When I first started watching English football as a Yank six years ago, I was drawn to the best clubs and star players, like anyone would be. But then I quickly realized that being a fan of one of the Big 4 clubs is no fun. Since the ’02-’03 season, only once has an outsider beaten one of England’s Big 4 to a Top-4 finish (Everton in ’05, and even then they couldn’t keep Liverpool out of the Champs League). If you’re counting, that’s once in 24 chances.
In short, Liverpool finishing outside the Champions League places can only be good for English football, and is something every non-Liverpool fan should want. Just from a neutral perspective, if Spurs or Manchester City were to break the Big 4 cartel for this season at least, it should mean a changing of the guard at the top of the league for the near future. Spurs are on solid financial footing, with a new stadium in the pipeline, and finally a solid manager to go with all the flair players they’ve assembled over the last few years. City, being the richest club in the world, will surely at least be in the mix, even if they have to go through another couple managers to get there. And while Liverpool currently have deep financial problems, even if they miss out on the Champions League and lose Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, they’re still one of the world’s massive clubs and should easily be able to attract the investments needed to rebuild quickly.
While Aston Villa and Everton currently don’t have the financial clout or setup to challenge at the top of the league, they’re certainly solid enough to challenge for the 4th spot for the next few years if they can catch a few timely breaks. Both are well placed with solid squads and very good managers. As far as the rest of the league goes, massive infusions of cash will be necessary for any other club to vault from the ranks of the also-rans to a sustained run at the European places.
So in short, I’ll be rooting against Liverpool in the coming weeks, but not just for self-serving reasons (full disclosure, I’m a massive Spurs fan), as I’d still prefer Man City over the reds if I had to choose. I have nothing against Liverpool as a club, I just have a big problem with the structure as it currently stands in England.
So who are you rooting for to finish fourth?