The Big Four

The Big Four is a phrase coined by many publications in the past few years. The term represents Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. The way that the phrase is bandied around nowadays, they make it sound as if it has been around forever. However, that’s simply not true.

Before Roman Abramovich decided to take up a rich hobby, there were only two teams that were frequently contending for the Premiership crown. Those two teams were Arsenal and Manchester United. While one cannot really deny the powerhouse ability of Manchester United (they’ve won by far the most titles since the creation of the Premiership), Arsenal were always in the mix. The odd surprise being Blackburn’s triumph in 1995.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea finally broke the domination of Arsenal and Manchester United when they triumphed for their first league title in fifty years. But prior to that, the concept of a “Big Four” just simply didn’t exist. Teams like Leeds United and Newcastle represented England in the Champions League. And even after, it only took a “miracle” in Istanbul for Liverpool to make it to the Champions League the year after their triumph because a plucky Everton pipped Liverpool for a 4th place finish.

The press likes to think and shout that the Big Four may dominate English football for a long time coming, but it’s simply just a trend. One that was made possible due to the deep pockets of wealthy owners who jumped on the bandwagon of the English Premier League.

There will be a day when there won’t be a Big Four. Journalists and pundits routinely speak about how Arsenal are the most vulnerable to being bumped out of the Big Four. Apparently, even players look at it this way. Ledley King repeated those sentiments in public just a few days ago.

But why do people feel that about Arsenal? Is it because Aston Villa almost knocked us out of a Champions League place? Wrong. Aston Villa didn’t even finish fifth. Is it because we don’t spend money on our team? Wrong. Look at how much we spent on Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin while giving hefty bonuses to key members of our squad. Is it because of our consistent 4th place finishes? Wrong. Two years ago, if Eduardo and Rosicky weren’t paralyzed and we had beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford after taking a 1-0 lead, we would have won the Premier League and shocked the world.

So what really are the reasons? And who’s to say that another team is incapable of falling out of the Big Four? Let’s take a look at the teams who comprise the Big Four and those contending to break up the powerful quartet.

Manchester United – Get ready to feel the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. Call him a twat if you want, but the team’s tactics were built around him. They could float by without the input of Carlos Queiroz for one year, but that’s because they still had Ronaldo to punish weaker level opposition. Manchester United last year consistently failed to show up against the big sides. Without Ronaldo, good luck. Their tactics will be a shambles this year.

Chelsea – Ancelotti knows how to get it done in the Champions League. Too bad he has no idea how to challenge for a league crown. Only on the back of Kaka, on Ballon d’Or form no less, could they squeeze out a Serie A title. They have powerful players, but they still lack Mourinho’s ruthlessness. Abramovich wants style, but he doesn’t have flair players on this team. This quest may backfire in their face, but they can challenge for the league.

Liverpool – The trendy pick to win the Premier League this year. But what happens if Javier Mascherano leaves for Barcelona? Oh, that’s right, Steven Gerrard loses the ability to maraud forward and Xabi Alonso is exposed for the luxury player he really is. What am I saying? Xabi Alonso himself is off to Real Madrid. Torres can take them far, but I don’t trust his hamstrings.

Aston Villa – So, this is the team that thinks they can knock us out of the top four. Let’s examine this for a moment. They finished ten points behind us. Their best defender and captain retired from football. Gareth Barry, the heartbeat of the side, left for the literally greener pastures of Manchester City. Agbonlahor’s goals dried up once everyone found out that if he can’t beat you with pace, he can’t beat you. And Martin O’Neill says he needs to sign five players. Yeah, okay.

Manchester City – We sold them two players, and their conflicting attitudes tell you all you need to know about those players. Adebayor says they can challenge for a top four finish, and Kolo says they can win the League. One was a player for Arsenal, the other a Legend. You can figure out which is which. They have tremendous firepower, but a shoddy back four. And don’t ever underestimate the tremendous task of trying to have a team win a title. There is a big difference between trying to win the Premier League and trying to avoid relegation or finish mid-table. Mark Hughes has yet to prove himself.

Everything I just wrote could come true, they could easily be proven wrong. The only thing I’m sure of is this: Don’t count Arsenal out of the title race. Wenger’s teams are best when coming off a quiet summer without a major tournament.

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