Leicester, meanwhile, are down in 11th place, which is worse than Chelsea’s 10th last season as defending champions but would be regarded as a solid position for a mid-size club if it had not been for their heroics under Ranieri.
Here’s a question: which of the big six teams have improved this season? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is that all of them have. The current top five all have more points already than their finishing totals last season and, while United have the same as last year’s final tally under Louis Van Gaal, it is difficult to argue they have not improved under Jose Mourinho as they have won the EFL Cup and could add a second trophy next week.
The difference lies in the rates of improvement and clearly Chelsea have done by far the best in that respect, going from 50 points last season to 90 with one game to go. That’s an advance of +40 and counting, and they are followed by Tottenham and Liverpool (both +13), Manchester City (+9) and Arsenal (+1).
Chelsea’s massive jump makes them worthy champions, but Tottenham also have to be applauded for chasing them so hard despite having played Champions League and then Europa League football. It is notable that Liverpool, the other big-six team along with Chelsea who had the advantage of not being involved in Europe, could not improve any more than Tottenham.
Most teams have gone into negative territory this season, and the most notable club outside the big six with a big positive jump is seventh-placed Everton (+14) in their first season under Ronald Koeman.
Improvement was only to be expected after a couple of seasons treading water under Roberto Martinez, but the scale of Koeman’s turnaround may be a sign that a big seven is emerging. The current gap from Everton back to Southampton (Koeman’s former club) in eighth is 15 points.
The only other teams in positive figures are Bournemouth (+3) and West Brom (+2), with only Manchester United and Crystal Palace still having a chance of joining the positive group.
It is worth remembering, however, that City and Liverpool both drew on the final day of last season while Arsenal won. You never know, Arsene Wenger might just sneak into the Champions League again.
Teams with nothing to play for are tricky bets but three Premier League sides stand out this weekend. Burnley could end their strong home record on a high against West Ham, Swansea can continue their relegation-escape form in their final home game against West Brom and Leicester may well be keen to bounce back from their hammering by Tottenham when they host Bournemouth.