The Premier League is hotting up. The title race is between Manchester City and Liverpool, Chelsea are behind in third and Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are still in the hunt for top four. Further down Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United are hoping to cause an upset.
But we've seen so many twists and turns in the past and anything can happen – so here at FFT, we applied statistics to the problem. We took each of the top eight, found their remaining fixtures and looked at the Expected Points (xPTs) of their last few opponents of the season. We even worked out the xPTs of the opponents home and away – just to get a better feel.
We've only calculated recent form – so since New Year's Day – but we've calculated how many points you'd expect each team to pick up in any given game, according to this xPTs model (so for Man City, for example, that's 2.5pts at home, 3pts away). Then, we added these xPTs tallies together to give each team a score. The higher the score, the harder the run-in…
1. Tottenham Hotspur: The easiest run-in of the top eight clubs
Remaining fixtures: West Ham (H), Newcastle (H), Aston Villa (A), Brighton (H), Brentford (A), Leicester (H), Liverpool (A), Burnley (H), Norwich (A), Arsenal (H)
Well, this is good news for Antonio Conte.
Tottenham have the easiest run-in of all the big sides, with their most difficult fixture remaining being an away trip to Anfield. Liverpool have picked up an average of 2.6 xPTs at home – so Spurs will have to be brilliant to get something from that. Elsewhere, Villa, Brentford and Norwich are all winnable home games.
In fact, the Lilywhites can count themselves fortunate that their trickier fixtures – West Ham, Newcastle, Leicester and Burnley – are all coming at home. As is a rescheduled North London Derby: and Arsenal only have an average xPTs tally of 1.0 away from home in 2022, having been outshot by Wolves and Watford in their only trips on the road.
Cumulative xPTs score: 10.5
2. Manchester City
Remaining fixtures: Burnley (A), Liverpool (H), Wolves (A), Brighton (H), Watford (H). Leeds (A), Newcastle (H), West Ham (A), Aston Villa (H)
It's not exactly what Liverpool fans wanted to read. Manchester City's remaining games away are Burnley, Wolves, Leeds and West Ham, while the Reds will no doubt have to beat City at the Etihad in order to catch them up.
Jurgen Klopp's men probably knew that already. With Crystal Palace proving this season that the champions aren't invincible, however, there's hope of a banana skin somewhere. West Ham, for example, have collected 1.83 xPTs per game in 2022 at the London Stadium – and they've yet to host Guardiola and co.
Cumulative xPTs score: 10.96
3. West Ham United
Remaining fixtures: Tottenham (A), Everton (H), Brentford (A), Burnley (H), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H), Norwich (A), Man City (H), Brighton (A)
West Ham are still holding out hope for a spot in the Europa League next season – but with games against four of the Big Six, it's not going to be easy.
Still, Arsenal and Manchester City – two teams who dominate possession – will both come to the London Stadium, while Burnley and Norwich look like two winnable games at home. There's still time for the Irons to launch a bid for Europe – and who knows where it'll take them?
Cumulative xPTs score: 11.08
4. Manchester United
Remaining fixtures: Leicester (H), Everton (A), Norwich (H), Liverpool (A), Arsenal (A), Brentford (H), Brighton (A), Chelsea (H), Crystal Palace (A)
Manchester United do not have a smooth path on their quest for Champions League football. Sure, they should beat Brentford and Norwich at home, according to the stats, but there are trickier matches ahead.
The Red Devils have to travel to Arsenal and Liverpool, while Chelsea and Leicester at Old Trafford will also be difficult games. With Ralf Rangnick's side in flux – and having failed to capitalise on what was a favourable run from the German's appointment up until fairly recently – things could be able to get a little hairy. Unless, of course, being in one competition favours United…
Cumulative xPTs score: 12.7
Remaining fixtures: Watford (H), Man City (A), Aston Villa (A), Man United (H), Everton (H), Newcastle (A), Tottenham (H), Southampton (A), Wolves (H)
The mood around Merseyside has been resurgent with the Reds chasing four trophies and enjoying an unbelievable run of form of late – but it could be able to get very difficult indeed.
Manchester City away is the headline here – but there are few easy fixtures. Manchester United and Tottenham aside, Southampton have picked up 2.17 xPTs on average at home (and Liverpool lost there last season), while Coutinho-aided Aston Villa and a reborn Newcastle won't be fun trips away either.
Liverpool will have to be at their best and rely on City to drop points. That clash at the Etihad is shaping up nicely, isn't it?
Cumulative xPTs score: 12.77
6. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Remaining fixtures: Leeds (H), Aston Villa (H), Newcastle (A), Man City (H), Burnley (A), Brighton (H), Chelsea (A), Norwich (H), Liverpool (A)
The outsiders for a top-six finish, let alone top four, Wolves have got their work cut out. The fixture gods have dumped them away trips to Chelsea and Liverpool in the final three matches. Thanks a bunch.
Before that, however, there's more work to be done. Hosting a midlands derby against Aston Villa, going to St. James's Park, then returning to play City before going to face Burnley away, all in the space of four games, might break Bruno Lage's team before they can even think about the Reds or the Blues. What's Portuguese for "tough time"?
Cumulative xPTs score: 13.28
Remaining fixtures: Brentford (H), Southampton (A), Leeds (A), Arsenal (H), West Ham (H), Everton (A), Wolves (H), Man United (A), Watford (H), Leicester (H)
Home advantage might not even matter if Chelsea can't get fans in the ground for their last 10 games of the season. They have some tricky challengers arriving at Stamford Bridge in the coming weeks, too – see London derbies against Arsenal and West Ham, before Wolves and Leicester come to town.
And the away fixtures aren't too much kinder. Southampton away, as discussed, isn't too much fun right now: Leeds and Everton are more fearsome at their own grounds and Manchester United aren't exactly going to roll over, either. Even Watford, who are battling the drop, have taken an average of 1.43 xPTs on the road since the turn of the year. The Blues' blues could deepen yet.
Cumulative xPTs score: 13.46
8. Arsenal: The hardest run-in of the top eight clubs
Remaining fixtures: Aston Villa (A), Crystal Palace (A), Brighton (H), Southampton (A), Chelsea (A), Man United (H), West Ham (A), Leeds (H), Newcastle (A), Everton (H), Tottenham (A)
Arsenal have had a great season so far – but if anyone is going to come crashing down with a horrible run of fixtures, it looks like it might be them… and not just because they have more games to play than anyone else.
Home games against Leeds and Everton look like the most winnable – but the Gunners still have to host Brighton and Manchester United, who have taken an average of 1.4 and 1.6 xPTs away from home since 2022 began. Every away game left for these youngsters is a difficult one, too, with Palace, Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle and Tottenham all to travel to, following this weekend's match against Aston Villa.
We've been saying it all season – but it really is now that we're going to see what this young side are made of. They're in the driving seat for the top four but will it stay that way?
Cumulative xPTs score: 15.37
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT.
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