the lead early with a Juan Mata goal, however, due to one of David De Gea's blunders, Marcos Alonso brought the Blues level right before half time.
It was this match that really sank Manchester United's hopes of Champions League football, and sentenced them to another year in the Europa League. The Blues continued their quest for top four, finishing by beating Watford 3-0 at the Bridge, and gaining three valuable points. They blanked 0-0 at King Power Stadium against Leicester in the only goalless match on Championship Sunday.
Spurs, the 4th place finishers with 71 points, lost 0-1 to West Ham at home.
Since Chelsea drew their respective fixture, the gap between them had lessened to two points. Spurs then lost 0-1 to Bournemouth (away), and since Chelsea had won their fixture that week, they led Spurs by one point. Spurs had the ability to finish third on Championship Sunday, playing Everton at home. But despite Eric Dier's early goal and Christian Eriksen's equalizer in the second half, they were all tied up with Everton after Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun ensured their side would walk away with a point.
So what happened to the other top four hopefuls?
Arsenal finished fifth, only one point behind Spurs (70), because they failed to capitalize on the last three important matches. They lost 0-3 to Leicester City (away). The following match day they drew 1-1 with Brighton, and on the final day they finally recorded a win by beating Burnley 3-1. They would have needed to win at least two of those matches to finish in the top four, (provided that the other teams maintained the same results, of course).
Manchester United is the only one of the top six teams with nothing to celebrate or without any chance of silverware. The Red Devils finished sixth with 66 points, failing to record a win in their last five matches. David De Gea, their prized and beloved goalie, who usually rescues them from trouble has been rather disappointing this season, and will have to take some of the blame for their lowly sixth place finish.
Manchester United secured their Europa League spot by drawing with Chelsea 1-1 at home. They drew 1-1 with Huddersfield who has been relegated from March. They also lost 2-0 to Cardiff City, another relegated team, on Championship Sunday at Old Trafford. They knew they would need all three wins from these matches for their best possible chance, yet they failed to deliver.