September 12, 2007
When fans of the English Premier League refer to the ‘top four’, they are generally talking about Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. However with the influx of the new TV money there appears to be a tide of contenders threatening to break the dominance of the big four.Ever since Rafa Benitez joined and started reshaping a Liverpool side that often failed to deceive into genuine contenders for honours and Roman Abromovich came in and gave Mourinho so much money to spend that they could afford to buy £21 million bench players like Shaun Wright Phillips, the top four places in the league table have generally been filled by those teams each season. Finishing in one of the top four places gains qualification for the Champions League- the two top automatically enter the group stages while the teams that finish third and fourth play a two legged tie against often substandard European opponents.
The last time the stranglehold on the top four was broken was by a spirited Everton side in 2004/05, who finished three points ahead of a Liverpool team distracted by the Champions League – but the Toffees then failed to advance in either the Champions League or the UEFA Cup, losing to Villareal and then getting thrashed by Dinamo Bucharesti. Liverpool still qualified for the Champions League the next season by virtue of them picking up the trophy and being allowed back in by UEFA. Other than Everton, the closest a side has come spoiling the party was the Tottenham Hotspur team of 2005/06, who led a struggling Arsenal side for large parts of the season before succumbing on the last day of the season to West Ham United and thus gifting Arsenal their place in the Champions League qualifiers. While most do not think that another team will break into the top four very soon, with the amount of big spending and the types of players being brought into the Premier League, anything is possible. Here, I will take a look at the four teams that I feel are the most capable of doing so.