Top two aside, consistency or, more specifically, the elusiveness of it, has haunted teams in the Premier League’s upper echelons all season.
Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton – the five sides scrapping for the two remaining top-four places – have all been afflicted by shock results and bad runs throughout the campaign, but the bookies are steadfast in their belief about which pair will land the coveted spots.
The first name in this quintet are the most fancied to finish fourth or higher, with the prospect of them failing to do so for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s 18-year reign rarely even entertained, let alone discussed.
It’s 2/5 for the Gunners, who currently occupy fifth-spot in the top flight, to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but it’s the 17/10 about them failing to do so that should be the more attractive proposition.
With the five-club shortlist of contenders divided by just five points, the field is impossibly tight and any protagonist is capable of claiming the laurels.
Man Utd have lost just once since early November, while mid-December was the last time Liverpool were beaten.
Southampton remain persistent in their unlikely pursuit of continental football and Tottenham’s recent performances have proved they’re more than capable of matching those in the running.
Arsenal responded to their 2-1 loss at Spurs by labouring to a 2-1 victory of their own over Leicester to reassert themselves above the Lilywhites in the table, but there were several instances in this match when they looked inferior to the Premier League’s bottom club.
Indeed, had Nigel Pearson’s men drawn the game they would’ve probably considered themselves unfortunate.
Injuries to key men Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez sustained against the Foxes acted as a grim reminder that their constant struggles with keeping players fit won’t subside.
Only once this term have they strung three successive league wins together, never stretching their spoil-snaring streak beyond a trio of triumphs.
Man Utd and Southampton have both savoured longer periods of sustained successes this term, while Spurs have put multiple three-match winning runs together.
Although Liverpool can only match the Gunners in terms of length of victorious streak, their current unbeaten patch of nine games is better than any mustered by their north London counterparts.
These stats suggest that Arsenal are no better than those they will allegedly outstrip with ease this term, so a punt against them finishing in the top four is very much worthwhile.