AFTER another win at the weekend, the odds on Southampton finishing in the Top 4 shortened again, but Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) reckons another side at big odds deserve consideration.
The Race For The Top 4
The race for the four Champions League spots in English football looks an enthralling one this year. I think we can safely say Chelsea and Manchester City will fill two of them but what about the other two? I can't recall a season in the last decade where there were so many question marks and negatives attached to these other sides.
Let's start in betting order with Arsenal (8/15 with Bet365 to finish Top 4). You would have to say it's been a disappointing season so far for Arsene Wenger's side. The mid-summer capture of Alexis Sanchez raised the possibility of a genuine title challenge but with just three wins from their opening nine matches and a long list of injuries the challenge has petered out.
Due to their incredible course and distance form it would still be a surprise if they finished outside the Top 4 – 1995/96 was the last time Arsenal finished below fourth.
Man Utd (4/5 Coral) surely can't be trusted. Out of all the candidates they've had the least challenging fixtures so far and are down in eighth. The side still looks incredibly unbalanced and having already let down odds-on backers five times this season, I can't envisage a huge change in fortune. Work in progress.
Liverpool (5/4 Paddy Power) look a shadow of the side that wowed us last season. Despite this, they do seem to be picking up points. But with a questionable defence and an over-reliance on Daniel Sturridge, I'm happy to take a chance on someone else.
Southampton (6/1 Ladbrokes) have been the stars of the season so far but in my view, the fixture list has been very kind to them. They've met just two sides from last season's Top 7 and lost both times. This good run may continue though as they have Hull, Leicester and Aston Villa in their next three games. All winnable fixtures.
Things get tricky from late-November onwards though with Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal (twice), Man Utd (twice) and Everton facing them in a torturous nine-game spell till 10th January. If they're still in the Top 4 after that then let's get excited. It's also worth noting that they were as high as third in mid-November last season before falling off the pace.
Everton (6/1 Sportingbet) excite me in this market. They've already played Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd and came away bruised. In truth it's been a frustrating season so far for The Blues but they find themselves up in ninth, just four points off fourth place! A slow start to the season is of course a nasty trait of Everton's. This time last year they had already failed to beat Cardiff, Norwich and West Brom, yet still finished fifth come May.
Out of all these sides, Everton look the most settled. It's a similar squad to last season with the same man at the helm and the same player (Ross Barkley) playing a huge creative role. The concern is the Europa League of course but it was encouraging that they won on Sunday after playing abroad.
Their games directly after their three remaining Europa League group games are: Sunderland (a) Tottenham (a) and QPR (h). All winnable when you consider Tottenham are in the same Europa League situation. Believe in Everton!
We should touch on Tottenham (7/1 Bet 365). I did feel they might struggle this season and that looks like being the case. Three defeats in their last six matches doesn't bode well and the team lacks star quality.
Everton to finish in the Top 4 (6/1 Sportingbet)