Race for the Champions League – Spurs and not Arsenal poised to rise above the pressure

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Goal and Sure have partnered to create the Pressure Index, the only way to measure how players are handling the stress of the most competitive league

The March international break is a final pit stop. It’s the point at which Premier League teams breathe, recover and reload before entering final stretch.

At this point it’s typically a matter of shared title ambitions. But in a Premier League so dominated by Chelsea, the real race is that for Champions League places.

It’s a six-way scrap for three spots. Among Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton, the only certainty is that there will be casualties. 

Tottenham and Liverpool are poised for strong finishes. Arsenal are not, with a relative paucity of players in the top 50 of the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.

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The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.

Chelsea stars naturally dominate the rankings. Spurs, with seven, lead the way among the six Champions League contenders.

Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele rank in the top 20 with scores of 71.6 and 70.9, respectively. Victor Wanyama, Kyle Walker, Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen also sit among the Premier League’s top 50.

Second-placed Spurs look on course to finish runners-up for the first time since 1962-63.

Fourth-placed Liverpool have six players in the top 50 of the Goal Pressure Index – a total only bettered by Tottenham.

Georginio Wijnaldum (72.0) and Nathaniel Clyne (69.4) lead for the Reds, while Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, James Milner and Jordan Henderson are not far behind in a team which has collected more points than any other in top-six clashes.   

Manchester clubs United and City, meanwhile, each have five players in the top 50. Pep Guardiola’s men sit two places and five points clear of Jose Mourinho’s side, but of United’s five players in the top 50, three are in the top 10 – more than any other team outside Chelsea.

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Man Utd’s Antonio Valencia sits second overall in the rankings with an outstanding 80.2. The scores of Paul Pogba (76.6) and Ander Herrera (75.9) reflect the how Mourinho’s midfield has found fluency as the season progressed.

The numbers make for less positive reading for Arsenal and Everton.

Romelu Lukaku (71.5) and reliable Ashley Williams (69.5) are Everton’s only standouts, with Seamus Coleman (now out for the season) and Idrissa Gueye just scraping into the top 50.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are in serious danger of missing Champions League qualification for the first time in the Arsene Wenger era.

In sixth place and with ground to make up, Arsenal need the sort of revival the data suggests is unlikely. No club in this six-way hunt has fewer than the Gunners’ three players in the top 50 of the Goal Pressure Index.

Alexis Sanchez (72.9), Laurent Koscielny (72.1) and Mesut Ozil (69.1) will have to guide the rest.

The race for Champions League places looks set to take on a completely different complexion to previous years.

The Goal Pressure Index is presented by Sure, Official Partner of Chelsea FC, Everton FC and Southampton FC. Join the conversation on Twitter @Sure.

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