As Manchester City and Liverpool stormed to the summit of the Premier League table with a record setting combined points total of 195, it appears that breaking into the upper echelons of the top flight for those outside the Premier League big six has never been harder. Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricip Pochettino have pushed the league to new, unforeseen heights that even their great predecessors Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho could only dream of.
Therefore, at first glance, one could be easily forgiven for thinking that the sheer gulf between the ‘Big Six’ and ‘the rest’ is at its biggest to date. However, as the Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s appear more untouchable than ever, the ‘best of the rest’ in Everton, Leicester City, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers would be setting their sights far too low to consider themselves consigned to seventh place or lower.
The Bifurcation of the Premier League Big Six
The turmoil at Manchester United, financial constraints at Arsenal and transfer embargo in place at Chelsea mean a bifurcation of the big six has never looked so probable. Those three sides will be looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack who will look to capitalise on their weaknesses.
United have failed to impose themselves on the summer transfer window with their formerly most expensive player in footballing history, Paul Pogba, saying he is open to a new challenge as well as frustration in the transfer market with Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka being the sole arrivals.
Unai Emery is under similar pressure at Arsenal where the lack of Champions League football means he has just a reported £40 million to spend this window. On top of this, club captain Laurent Koscielny has seemingly gone AWOL and refused to go on the club’s tour of the USA as he seeks to force a move back to France.
Unlike United or Arsenal, Chelsea have no need to worry about the pressure of signing players due to a transfer embargo looming over them. They have already seen talisman Eden Hazard depart for Real Madrid and with no opportunity to replace him they will have to look to their current squad and numerous returning loanees to fill his rather large shoes.
Compare this to the chasing pack and on paper it would be impossible to tell who the established clubs are and who is not. With the £5.13 billion television deal, the big six no longer have the financial power to simply pluck whom they choose from the rest of the league. United have been met with a world-record fee of £80 million if they want the services of Leicester’s Harry Maguire, Newcastle United have refused to sell Sean Longstaff for less than £50 million and Arsenal were laughed off in their attempt to sign Crystal Palace’s Ivorian international, Wilfried Zaha.
The new broadcasting money means the remaining 14 Premier League teams are no longer at the financial mercy of the bigger clubs and they have the financial assets to hold onto their best players.
Not only this but they are making shrewd signings that strengthen their squad greatly. In seasons gone by only the elite could make £45 million signings, yet West Ham shrugged off some of Europe’s top clubs to acquire Sebastien Haller for this price in what is a huge coup for Pellegrini’s club.
This, coupled with the signing of Spanish attacking midfielder Pablo Fornals, will give Hammers fans confidence they can break the seemingly impenetrable barrier that surrounds the Premier League elite.
Pellegrini’s side, however, are not alone in their astute dealings this summer. Leicester have gained their plaudits for the signings of Youri Tielemans and Ayoze Perez, Wolves broke their transfer record in signing striker Raul Jimenez on a permanent basis and Everton sealed a deal for former Barcelona man Andre Gomes.
Can the Premier League Big Six be Broken?
Therefore, although the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and to some extent Tottenham have never seemed too far above the rest, the fates of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are far less certain.
With their business so far this summer the teams traditionally regarded as ‘the best of the rest’ will feel 2019/20 is their best time to break the mould and prove for the first time since 2015/16 that the Premier League’s top six is not set in stone.