Big Four leave door open for Medium Four
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR and Manchester City continued their unbeaten starts to the new Premier League this weekend with wins over West Ham and Wolves.
Both of these big-spending pretenders, Tottenham in particular, have started the season impressively.
And this may finally be the season when someone makes a firm step into the Big Four.
Everton and Aston Villa have finished fifth and sixth in both of the last two seasons and these four clubs have now created a Medium Four*.
Last season’s top two teams – Manchester United and Liverpool – are weaker than last season, after losing Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Xabi Alonso.
Chelsea have not lost or gained any major personnel, but have a new manager in Carlo Ancelotti.
They have started unconvincingly, yet have three wins from three matches.
Arsenal are the only member of the Big Four that should be significantly improved from last season.
Although Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure have left, Adebayor scored only 10 goals last season and both will miss a significant part of the season at the African Nations Cup.
More crucially Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott should have a bigger role this season, after missing much of last season with injuries.
Arsenal cruised past Portsmouth on Saturday 4-1 with Abou Diaby scoring twice.
When was the last time a player wearing number two scored twice in a Premier League match? (On a similar note, why is Nicklas Bendtner now wearing 52?)
Arsenal fans were given a free scarf, proving that only by producing no atmosphere and booing their own players will fans be rewarded for their loyalty.
The pretenders are not without flaws though.
Everton and Aston Villa have also been hit with key departures and injuries, and have started the season poorly.
Manchester City, despite featuring a front three costing more than £80m, have scored only three times against Blackburn Rovers and Wolves – two teams more likely to feature at the bottom than the top of the table.
Their much-maligned defence on the other hand has notched up two clean sheets.
In contrast Tottenham have yet to keep a clean sheet, but have scored nine goals in three matches.
Their best defender, Ledley King, continues to play with only one fully functioning knee, but if it worked for Andrew Flintoff, then why can’t it work for King?
The start of the season has shown that, although one of them is still certain to win the title, none of the Big Four can be sure of their place in next year’s Champions League.
And the Premier League should be all the better for it.
* (c) Andrew Brook 2009.