Premier League table and remaining games after Man Utd leapfrog Arsenal and close gap on Spurs

The race for the Premier League’s top four took a dramatic twist on Saturday as Tottenham and Arsenal both lost and a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick fired Manchester United to a crucial three points.

A flat performance saw Spurs lose at home to mid-table Brighton in the lunchtime kick-off, which would have enabled an Arsenal win at Southampton to put Mikel Arteta’s side level on points with their North London rivals.

But Jan Bednarek’s first half goal secured a 1-0 win for the Saints that allowed United to leapfrog Arsenal into fifth with an unconvincing 3-2 home win against Norwich City.

One thing is clear: it is still all to play for in the race for Champions League qualification with a month of the season still to play.

The top four race

4. Tottenham – Played 32, +18 GD, 57 pts
5. Man United – Played 32, +8 GD, 57 pts
6. Arsenal – Played 31, +8 GD, 57 pts
7. West Ham – Played 32, +9 GD, 51 pts

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Sloppy Spurs slip up at home

It is a deadly front three – Dejan Kulusevski, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son – that has been pivotal in firing Spurs up the table since Antonio Conte took charge in November.

And it was Brighton’s shock neutralisation of that forward line that saw Graham Potter’s men beat their opponents in north London for the first time in four decades. Spurs failed to register a single shot on target all game, and that says all you need to know about how they played.

The game could arguably have gone either way at the death, but Brighton ultimately deserved their win for pinning their opponents back with a relentless high press and an impressively consistent defensive structure.

Tottenham’s remaining fixtures

  • Brentford (a) – Sat 23 April
  • Leicester (h) – Sun 1 May
  • Liverpool (a) – Sat 7 May
  • Arsenal (h) – Thurs 12 May
  • Burnley (h) – Sun 15 May
  • Norwich (a) – Sun 22 May

It would have been even more miserable had Kulusevski received a red card for flinging an elbow into the face of Marc Cucurella halfway through the first half.

There is plenty of football still to play this season but with matches against Liverpool and Arsenal still to come, it is opponents like Brighton that Spurs need to be beating to realise their top four ambitions.

Ronaldo lifts Man United to fifth with another hat-trick

Cristiano Ronaldo made it back-to-back hat-tricks at Old Trafford to earn United a 3-2 victory against Norwich.

It was an afternoon where Manchester United spluttered to a victory far less comfortable than it should have been against the Premier League’s bottom club, but Ronaldo single-handedly dragged his side to a crucial win.

Perfect positioning for his first, a deft header for his second, a free kick thunderbolt for his third. This was the consummate CR7 performance and a privilege to watch.

Man Utd’s remaining fixtures

  • Liverpool (a) – Tues 19 April
  • Arsenal (a) – Sat 23 April
  • Brentford (h) – Mon 2 May
  • Brighton (a) – Sat 7 May
  • Crystal Palace (a) – Sun 22 May
  • Chelsea (h) – Date TBC

Yet it is important to not let sentimentalism get in the way of recognising the reality of United’s situation, because the match represented in microcosm much of what is fundamentally wrong at Old Trafford.

Many fans did not actually see Ronaldo’s opener, having refused to enter the ground before the 17th minute in protest against 17 years of ownership by the Glazers. What followed was a drab display that saw relegation favourites Norwich pull it back to 2-2 and only be denied a draw by Ronaldo’s brilliance.

Fan revolt, sub-par performances and disproportionate reliance on superstar individuals – with trips to Liverpool and Arsenal now to come, United’s bid for the top four will be anything but simple.

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Arsenal hit the buffers at the worst time

Arsenal knew they would move level on points with Spurs – with a game in hand as well – if they defeated Southampton. Instead, they are left to rue missed chances and the indomitable frame of Fraser Forster, having been leapfrogged by United following a third defeat on the trot.

Arteta’s men still have that handy spare match to play, but their inferior goal difference means a victory would have really upped the ante on their rivals with a win.

Their losing streak adds even more pressure to the already intensely competitive top four race. They have the hardest run-in of United, Spurs and West Ham, especially in the short term.

Arsenal’s remaining fixtures

  • Chelsea (a) – Wed 20 April
  • Man Utd (h) – Sat 23 April
  • West Ham (a) – Sun 1 May
  • Leeds (h) – Sun 8 May
  • Tottenham (a) – Thurs 12 May
  • Newcastle (a) – Mon 16 May
  • Everton (h) – Sun 22 May

Four of the Gunners’ next five games are against the clubs currently in the top six. Against teams like those, a three-game losing streak can easily become an end-of-season collapse.

Given the importance of sticking with project Arteta over the long term, Arsenal supporters must surely know that their next few games are about so much more than just Champions League qualification.

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