Friday, October 9, 2009

The Fall of the 'Big 4'

The English Premier League season is well underway now, but even before a single ball was kicked it was being predicted that this season would be the season that the Premierships "Big Four" would finally be broken. The Big Four, if you're not aware, consists of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, and they are called the big four because there has been a notable gap in quality between these four teams and the rest of the English Football League.

Only four teams have ever won the Barclays Premier League title, and three of them are a big four team.

The Premiership fixtures so far this season have borne this out as, with eight games gone, the top five teams in the Premier League Table contains all four of the big four teams. There is still, understandably, talk of the top four teams being gate crashed by a few likely contenders.

The main culprits when this subject arises are Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City. Everton and Tottenham have been flirting with the top four; finishing fifth for a number of seasons, and Aston Villa have been nipping at their heels, and Manchester City while still unproven, have spent the kind of money that should at least get them a top eight finish.

Indeed, as this article is being written, Tottenham are the fourth of the top five teams in the Premier League Table, and Manchester City lie in sixth with two games in hand; a win in those games would see them level with Chelsea at the top of the table.

So what about the big four themselves? Well Manchester United
have gotten off to a mediocre (for them) start; winning but not particularly impressively in a number of matches, but then again Man U always seem to start slow, and despite this they have only lost once.

Chelsea seem to have had the best start of the top four teams, but a lot of their victories have seemed laboured and, in some cases, lucky.

Arsenal were widely tipped to be the team that dropped out of the top four, but have had decent start to the season and only seem to fall in Manchester; having so far lost to both United and City.

Liverpool, having seen the start of the season now, looks the most likely of the top four to slip up this season. They currently lie in fifth and are only above Manchester City on goal difference. All in all though, the big four still seem to be the big four. What about the challengers?

Everton have finished fifth in the last two seasons, so it's reasonable to expect they would be serious contenders, however they seem to have gotten off to the worst start of the challengers this season; losing three games, one of them being a 6-1 thrashing by Arsenal in the opening game of the season.

Aston Villa is holding their own, but they don't look like a team that will better its previous Premier League finish; currently sitting in eight.

Tottenham, as I've said, are doing very well; currently fourth in the league and playing some very good football. Perhaps the most successful of the challenging teams, as they should be, is Manchester City. They could well be top of the table if they can capitalize on their games in hand, and have already beaten one of the big four, Arsenal, and only just lost to a second when they were beaten 4-3 by Manchester United.

Added competition for the Premier League Title can only be good for Premiership football, but is this really the year that the big four are broken up?

I don't think so.

You see, Tottenham have had a good start, but they've played two of the big four and were beaten quite comprehensively on both occasions.

Everton have shown glimpses of what they are capable of under the guidance of the excellent David Moyes, but they've had a poor start and can't afford to lose many more games if they want to be serious contenders for a European Champions League spot.

Aston Villa is coming across very middle of the road and is showing no signs of exceeding expectations.

Manchester City is new and strong, but unproven. They have beaten one of the top four and their excellent start to the season has filled them with confidence, but they seem arrogant. Even in their 4-3 loss to Manchester United, they contested the perfectly legitimate 95th minute goal that sealed the win for United, and claimed they were unlucky to not have at least got a point. I watched that match and City were extremely lucky to have come so close to a point. They were gifted three goals by very poor individual errors by Manchester Uunited players, take those away and the game was mostly Manchester United. In short, City is heading for a reality check, throwing money at the team didn't immediately bag Chelsea the Premiership Title, and it won't bag Manchester City it either.

I think the end of this English Premier League Season will see Manchester United and Chelsea fighting it out for the top spot, with Liverpool and Arsenal not far behind hoping nab third, and Manchester City closely followed by Tottenham below them.

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