Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa and now Manchester City have become the latest team to threaten to burst into the ‘top 4’ bubble. Surely this year with the form they are showing, one of these teams will make it. Liverpool’s poor start to the season has provided all of these teams with a chance and good results against the top 4 have given hope to the teams below. Is it a case of speaking to soon or is the ‘top four’ dominance beginning to wane?
Realistically, there is only a top two at the moment. The last 5 years have seen the Premier League title going to either Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford. The story this season is the same. It may simply be more a case of the bottom two of the ‘top 4’ being caught than the whole group’s dominance fading.
Tottenham, under Harry Redknapp, are already showing that they are more than capable of breaking the mould. They have signed quality with players like Defoe, Kranjcar and Lennon all showing they are ‘top 4’ quality. They certainly have the fan-base and the facilities at the club are of top quality.
Aston Villa have progressed consistently over the last few seasons and are again showing this season that they can, at times, match the big boys. A win away at Manchester United and a place in the Carling Cup Final have been the highlights in a good season so far. However, the losses at home to Liverpool and away at Arsenal shows that progress is still needed for Villa to become a real top 4 side.
Manchester City undoubtedly pose the biggest threat to not only the big 4 but also the title. With the potential money available at the club, it will be very interesting to see if they can mount a serious title challenge next season. Mancini, should he make it until next season (never know at City these days) will be given as much as he wants to bring in new players. City have already set their sights on the Premier League title next season and will also be looking to make a statement in Europe.
The only difficulty for the chasing pack is that clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool can attract a different calibre of player. Taking nothing away from the other clubs but they are clubs with worldly renowned history and are seen to be part of Europe’s elite group of clubs. Manchester City have the potential to attract players via their bank accounts but that is a luxury that Tottenham and Aston Villa do not have. In fact, more credit should be given to the likes of Martin O’Neill and Harry Redknapp for building their squads on considerably smaller budgets than their rivals have had.
With the millions available to him, if Mancini fails to turn City into at least a top 3 team next season then he will undoubtedly be sacked. For O’Neill, the distinct lack of pressure at Villa, who have shown faith in him and appreciate what he has done for the club, has probably helped him to progress in the way he has. Should they go on to win the Carling Cup then that could be the changing point in Villa’s progression. A larger transfer budget and a few top signings could realistically put Villa in with a chance to break in to the top 4. With their current squad I don’t believe they can do so.
Fans who ever wondered which team would break to top 4 mould will be rubbing their hands in excitement as potentially this could be the year. With Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Villa all pushing for 4th place, this year’s race to the finish could be one of the most exciting yet.
Will the top 4 finally become a realistic hope for more than just 4 teams or will the chasing pack once again fall at the final hurdle?