Will this seasons ‘big four’ prove too much for challenges?

During the early years of what I would call my footballing life, there was one principle that could usually be relied upon as a constant, the so-called ‘big four’.  Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool exchanged blows throughout the season but would almost inevitably finish in the top four.

In more recent years, there has been a shift in the system with the rise of the Blue Moon and Spurs knocking on the door.  Although Arsenal and Manchester United have remained constants, City have become an ever-present, Liverpool have suffered a fall from grace and Tottenham have made the odd appearance.

But this season I can see what appears to be a new ‘big four’ that looks head and shoulders above the rest.  Manchester contains two powerhouses that will definitely feature in the top four come May.  Chelsea have started as early pace setters in the league and have brought in an array of talent that should secure them a top four place, if not the league itself.

With this in mind surely anyone who argues that a different club can find the top four must look towards Arsenal to be the team to falter and stumble out of this select club.  I would argue that, although it is probably true that the Gunners would be the most likely of the four to fall, I don’t feel there is a challenger that could be seen as equal with regards to ability with Arsenal.

There are in my mind three teams that could claim they could reach the top four in seasons to come.  Liverpool certainly have the financial clout to muscle their way back into the big four, but certainly not this season.  Liverpool have a lengthy rebuilding process in front of them to get back to where they were.  However, I do feel they are in prime position to do just this with a good young manager and plans to expand their historical home. 

Tottenham Hotspur have graced the top four with their presence as recently as last season, but after selling Modric and Van De Vaart in the summer, they are left with a team surrounding the talent of Gareth Bale.  While Spurs are certainly my tip to finish 5th or 6th, I’m not sure they have the strength and depth that their North London rivals possess, especially after Arsenal’s strengthening over the summer.

The final and perhaps most unlikely team to make the leap into the Champions League are this years surprise package, Everton.  The Toffees have made a lightning start to this year’s league and genius manager David Moyes has graced the top four with his presence in the past.  Maybe not quite strong enough to do finish higher than 5th this season but certainly worthy of a mention.

To conclude, I can see this top four finishing top for quite a while.  However there are factors that could change all this.  If Fergie leaves Manchester United will run in to trouble, similarly Arsenal and Wenger have a similar situation.  If another club hits the big time financially as Man City did then of course they will have a chance.  Until one of these things happens it could be a long wait for challengers to the big four throne.

Tom DiMaio