There was a period in the late-nineties-to-early noughties when it seemed that the Premier League table at the end of every season would consist of Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool – it was as inevitable as you getting a fitness DVD set to help with your New Year’s resolution. The four would all jostle for position in amongst those heady positions and it became such a frequent occurrence that this elite group was branded the Big Four.
These teams, with their financial clout, numerous Champions League appearances and superstar names created a gap between themselves and the rest of the division – one which, only in recent years, has narrowed and become less obvious.
This leads us nicely on to the next point – with the addition of wealthy benefactors, astute management and some outstanding individual players, the Big Four has recently become the Big Six, it would seem. The monopoly at the top of the division has spread and invited into its elite group Man City and Tottenham Hotspur. In the last two seasons prior to this these two teams have edged their way in amongst the group and spoiled the apple cart. In the 2009-2010 season, Spurs bagged that final Champions League spot at the expense of their northern foes City and Liverpool. Then, the following season, City came of age and entered the Champions League through the final qualifying spot themselves.
As earlier mentioned, Spurs and City have got in amongst the elite by a combination of contributing factors. Firstly, the Sky Blues have a bank balance which is the envy of any club in the world thanks to billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour, who invested in the club in 2008. His riches have brought to the club a clutch of household names including Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and the outstanding David Silva. Italian manager Roberto Mancini must be given a great amount of credit – after initially being viewed as a cautious type of manager, he has now got a team of highly talented individuals playing with a fluency and panache not seen since the halcyon days of Bell, Summerbee and Lee. They can boast arguably the strongest squad in the Premier League and, after routing the Champions 6-1 in their own back yard, are frontrunners in this year’s title race.
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