Marley Forrester argues that Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City should be classed in the same bracket as the Top Six in the Premier League.
The Premier League has only been won by six teams since the first season in 1992 (Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City).
Of those six, five are still in the league, with Blackburn Rovers being relegated in 2012.
A similar state of competitive balance occurs in Brazil’s league, the Brasileirao. Since its formation, only on six occasions has one of Brazil’s ‘Big 12’ not won the league. The idea of Brazil’s ‘Big 12’ receives scrutiny as many of the ‘Big 12’ haven’t won the league in many years. B
ut they are the best-supported teams and best performing teams across Brazil’s history.
The ‘Top Four’ (2005-2010)
English football’s landscape changed as Chelsea emerged in 2004. The West London club had a new owner and a ‘special one’. Jose Mourinho took the Blues to their first Premier League title in 2004/05 with a (then) record points tally of 95.
That Chelsea side won 29 games in total, conceding just 15 goals all season. This started an era of the ‘Top Four’, consisting of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
While Manchester United and Chelsea dominated this era in the Premier League, Liverpool and Arsenal also had success in the continental and domestic cups. During the 2000s another team managed to infiltrate the top four just 4 times.
Of those four times, no team managed to do it more than once. The last time it happened in 2009/10, the era of the ‘Top Six’ began…
The ‘Big Six’ (2010-2017)
When Tottenham came fourth in 2009/10, they kick-started the shift from a The ‘Top Four’ into a ‘Big Six’. Manchester City came into new money, much like Chelsea. They finally started to compete with cross city rivals Manchester United, much like Tottenham did with Arsenal.
While the ‘Big Six’ maybe aren’t as dominant with tangible Premier League titles, their dominance is undeniable. The ‘Big Six’ are far and beyond the best performing teams financially in the league. The revenue gap in 2017-18 between sixth and seventh place was £191 million, compared to just £1.88 million in 2009.
In 2015, Leicester City shocked the world as they won the league. This story grabbed the attention of the world as the Foxes were spearheaded by former non-league player Jamie Vardy.
Vardy also broke Ruud van Nistlerooy’s record for scoring in consecutive games. Leicester’s first Premier League title in just their second season back in the league was not at all expected, with odds of 5000/1.
The ‘Elite Eight’ (2017- present)
Leicester’s miracle coincided with another massive turn in the power struggle in England. City emerged as a dominant power in English football. As Liverpool began to catch up to City, Leicester have maintained their position in the elite of English football, with respectable finishes in recent years.
The demise of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea brought the argument that there is in fact a ‘Top Two’: Liverpool and Manchester City. All the teams went through a transition with United and Arsenal losing long term mangers and Chelsea were forced to regenerate an ageing squad. Spurs became comfortably England’s third best team and Liverpool and City battled for top spot. Up until this point, City had won that fight.
Wolves then displayed a vibrant and refreshing style of football, which catapulted them into this elite group in their first season back in the Premier League. This season Sheffield United ventured down a similar path.
Nuno Espirito Santo and Chris Wilder have used unique tactics, alongside shrewd transfer market business to catapult them alongside the giants of English football. While it’s unclear whether Sheffield will maintain their place in a ‘Top 9’, Wolves and Leicester have supplemented their places among the elite of English football.
They are most certainly closer to having title challenging squads than Tottenham and Arsenal.
The ‘Elite Eleven’?
This ‘Elite Eight’ in England (Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester City, Wolves) could be extended into an ‘Elite Eleven’ soon.
The three teams potentially vying for those further three spots are Sheffield United, Everton and Newcastle.
Sheffield will be looking to build on a great first season back in the Premier League. Chris Wilder has brought a refreshing and unique system to the Premier League, which features overlapping centre backs! They have done really well this year and surprised many. They’ll hope to continue this in the years to come.
Everton’s owners have shown a real sense of ambition in recent years. After the signings of Barcelona trio Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes they signed legendary manager Carlo Ancelotti. With plans to move to a bigger stadium on the docks of Liverpool and links to players such as Philippe Coutinho and James Rodriguez show their ambition.
Newcastle United is the most tenuous of all three teams. The Magpies have recently been taken over by Mohammed bin Salman, who is said to be richer than the owners of Manchester City and Chelsea.
In what he has comically named ‘Operation Zebra’ bin Salman wants to help Newcastle challenge the league’s best teams. His ambitions have been coupled with reports that his first target is Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona.
The idea of England having an elite group of clubs can be argued against, much like Brazil’s ‘Big 12’. Many of these ‘elite’ teams haven’t won one in many years. While many haven’t won the Premier League ever!
But the group does consist of England’s most decorated teams, alongside its best performing teams currently. The way this fight for power will go in the future is unknown.
The bigger this group becomes, the harder it will be not only to stay in the Premier League but the harder it will be to climb the league table. This will make the miracles of Leicester and the impressive promotion campaigns of Wolves and Sheffield more and more unlikely.