There was a time when making the top four for the hallowed Champions League spots was much maligned.
When Arsene Wenger performed miracles on a shoestring budget by squeezing his Gunners side into the top table of European football season after season, instead of being lauded he was ridiculed for valuing the financial merits of making the Champions League.
Now though, making it into the top tier of club football is a huge deal, and one that six teams not only desire – but in order to maintain their standing and financial clout – they also need.
This season looks to be the toughest to call in regards to who slips into the top quartet of the Premier League. Manchester City and Liverpool have gone from strength to strength as they propel each other in their title fight, but the other two spots?
That is a straight fight between four teams.
As you can see in the graph on this page on the Premier League odds, the current odds on which team will get into the top4 is an ever-changing landscape, and no team can be sure of where they will stand at the end of the campaign. Tottenham were shaping up to be a third player in the title battle only two games ago, and now they are looking nervously over their shoulder with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United breathing down their necks.
It is even closer between Chelsea, United and Arsenal, with one point separating the trio – should Chelsea win their game in hand.
So who has the advantage in the run-in? Who is nearer to pocketing the 70-100m of readies for Champions League involvement?
Much will depend on their next two games. Fixtures against tottenham and United are huge games and neither can be confidently predicted..Once those are out of the way though, the key is the away games for the Gunners.
From the remaining eight games after the United match, Arsenal have four games on the road. With Unai Emery’s men far from convincing on their travels, they will need to take advantage of the fact that they will have played all of their games against their fellow top6 colleagues.
United have three fixtures left against their top6 rivals, and a key spell will be April 24-28, which will have United host City and Chelsea in the space of four days.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made his team resurgent after the dour tenure of Jose Mourinho, and their climb up the table has been remarkable.
One thing to watch is their injuries, especially after three players were replaced in the first half in their 0-0 draw with Liverpool recently.
If they can keep their big men fit, they will be there at the end. The likes of Pogba, Lindelof, Rashford and De Gea are vital to their cause.
March is crunch time for Chelsea. A London derby at the start of the month, then a trip to Anfield, a tough game against Burnley and then closing out the month with an away game against United.
Chelsea are also hugely reliant on Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante. Without those two and the Blues lack the proper world class to change games.
Maurizio Sarri has had a perplexing first season. On one hand, he has earned some big wins, and on the other hand, they have looked insipid at times, mocked by their own fans for their unimaginative substitutions. There have also been the odd blip – huge losses to Bournemouth and City made them look ordinary.
If Sarri can muster the better end of the blues performances, then they can keep pace with the pack.
So, to surmise, it is going to be ridiculously tight to call.
One thing is for sure, every match will be unmissable.