Premier League: Contenders and pretenders from current Top 6

The Premier League season may have already recognised the top six sides for now, but who among those are contenders and pretenders?

Matchday 10 of the 2023/24 Premier League season ended with quite a furore following Manchester City’s dominating performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Pep Guardiola’s men finished that clash three goals to the good, and the result may have given them a springboard to start challenging for the title.

Unlike last season, when everyone else was off the pace, allowing Arsenal and Manchester City to make it a two-horse affair, the new campaign has been a closely-contested affair. The Gunners carried the mantle for most of 2022/23; in fact, they were leading the Premier League standings for around 247 days before caving into the pressure a young side was always expected of.

Manchester City’s recent experience of winning back-to-back titles showcased their class to oust Mikel Arteta’s side and snatch their third consecutive Premier League crown. In Manchester City’s case, the previous title battles have been straightforward, and mostly two-horse races.

However, this time around, things look different as some may have to go back to the season when Leicester City won to find a title race with more than two teams. With the top six more or less fixed heading into next weekend, each of those clubs are in with a chance to compete for the big prize. But we may have a pretender or two among those.

Winning the Premier League is far from an easy objective. Manchester City’s robot-like efficiency has made it look easy, but Liverpool will tell a different story. Arsenal found it the hard way last season, but the Gunners appear ready to challenge Guardiola’s side once again.

With the conclusion of Matchday 10, the top six includes those three clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and surprise package Aston Villa. With the season still young and many fixtures still to go, we are ready to analyse which of these sides are in a position to mount a title challenge.

Squad depth, mentality and their current run of form will play a big factor in determining whether these teams have it in them to do something to the top order. Hence, some might challenge while others will wither away in the case of a sustained title challenge.

Contenders & Pretenders

Tottenham Hotspur

Ange Postecoglou’s revolution at Tottenham continued into another week with a decent win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. It was a venue they have somewhat struggled to conquer in recent seasons. But with the form Spurs are in, a victory appeared almost certain.

In the larger context, Tottenham have had their best-ever start to a Premier League season. With 26 points on board, Tottenham have a two-point advantage over their rivals, especially Arsenal and Manchester City, who have dropped points recently.

While they are one of the two sides still unbeaten in the league, the big argument could circulate about the teams they have faced so far. Spurs have faced each of the bottom four clubs while beating a distraught Manchester United side so far.

They also managed a victory over Liverpool in controversial circumstances. But many believe the Reds might have come out on top had they had a level playing field. In any case, Spurs have shown no signs of slowing down and can expect themselves in and around the topic of the title challenge.

Postecoglou does have issues with squad depth and may struggle going forward if there are injuries to his important players. Some in the squad have not experienced life at the club in this way, and that may come back to bite them, something Arsenal experienced last season.

In conclusion, if Tottenham can manage their squad fitness and add important players in January, they have every chance to mount a title challenge. Secondly, they do not have the distractions of European football or even the Carabao Cup. But Postecoglou may still have to manage well to come out on top.


The eye test suggests that Arsenal are not the same team that took the league by storm last season. The statistics show they have changed their approach a lot. For instance, the Gunners scored 14 goals in their first 15 minutes of games last season; this year, they have zero.

Similarly, In the opening 30 minutes last year, it was 29 goals scored; this year, just 4. On the defensive side, they have been astute, but the numbers do not suggest a lot of changes with their approach and concession. Then again, the eye test suggests that Arsenal are playing with more control and a new approach towards a team previously considered superior.

The win over Manchester City showed they could adapt to new ideas and stifle teams otherwise known for their attacking flair. The solitary Gabriel Martinelli goal was deserved, and that win may have elevated their quality.

However, the very next game against Chelsea showed there are ways in which Arsenal can be stifled, too. In the end, the Gunners showed the mentality to come back from two goals down and snatch a point at Stamford Bridge. The weekend’s win over Sheffield United also happened to showcase their squad depth, with Mikel Arteta making many changes that eventually worked.

Like Tottenham, they do not need wholesale additions and departures to improve squad depth. In fact, in January, they can add a player or two and still be in a position to mount a challenge for the title. More importantly, they need to keep their key stars fit, something they have not managed this season, especially Thomas Partey and Gabriel Jesus.

Arsenal are unbeaten in the league, having already faced Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea. They also swept aside Everton at Goodison Park, a venue they have not won at in many years now before this season. Hence, Arsenal are well placed to challenge for the title and probably will be the main contenders alongside Manchester City throughout the season.

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s players received massive praise in the backdrop of the media and pundits bashing Manchester United stars. Sure, the likes of Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland put on a show to down the Red Devils at Old Trafford. But this game should not be a precursor to their season.

Manchester City have already shown chinks in their armour with defeats to Wolves and Arsenal. There are ways to exploit Guardiola’s side, and many other future teams will keep that in mind. Yet, the Cityzens are outright favourites to lift the title for a fourth consecutive season.

Despite those two losses, they have stuck around at the very top, level on points with Arsenal. Guardiola would feel the need to mount that stellar unbeaten run they usually mount in the second half of campaigns. The pressure this time around is more than any other season under the Catalan manager, and that might tell us a different tale.

However, Manchester City have the personnel and squad depth to mount a stunning title challenge. Their quality and experience of winning many big trophies puts them miles ahead of their rivals like Arsenal and Liverpool in the race for the Premier League crown.

Come May, they will be there in the mix and probably leading the charge for the 2023/24 crown, as Guardiola will expect another flawless finish to their campaign. There is no discounting Manchester City for their early season slip-ups, as this is a giant slowly warming up to their rivals.


Jurgen Klopp has already deployed a slightly different approach heading into the new season. There have been games where Liverpool have shown absolute quality to come out on top. In at least two of those games, they had gone a man down and responded superbly to snatch away the three points.

Yet, there are concerns about how leaky their defence has become, with many teams finding joy in putting the ball beyond Alisson Becker. The upside is how Klopp has retained his ‘heavy metal’ style to churn out comprehensive results.

The downside of their season so far is the lack of playing top-level opposition. They have dropped points against Chelsea and Spurs while managing wins over Aston Villa and Newcastle United. The real test will come when they face Arsenal or Manchester City.

For now, Klopp can look forward to building momentum, but things could change as the season progresses. As seen with Arsenal last season, the Europa League could prove vital in determining fates. And the Reds could face a similar problem in the second half of the campaign.

On the squad, they lack quality depth in many areas, especially defence and midfield. Bringing in the required players in January might do the trick. But they must make perfect decisions in the market to achieve their objectives. For now, Liverpool are well among the mix for the title, alongside Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.

Aston Villa

Unai Emery’s revolution has taken Aston Villa to another level this season. Despite a shaky start to the campaign, the Basque boss has managed to steer his side within the conversation of the title. Superb wins over West Ham United and Luton Town in consecutive weeks has elevated their quality near to the top four.

For now, Villa sit in fifth position, only a point below Liverpool. They have shown the quality to mount a challenge for a top-four place, and even there, they might struggle as the season progresses. That is not to say Emery’s squad does not have the quality, but they lack the experience.

Villa are in a fantastic position to challenge for the top four. But Emery must prioritise finishing fifth at the end of the season. The likes of Ollie Watkins, Moussa Diaby and Douglas Luiz have starred for Villa this season. But injuries to those key stars may block their progress.

Hence, while the January window will come as an opportunity to strengthen the squad to the liking of Emery, do they have what it takes to challenge those above them? Probably not. Villa have a good enough team but lack the absolute depth of Manchester City or Arsenal.

Tottenham have a similar side to Villa in terms of depth, which is why Spurs are more realistic top four challengers than for the title. Similarly, Villa will have to fight with a clear objective in mind, which could push them very close to a top-four place than anything. Hence, the title is out of the question for Emery’s side.

Newcastle United

Eddie Howe may have wanted to spend more money than he intended to strengthen the squad further. Having spent a mammoth ยฃ55 million on Sandro Tonali, the Newcastle United boss will be without the Italian international for the whole season following his ban from football.

In any case, the Magpies did not strengthen some key areas like central defence during the close season. Moreover, their midfield, without Tonali, also appears thin for Howe’s liking. Harvey Barnes’s injury has also rendered them lacking depth in the wide areas.

Those shortcomings will let their fans down, particularly those dreaming of a title challenge. Among the other top six teams, they are the farthest away from Tottenham, with a nine-point gap separating the two sides. That’s not to say the Magpies cannot close this down, but that will take a monumental physical effort and the downfall of all teams who are ahead of them currently.

Ahead of the January window, there are doubts whether Howe will have the required money to strengthen his side. The injury to Sven Botman has already proven difficult to manage, especially in the loss to Borussia Dortmund and the draw against Wolves at the weekend.

Hence, among the top six teams, Newcastle United are the clear pretenders for the title. There are a lot of challenges up ahead for Howe to manoeuvre, especially their Champions League campaign. With his current squad, he should contest a top-four place more than anything than dreaming of the Premier League crown.

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