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Death of the Big Four ?


Chippy

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Premier League - Death of the Big Four?

Eurosport - Wed, 27 Feb 17:21:00 2008

Liverpool and Chelsea are in crisis, Arsenal's season is stalling and Manchester United owe more money than a Societe Generale trader. All the while, Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham make confident strides towards the top. Are the Big Four doomed?

More StoriesArsenal set for Euro woe?

Manchester United are up their eyeballs in debt and forking out £60 million a year in interest alone on the £660 million owed, yet still they spend huge sums on players. One bad season, one year without Champions League money, and the whole edifice could come tumbling down.

Liverpool have a manager who has no support from his board and is slowly losing the fans and players. They have finally got a world-class striker but face another dogfight just to finish fourth and haven't won the league for 18 years. Their owners face open revolt from the fans, who have put their faith in a Dubai-based company providing no guarantee of better management.

Chelsea's vast wealth means they overpay for players, yet the superstars they truly crave - Kaka, Messi, Ronaldinho - do not want to come. Roman Abramovich has ploughed over half a billion into the club but his revolution has stalled. Peter Kenyon may get Chelsea to break even by 2010, but he has brought an end to massive transfer spending - and to on-pitch success for the moment.

Arsenal's problem is that they do not spend enough money on players. They could afford to blow £20 million on Karim Benzema but Arsene Wenger will not spend it. Wenger's genius for developing kids means he rarely splashes out on the finished article. His biggest signings are "project" players like Theo Walcott or Jose Antonio Reyes.

Senior players leave the Emirates Stadium every summer - Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell were past their best, but experience has a value that reaches beyond the pitch. Alex Ferguson has kept the declining Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, and would never have axed Vieira or Campbell. As a consequence, he does not encounter the dissent shown by William Gallas, Emmanuel Adebayor or Nicklas Bendtner.

It is almost miraculous that Arsenal contend for honours so consistently, but can you really hope for prolonged dominance when you are always in transition? And all the time the spectre of a debt-led takeover hangs over the club.

So, that's it. The Big Four are all doomed. Right? Well, no. Liverpool's squad is too good, their fans too numerous and their attractiveness to investors too great for any serious decline to occur.

Arsenal's present board has 'locked down' against Alisher Usmanov's takeover and in any case the Russian is backed by David Dein, who would make damn sure Wenger stayed.

Chelsea will probably muddle through and there is no immediate sign that Abramovich wants to sling his hook, while - for the moment - all is going swimmingly at Old Trafford under the hated Glazers.

But certainly, the pretenders are extremely well-equipped. Villa, Everton and Blackburn have the kind of stability and unity that Liverpool and Chelsea can only dream of.

Tottenham and Manchester City also have the makings of a bright future but their fans have seen too many false dawns to get too excited. (OK, that's not true - let's put their unquenchable optimism down to the resilience of the human spirit).

In the 1990s, the money at the top of the game put success beyond all but the elite - this decade's trend for foreign ownership and massive investment means any club can become a contender almost overnight.

It might not be the egalitarian utopia the purists crave, but it means the game is more open now than it has been for a long time.

Alex Chick / Eurosport

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The big 4 never existed.

It's been 3 for yonks (even before we got Roman) and it will remain that way. Unless Everton can make a final push.

Exactly.

Why anyone thinks that Liverpool deserve to be included is beyond me. It's not just that they haven't won the league in 18 years - its that they haven't even challenged for the league in 18 years. And there's no sign of this changing any time soon.

For the last 4 years it has been the big three (us, ManU and the Arse), and for the previous 10-15 years before that, it was the big two - with breif challanges from us under Vialli, Newcastle and Blackburn.

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I think Spurs will be a force under Ramos in about 2 years, Villa have one of the best managers in the game and Everton have decent players but will need to hold onto them and buy well if there to be P.L. Contenders. City have a great club manager but will need to strenghten their squad and will do well to hold onto Richards and Dunne.

We will bounce back, no doubt , we still have a great side but i can see J.T. Riccy, Lamps , and Drogs moving on , it's how and who we replace them with is the issue. I can see changes in personell , Bridge will f**k off too and i cant blame him, Joey will stay but only under a top quality manager, remains to be seen if Anelka rocks the bridge with 20 plus a season, and Pizzaro will get a free to Shamrock Rovers of hes lucky.

We desperately need a Jose type manager , somebody who'll get stability back into the squad, because i think Grant will bottle it and he's not got the confidence of the players from where im sitting. Arsenal will get bulied out of contention unless they stop whinging and realise that just because they play nice football, it dosent mean the rest have to stop and admire them. United will run amock unless Scholes, Rooney, Ronaldo , Nani, and co get a terminal ilness soon. Liverpool are a victim of their previous success and their past will pressure them into stupid mistakes , like appointing a f**kin usless manager who concentrates on 1 competition every season and cant pick a team to save his life, buy average players , depend on one certain player all the time, and will stay a fourth or fifth place side for a few years.

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Guest Brian M

My gut tells me the Big 4 could become the Big 1 again in the summer, with Roman realizing he's c*cked up big time by getting rid of JM, and putting both hands into his pocket to fix things. First he'll get rid of Grant (bumping him upstairs). Then he'll bring in a new manager. Then he'll promote Clarke to be the real #2 ahead of Tent Pole. Then he'll hire Zola and put him on the coaching staff. Then he'll use a big fat broom to sweep through the club, cleaning out all those players we don't need, and bringing in new ones. Not to the degree that he bought when he first took over, but pretty close. And then the big 4 becomes the big 1 like it was a couple of seasons ago: CHELSEA. Just Chelsea.

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The terminology 'Big Four' relates to the fact that there are 4 champions league spots up for grabs so it doesn't really matter if one team dominates by a country mile it will still be talked about as the 'Big FOur' . Only when that fourth spot starts being won by different teams on a regular basis will the term make less sense but as we stand just now it has been predominantly the same four. Even if Liverpool fail to make it this year they will still be considered one of the big four - they would need to fail to qualify for a few years in succession rather than just once.

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