With some major question marks over the current top 6, and TV money helping the ‘smaller’ clubs close the gap, could we see some new faces in this season’s top 6?
The eighth edition of the Unofficial Football Index Weekly magazine titled ‘The End Of The Top 6‘ is out now and can be viewed in full via Twitter @ FI_WeeklyMag.
Back in the late 90s and early 00s, the Premier League was largely a two-horse race. Year in, year out, it was Roy Keane vs Patrick Vieira. Sir Alex vs Arsene. Manchester United vs Arsenal.
Whilst there were certainly the odd pretenders that would threaten, the title always ended up in the same hands; the title was shared between the sides from 1996 through to 2004.
In recent years, things have been slightly different. The top two extended to an often-quoted top four, which has now extended to top-six; Man Utd and Arsenal being joined by Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Such is the competition in the Premier League, it has taken a phenomenal Pep Guardiola side pipping Liverpool to become the first team to retain the title in 10 years.
The performances of such clubs have made for thrilling titles races that cast envious eyes from Italy, Germany and France.
With the once-in-a-lifetime miracle of Leicester put to one side, it has been considered for several seasons now that these are the 6 elite battling at the top, with the rest of the league consigned to varying degrees of a relegation battle, barring their own miracle season.
But could times be changing?
Much of the expansion has been put down to the increased TV money. Yet with so-called smaller clubs able to profit from their share of the billions on offer, even teams lower down the table can compete with – and trump – other top European clubs in the battle for star signatures. Except for Man City and Liverpool, who deserve all the plaudits coming their way, the gap no longer appears to be widening; every team truly feels capable of beating any other.
So while the traditional top 6 still lived up to their name in 2019, could this season throw up something different?
Manchester United and Arsenal are in need of serious rebuilding jobs, hindered by only being able to offer Europa League football.
Chelsea has lost both their star player and manager in the midst of a transfer ban, leaving them unable to strengthen. Only time will tell if the introduction of the kids can result in a repeat of the famous quote, ‘You can’t win anything with kids.’ Maybe a good cup run is on the cards?
Tottenham continue to withhold money amidst the financial restrictions of a brand new stadium, leaving them unable – or unwilling – to build on the potential they have.
There should, therefore, be nervous glances at the teams below; what’s to stop any of them gathering momentum and breaking their way into this exclusive party?
Several clubs have shown promising signs.
Everton have largely been the closest challengers in recent years. The purse strings have been loosened and, after an initial wave of unconvincing signings – a case of a kid in a sweet shop, no doubt – they ended last season strongly, with the performances of Richarlison earning him a call up with Brazil.
Leicester, meanwhile, continues to impress as everyone’s second favourite team following that fairytale 2016; Jamie Vardy (£0.57) showing no signs of slowing down and James Maddison (£2.90) ever-improving.
Wolves’ first season back in the Premier League was nothing short of exceptional, with Nuno Santos Espirito using his links to bring in an outstanding foreign contingent; Raul Jimenez (£0.73), Diogo Jota (£1.22) and Ruben Neves (£1.47) all looking comfortable along with exciting England prospect Morgan Gibbs-White.
West Ham, meanwhile, are quietly building a team around wonderkid Declan Rice (£1.86) with the likes of Felipe Anderson (£1.15) and Issa Diop (£0.88), hoping to get back the momentum from their final season at the Boleyn a few years ago that saw them finish just 4 points off 4th place.
It doesn’t stop with just these teams either; as we have seen before, many of the teams below can spring a surprise.
From FA Cup finalists Watford to Championship play-off final winners Aston Villa, the Premier League is at its greatest level yet. The continued influx of wealth bodes that this will continue for a while yet.
Things tend to even themselves out over the course of 38 games, but with the rest of the league continuing to spend and improve, fans of the so-called top six might just have a few extra nerves come the opening weekend of the season. Bring it on.