For as long as there has been a Premier League, there has seemingly been an apparent “Big Four.” This “Big Four” are responsible for winning 18 of the 19 Premier League campaigns. The anomaly is Blackburn Rovers; having won the 94/95 title, only three teams have won the Premier League since: Chelsea, Arsenal and most frequently and recently Manchester United. Liverpool are the fourth component of this alleged quartet and the name is arguably justified: until now.
Dominating the Champions League spots for 16 of the 19 years since the founding of the Premier League has justified the name and its grievance with the rest of the Premier League falls in the increased revenue the top four teams earn by their reward of Champions League entry. As the top four remained consistent year upon year, it became more of an issue that the gap would not close; the top four would get more money and therefore continuously improve and further the gap, pulling away from the rest of the pack for good.
But no; when Everton finished 4th in 2005 and thus qualified for the Champions League qualifiers, it looked to be a once-off and this was emphasized when, for the next 4 years, no other team managed to break the “Big Four.” However, the past two seasons have bucked the trend, held a finger up to tradition and started to throw punches back at the big boys and to great effect. Harry Redknapp guided Tottenham to a Champions League spot of fourth in 09/10 and the following season Manchester City went one better and finished 3rd. It was, however, at the expense of Tottenham, who finished 5th.
The Big Four is dead.
Some may naturally agree with the above statement and nod to themselves thinking, yes it is no longer the Big Four, it is a Big Two who will dominate the Premier league for years to come. Well, not quite. While you could make a case for the two teams of Manchester to possess the Premier League trophy for the next 5 or so years, it would tempt fate and most of all, it would be slightly premature. Last season was the first time the top three was broken since 03/04, when Ranieri guided Chelsea to a 2nd place finish having gone all season unbeaten and setting a club record for the least goals conceded and most points accumulated, let alone someone outside the Top Four winning the Premier League. If Manchester City go the distance, they’d be the first team outside of the Big Four to win it since Blackburn.
The Big Four is dead.
Seven teams could well finish in the Top Four this season, if you ask me. Looking at the current Premier League table a case could be made for all teams from Arsenal up. As it stands, 3 of the Big Four aren’t even in the Big Four. Newcastle continue to impress; having started the Premier League in a rich vein of form, they’ve continued to last the pace to the third-way through mark. Last week’s lost to Manchester City was their first of the season and City now remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League. Their stellar start has threatened to add another anomaly to the Big Four dominance and the more frequently these anomalies occur, the less valid calling them anomalies become. As it stands, after Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle have the best Premier League form; they are both on a run of 16 games that only includes one loss. Ironically, they’ve only dropped points to Manchester City and drew to each other.
Mancini’s Manchester look set to “break” the Top Four once more and Tottenham’s relentless season further strengthens the likelihood of the Big Four being well and truly dead, blown to smithereens and never to return in its current form. In 2011, City have averaged 2.23 points per game (PPG), the 3rd highest in the whole of the Football League and the highest in the Premier League. United are just behind their Manchester rivals with 2.22 and the Manchester clubs are the only PL clubs in the top 5 for PPG in 2011. Although Manchester United look like they’re slowing up, the stats don’t lie. Despite the fact that Manchester United have only scored exactly one goal in each of their last six Premier League matches, including their 6-1 drubbing to Manchester City, they’ve accumulated 30 points from 13 games. That’s 2.3 points a game and therefore, over a season a grand total of 88 and that has been enough to win 3 of the last 4 Premier League titles. Granted, it might not be enough this year, as City spend their way to footballing heaven, but IT is more than enough to make a case for them remaining in the top four. If you’re not convinced, Manchester United have not finished lower than 3rd since the Premier League was formed.
With a case made for both Manchester teams and Newcastle, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham still remain with a valid case and a genuine belief that they can qualify for the Champions League. For Chelsea, it is quite simple; if they don’t AVB will be out of a job and Abramovich will begin to wonder how much success really costs and then he may well look to Al Mubarak. For Arsenal, a top four finish has been a guarantee, 84% of the time and under Wenger it is has been an 100% guarantee, to date. When anomalies have occurred the team from the Big Four to suffer has been Liverpool. However, as an original member of the Big Four, they may feel they will warrant a top four position out of commonplace. Tottenham will seek to threaten that right for the 3rd season on the bounce; they sit on a run of 10 games unbeaten and 9 of them were wins. So far this season, Spurs have only dropped points to then unbeaten teams or the current title-holders; an impressive record to brag.
For me the Big Four as we’ve always known it (Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool) is over. A new Big Four will form eventually; however, for the next 2 or 3 seasons the Premier League’s top four will under go a transition and the long term future of the elite will count on the success in the near future. Tottenham have the ability to break the big four up permanently but it will rely on constant top four finishes to attract, not only the revenue it brings, but the players it brings. Newcastle are more likely to be that anomaly and I cannot see them threatening the big four season upon season. Manchester City are here to stay without a doubt. So who will have to make way?
Have your say………….
Written by Jordan Florit for www.maycauseoffence.com/ For more articles visit my website or my Twitter @JordanFlorit