We are reaching the business end of the Premier League season, that point in the spring where every moment of a game tends to matter. It’s been a strange season, with many fans agreeing that there has been a relentlessness to the action, given the league has had to accommodate the seven-week break for the World Cup at the end of last year.
But as we are reaching the end of the season, what are the big narratives that will shape the competition – what will we be talking about when reflecting on the 2023/24 season in the future? For us, these are the five biggest narratives as we reach the thrilling conclusion:
The Gripping Title Race
Right now, Arsenal lead the title race in terms of points, but City are the title favourites in the football betting odds with all major bookmakers as it stands. It looks like it will go right to the wire, which is great for the neutral and brilliant for those wanting to sell the Premier League as a product. Who will take the title? It’s anyone’s guess, but City do have the dual distraction of the Champions League and FA Cup, whereas Arsenal can concentrate on the league alone. It seems too close to call, even if the bookies do believe City will eventually win a third successive title. The key game, of course, will be when City host Arsenal on the 26th of April. But overlook the media hype of this as a title decider, as the race will go all the way to the end of the season.
A Manchester United Implosion?
On the face of it, Manchester United look set to capture a Champions League spot, either by finishing third or fourth at the end of the season. However, there is also a sense that United are running on empty, given the huge amount of games the club has played in the past few months. Going deep in the FA Cup, EFL Cup, and Europa League in a season interrupted by a World Cup has stretched the resources at Old Trafford. At the time of writing, Erik Ten Hag must deal with injuries to Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Marcel Sabitzer, Scott McTominay, and several others. Fighting on four fronts was always going to be a big ask, and United might still finish the season with aplomb. But the warning signs are there.
The End of the Big 6
To say the Big 6 – Manchester United & City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, and Chelsea – had a stranglehold on the top of the table in recent years is something of an understatement. But there is a very good chance that the dominance is relinquished by the end of the season. We mentioned Manchester United above, but there is also room for at least one of Aston Villa, Brighton or Newcastle in the top four at the end of the season. Newcastle are currently the most likely of that trio to fill that berth, but the form of Villa and Brighton has been incredible. With Liverpool and Chelsea cast adrift, opportunity knocks.
The closest relegation battle in a generation
Who is going down? It really does look like one of the toughest relegation battles in Premier League history. Recently, good form from Bournemouth and Crystal Palace has allowed those two clubs to pull away from trouble. However, we are still looking at three from Southampton, Leicester, Everton, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, and West Ham, and Bournemouth aren’t quite free from trouble yet. Just a couple of points separate those first six teams, making it incredibly difficult to call. The big story would be the relegation of Everton; the Toffees have been in the top flight since 1954. Too big to go down?
Erling Haaland the history maker
Whatever happens in the title race, it seems inevitable that Manchester City striker Erling Haaland will break the record for most goals scored in a Premier League season. Perhaps only an unforeseen injury can thwart the Norwegian goal machine. As it stands, he is on 32 goals, needing just two more to equal the record held jointly between Andy Cole and Alan Shearer. He also Not only does he seem likely to do it, he might also set a record that will be unbeatable to all but, well, Erling Haaland himself.