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Which Club Outside the Big Four Can Win the Premier League?

the big four in the premiership Which Club Outside the Big Four Can Win the Premier League?If you blinked, you may have missed it. But in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph, Manchester United captain Gary Neville said he believed that an outsider could win the Premier League.

“I think the Premier League is getting stronger, with teams like Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Villa spending a lot of money,” said Neville. “It’s difficult to say at this early stage if Villa could challenge for the league. They don’t have the pedigree of winning championships, but that’s not to say they can’t last the distance. They are in a good position at the moment and they certainly have a good young team. It’s whether they can sustain it over the next five months.”

But that’s the BIG if. Clubs outside the Big Four typically cause quite a few scares in the early part of the season, but it’s the latter half where races are won and lost.

Still, the clubs outside the Big Four shouldn’t be ignored. So far this season all Big Four clubs have suffered defeats from clubs outside of their circle. Manchester United have lost against Burnley, Fulham and Aston Villa. Liverpool have lost against Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Fulham, Sunderland and Tottenham. Arsenal have lost against Sunderland and Man City, while Chelsea have lost against Man City, Aston Villa and Wigan.

The reality is that this season the quality of teams are far greater than previous seasons. The Big Four are losing more often. And so far, this season, there are more teams capable of breaking up the monopoly of the Big Four and, believe it or not, but nicking the title from under the blue and red noses of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Here’s a quick run-down of the teams capable of breaking the Big Four monopoly:

  • Aston Villa. After a typically slow start from Martin O’Neill’s side, Aston Villa have been on fire lately with tactics similar to last season where they gave us so much hope. They’re brilliant at attacking with pace and amazing at player counter attacking football to hold on for a slim victory. For Villa, though, they’re only concern is depth. Emile Heskey should be returning from injury soon. Stewart Downing is back and quickly returning to full strength. The team just has to hope they hold together for the remainder of the season especially in the back where they routinely get key injuries.
  • Tottenham Hotspur. The turnaround of this team under Harry Redknapp has been incredible. But while Tottenham have the power to decimate lesser opposition, the club has been embarrassing this season when they played against top opposition such as Arsenal and Manchester United. What Spurs need is consistency. They need to get a run of wins under their belt instead of the Jekyll and Hyde performances of late. The key to Tottenham’s success is to get Luka Modric back to his best form and being the playmaker to feed Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch up front.
  • Manchester City. This is the team that’s the biggest unknown at this point. If new manager Roberto Mancini can steady the ship and keep the team playing as well as they have been up front and then correct the issues in defense, then Manchester City is going to be a force to be reckoned with and could hit the Big Four where it hurts. But with the immense pressure on City, the opposite could happen for City and they could find themselves sinking down the table as Mancini gets used to his players and inadequacies.
  • Birmingham City. Other than Aston Villa, Birmingham has been the team I’ve been most impressed with this season. Cameron Jerome has been simply amazing and deserves an England call-up the way he’s playing although it may be too late to get enough caps to be impress Capello. Other than Jerome, Stephen Carr has been playing like a player half his age and has solidified the back four for Birmingham. Lee Bowyer has been punching above his weight and Sebastian Larsson has been wonderful down the wings. However, I don’t think that Birmingham have what it takes to continue at this pace and they’re eventually going to fall into a slump and may end up in mid-table position, which in itself is respectful enough.
  • Fulham. Despite currently being in ninth position, this is a side that I can see continuing to push up the table and to leapfrog Liverpool which is a sinking ship right now. The only concern I have about them is their ability to consistently knock balls into the back of the net. Bobby Zamora is scoring goals left, right and center now but that’s not going to last long. And Dempsey and Gera can score but are not as prolific as Hodgson would like. Where I’d like to see Fulham improve is away from Craven Cottage where they’ve only won one game all season. If they can play as well away from home as they do at Craven Cottage, this is a side that could be last season’s Everton.

While I would love to see a club outside the Big Four win the Premier League this season, I don’t see it happening. I can see Aston Villa or Fulham dislodging Liverpool from the Big Four, but I believe the power and depth of Chelsea will ensure they win the title with Manchester United coming a close second.

What do you think? Are there any teams not listed above that can crack the top four? And is there any way possible that a team outside the Big Four can win the title? Share your feedback below.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

20 Responses to Which Club Outside the Big Four Can Win the Premier League?

  1. Bass says:

    Fulham? Really?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock them, they’ve been superb under Hodgson. However, breaking the top 4? You’re only saying that because they beat Man Utd 3-0 the other day but United played so bad its untrue & had the weakest CB pairing in the Premiership, so it is hardly surprising they lost. I wish my team had played United last week, that’s for sure. Fulham are sitting in 9th place, I’m sorry, but top 4 ain’t even on the agenda. They’ll be top 8 tho

    • evan says:

      With time, I see no reason why fulham shouldn’t be able to break into the top four.

    • Lyle says:

      Fulham won’t make the top 4, but they could finish ahead of Liverpool this season. They’re just a better team than Liverpool so far this season.

      Fulham would do well to earn another go at the Europa League next season… so top 7 is doable, but not top Four, I agree.

  2. Dave says:

    Win the league? Whatever happened to “Fourth place is the new first place”? Isn’t simply getting that Champions League bid all that really matters right now for Villa, Spurs and Man City?

  3. Nick says:

    Normally after last years collapse I would keep myself grounded when talking about my Villa’s current success. But this squads depth has improved big time from last year, and especially without Euro Cup ties to worry about…Villa should be able to focus on League matches and putting out their best 11 consistently.

  4. Erich says:

    Someone other than Liverpool will likely finish in the top 4, as Liverpool appears to be circling the drain at an alarming rate. My vote would be for Villa, as they have been impressive, especially of late. Man City would be the other logical candidate in my mind, but it all depends on how the players respond to their new manager.

    As far as taking the silverware, I can’t see anyone besides Chelsea or ManU winning. Would love to see Arsenal in the championship mix, but they appear to have too many holes to make a serious run.

  5. Raatzie says:

    Big Four?

    United, Chelsea, Arsenal . . .

    …there’s a fourth?

    . . . Leeds was relegated a while ago . . .

  6. Simon Burke says:

    This year absolutely none of them.

    If Villa keep hold of O Neill, Young and Agbonlahor then they are
    in with a decent shout in future seasons but there is still a big gap between them and a Chelsea (who will win this year).

    Man City in future seasons have every chance – their money means they should do it.

    Fulham…????? Hilarious.

  7. Geoff says:

    Cameron Jerome for England is the most ridiculous thing you have ever posted.

    Fulham will never have the resources to break into the top 4. The cost of the team is about what City paid for Lescott.

    He has a grand tally of 3 goals and 1 assist from playing most of the games this year.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hi Geoff, I’ve posted some ridiculous things in the past, but I honestly believe Jerome — if he keeps playing like he does — is destined for an England call-up. Did you see his goal against Liverpool in November? Did you watch his performance against Blackburn Rovers recently?

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Gareth Hodson says:

        As a Birmingham City season ticket holder (Tilton Road), I can honestly say if you think that Cameron Jerome deserves an England call up then you are clinically insance. I can only think this is some crazy bit of sarcasm.

        Cameron Jerome has been dreadful, 2 of the times we’ve been on TV this season he’s happened to hit a shot that he will NEVER repeat and play decent against Blackburn. I see him week in week out – his touch is dreadful, he’s not as fast as he used to be and he is lazy. He’s an average championship player at MOST.

        I can see why you would think he’s played well based on the times Blues have been on TV – but believe me – ask any season ticket holder from Birmingham and they will tell you how awful he is.

        On top of that – let’s look at England’s striker options: Rooney, Owen, Crouch, Heskey, Defoe, Bent and I’d even put Zamora miles ahead of Bent.

        Jerome for England really was a RIDICULOUS statement!

        Saying that, Joe Hart should easily be England’s number 1, he’s been very impressive all season. Stephen Carr is absolute pure quality, probably the best player I’ve seen down the Blues along with Christophe Dugarry. Roger Johnson is better than Rio Ferdinand, and his and Scott Dann’s performances have been near perfection this season (minus the Everton game). Lee Bowyer has rediscovered his Engine, Barry Ferguson is the master of simplicity, McFadden has been awesome and is surely one of the best dribblers in the Prem. Benitez scares the life out of defenders when he runs at them and has assisted quite a bit.

        In fact, the only player not to have been excellent so far this season is Jerome!

        • Gareth Hodson says:

          miles ahead of Jerome*

        • The Gaffer says:

          Thanks Gareth for the comment about Jerome. Living in the States, Birmingham City aren’t on television that often so I can only go by what I see on television. If he’s as bad as you say he is, at least he shows glimmers of hope and can hopefully correct his mistakes so he can improve for the Brummies and, dare I say it, England (if and when he gets a chance).

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  8. Jon says:

    I’ve responded to the question asked here, which is which non-Big 4 team CAN win the League this year, not which non-Big 4 team WILL do so – like many others, I think that Chelsea will probably win the title, and if not them, then Arsenal.

    In that regard I think the team with the best chance to win the League this season that is not a traditional Big 4 team would have to be Aston Villa. They have a lot going for them: they have key players of good quality at all the key positions, reasonable quality in depth of squad, good experience and style in management (both from a coaching and club financial perspective), and they are on a great run of form.

    For example: they have Brad Friedel at keeper. He has played very solidly and has a depth of EPL experience. He has made big saves, smart decisions, and communicates very well with his back four. That is a strength compared to other contenders, like Tottenham. Only City have a better keeper in my opinion, but his supporting cast is worse.

    Richard Dunne has been a rock in central defence, and has provided strong leadership as well for his new club. But they’re even reasonably strong in depth on defence. When Collins went out hurt Cuellar stepped right in. Luke Young has done very well with Warnock hurt. So they have at least two quality bench players in addition to a stable back four.

    Milner has also been huge for the team making up for the loss of Barry (even if they play much different roles) and Petrov has stepped well into the holding role. Again they have strength in quality in depth in midfield.

    Again, I want to reiterate that I don’t think Villa will win the league, but if I had to bet on any team outside of the Big 4 to do it, Villa would be my guess.

    Cheers,

    Jon

  9. jleau says:

    I fully agree with Jon. I think Villa has the best chance of taking the title this year outside of the top 4. I don’t think those chances are particularly high but still the best.

    Long-term, I have to believe that City will eventually buy themselves a title but not this year

    Not sure that Birmingham or Fulham should even be in the discussion. There’s a better chance at getting a sub-prime mortgage for some Dubai real estate than either of those teams ever winning a title.

  10. Lyle says:

    None of them this year. Manchester City one day perhaps.

  11. Jorge Curioso says:

    “Big 4″? Sure, Blackburn won in 1995, but since then, it’s been United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Big 3, with a bunch of also-rans scrambling for table scraps.

    Speaking of also-rans, has Benitez totally shot his wad? Could Liverpool be the most expensive side ever to finish out of Europe?

  12. Tom Hingley says:

    Gaffer, I can only assume you didn’t watch anything of the Championship last year.

    Jerome is nothing but a pace-merchant. He is a donkey of the highest order. He was shocking last season. Yes, he is in a bit of a purple patch at the moment, but to suggest he deserves an England call-up is laughable, and the sort of comment that detracts from the reputation of this site.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Tom, I watched the Championship last year but didn’t see much of Birmingham.

      Granted, the form I’ve seen by Jerome of late has been spectacular but it has been in a short window of time. Let’s see how he does on Boxing Day at home against Chelsea. That’ll be a true test.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  13. Alex says:

    And Sunderland are where? We’ve beat Citeh, drew against arsenal and liverpool. We may only have 7 points but the performances have been superb, if we play like that away from home and against the lower teams, Top 4 could be a possibility. Also get some decent refs in please?

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