Who will win the title? Leicester, Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham chances assessed
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 25/01/16 6:33pm
There are just five points separating the top four teams in the Premier League. But who will come out on top?
Thierry Henry told Sky Sports it is a four-team race between leaders Leicester City, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham, after Manchester United's home defeat to Southampton opened up a gap to fifth.
Here, we look at the reasons for and against Leicester, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham winning the Premier League...
LEICESTER (8/1 with Sky Bet)
Surprise package Leicester have the points advantage at this stage. They're three clear of Manchester City and Arsenal, and five ahead of Tottenham.
Leicester have also proven to be hard to beat this season. They've been defeated just twice, fighting back from losing positions against Tottenham, Aston Villa, Stoke, Southampton and West Brom to rescue valuable points, while both Man City and Arsenal have racked up five losses already.
Leicester also have no distractions. They're out of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup and aren't involved in any European competition. Like Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool two seasons ago, they can keep their players fresh and focus solely on their week-to-week Premier League challenges.
Finally, in Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, Leicester have two of the stars of the season. Vardy is the Premier League's top scorer with 16 goals - and ended a recent drought in the 3-0 win over Stoke - while Mahrez (13) isn't far behind. The latter has also chipped in with eight assists, the third-highest total in the league.
Leicester were battling relegation at this stage last season and have no experience of winning the Premier League. But it's not just the players - boss Claudio Ranieri has never won a top-tier title, either as a player or as a manager.
The Foxes also have the toughest remaining away fixtures of the current top four. They still have to visit Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Leicester have conceded more goals (26) than Tottenham (19), Arsenal (22) and Man City (23). Can they continue to score more than they let in?
Jamie Carragher says: "After this weekend, this is the first time I think they have got a chance. We are talking about it being a season where different teams are dropping points and losing games, but they are doing what normal title-winners do. We said they'd fall away over the Christmas period and they haven't. I am now believing they have a chance of winning the league."
MANCHESTER CITY (evens with Sky Bet)
Of the current top four, Manchester City are the team with the most recent title-winning experience. Manuel Pellegrini led them to the 2013/14 crown and, before that, many members of their squad were involved in the 2011/12 triumph under Roberto Mancini. When the pressure's on, experience is key.
Also crucial to a successful title bid is having a first-class goalscorer - and in Sergio Aguero Manchester City have exactly that. Last season's top scorer in the Premier League netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season at West Ham on Saturday. If he can stay fit - and it's a big if - he will be key.
Manchester City also have an expensively-assembled squad packed with star quality. Their bench against West Ham included two-time title winner with City, Pablo Zabaleta, regular midfield pair Fernandinho and Fernando and a certain £49m England international by the name of Raheem Sterling. They have strength in depth.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is out for around another three weeks - and when he's out injured, the team drop vital points. City have conceded just twice during his nine appearances this season but let in 21 during his 14 games out. That translates to a points-per-game difference of 2.5 v 1.5, highlighting just how much they rely on their leader.
Manchester City's remaining away games are more favourable than any of their rivals for the title - but their form on the road this season far from guarantees them a haul of away-day points. City have won just one of their last eight Premier League away games.
City are also the only team in the top four yet to get a win over one of their title rivals. They've lost to Tottenham (4-1) and Arsenal (2-1) and drawn with Leicester (0-0). Those three matches came away from home - City will need to do better in the reverse fixtures at the Etihad.
Finally, Manchester City's progress to the knockout phase of the Champions League means they face a trip to Newcastle just four days after playing away to Dynamo Kiev, and a Manchester derby at the Etihad the weekend after the return leg.
Jamie Redknapp says: "I might upset Leicester fans here, but I don't think they can win the title. I still fancy Man City to win it - because they've got Sergio Aguero. He can score all sorts of goals. But I do worry about them defensively."
ARSENAL (13/8 with Sky Bet)
In Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have the Premier League's best chance creator. He's teed up an incredible 88 openings for team-mates. His assists tally - now at 16 - is seven better than second-placed Kevin de Bruyne. The likes of Olivier Giroud should continue to thrive on his service as the title race heats up.
Another key figure in the Arsenal XI is fit-again Alexis Sanchez. His high-energy return in the second-half against Manchester City was a reminder of how he can drive the team forward and his comeback could be a crucial moment in Arsenal's title tilt.
It's not all about Arsenal's attacking stars, though - Petr Cech continues to produce the goods in goal. For so long a problem position for Arsene Wenger, his £10m summer signing looks to be one of the buys of the season. He's kept a joint-league high 10 clean sheets and has made more saves than any of his top-four rivals.
Arsenal's home clash with Chelsea on Super Sunday was supposed to be the moment they demonstrated the mental toughness of title winners. Instead, they had Per Mertesacker sent off inside 18 minutes and fell to a 1-0 defeat to a side stuck in the bottom half of the table. On the penultimate weekend of the season, Arsenal travel to Man City for what could be the ultimate test of their mental strength.
Injury to Francis Coquelin has forced Arsene Wenger to shift Aaron Ramsey's role and buy in Mohamed Elneny. However, without their holding midfielder, Arsenal continue to leave Cech exposed. They've allowed 78 shots on target so far this season. Spurs, by contrast, have allowed just 55. So far, Cech has been able to come up with the saves to earn crucial points - but Arsenal must offer him more protection.
Like Manchester City, Arsenal's Champions League commitments will also provide them with a potentially damaging distraction from the Premier League. The Gunners face the toughest of tests in Europe's elite club competition, with Barcelona as Round of 16 opponents. Sandwiched between their two legs with the reigning Champions League winners, are away games with Manchester United and Tottenham and home matches with Swansea and West Brom.
Charlie Nicholas says: "Unsurprisingly, I'm sticking with my pre-season prediction: Arsenal. Petr Cech is the key signing and earned another result at Stoke. When it comes to big matches, he will win the points with his courage, bottle and know-how. He has already paid back his transfer fee and will be the difference come the end of the season."
TOTTENHAM (9/1 with Sky Bet)
Main man Harry Kane has shrugged off a slow start to the season and has bagged 12 goals in his last 14 Premier League appearances for Tottenham. The England international is up to fourth in the top-scorer standings and is integral to Spurs' hopes of success.
Tottenham have shown plenty of resilience this season, too, and have won 14 points from losing positions in the Premier League; more than any other team.
There were 14 fixtures between Tottenham's first defeat of the season and their second but it is on the road where they have proved particularly tough opposition. They are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League away games (W5 D5), which is their best run in the competition on the road since August-December 1995.
The foundation to Spurs' success this season has been their defence. It's the meanest in the league, conceding just 19 goals. Hugo Lloris and his backline will need to keep up that form for Tottenham to challenge for the title.
While Kane continues to deliver for Spurs, their reliance on him is highlighted by the fact their next top scorer in the Premier League is 19-year-old Dele Alli, with six. Should injury or suspension cause Kane to miss big games in the run-in, Spurs will need others to step up.
Tottenham follow their crunch trip to Manchester City with Europa League ties against Fiorentina. They are still in the FA Cup, too. Will progress in those competitions prove to be an unwanted distraction for Spurs? The extra games and risk of injury are not a problem for Leicester City, who currently hold a five-point advantage on Tottenham.
Tottenham's regular line-up is the youngest in the Premier League. As a result, how they will cope with the pressures of a title race remain to be seen. Will they embrace it or will their challenge fade away? Only time will tell.
Graeme Souness says: "They've got a great goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris. If they keep Harry Kane and the goalkeeper fit they have an abundance of midfield players and can shuffle the pack. Their two centre-backs are strong and they have a nice mix. The Tottenham of the past would get rolled over. In my time as a professional footballer, Tottenham were never known as a team that was resilient and could come back after a heavy defeat or a real disappointment. This team lost to Newcastle, but brushed it off and went again."