We’re used to exhilarating matches as fans of the English Premier League. Regardless of who wins the title, there are always talking points that dominate the media landscape. Some of them are immortal, from Steven Gerrard slipping on the halfway against Chelsea to Leicester City doing the seemingly impossible.
This year has the makings of topping the other seasons regarding the fight for the top-four. The lucrative nature of the Champions League has made the fourth spot almost as desirable as a trophy, which is why the race has hotted up in recent years. However, 2021 takes the biscuit, and here’s why.
The “Smaller” Sides Are Better
Historically, the top four positions are what the biggest teams aimed for because it gained them entry into the best competition in Europe. However, the number of clubs within the Big Four has expanded over time. Currently, it’s recognised as the Big Six, but even those sides are on the verge. The latest Premier League top-four odds show how this is the case with outsiders Leicester, West Ham and Everton ranked at 8/15, 10/3 and 15/2 respectively.
The money teams earn is a significant factor, with the tens of millions of pounds for the final league table places helping the likes of the three teams mentioned above invest well. For instance, Everton can call on the services of manager Carlo Ancelotti and star player James Rodriguez, two global icons. This has resulted in squads getting better and not falling away at the final hurdles.
And the “Bigger” Teams Are Worse
For the smaller sides, the improvement in form couldn’t have come at a better time because it has coincided with the fall of the bigger clubs. The current form of the champions, Liverpool, is a prime example. After going over 60 games undefeated at Anfield, they lost five in a row at home. That was unthinkable in 2019 and 2020.
Arsenal highlight the biggest drop-off in quality as their form has been on the brink for a while, whereas Liverpool’s could be a blip. At 35/1 under Mikel Arteta to be in the Champions League places next season, the bookies aren’t confident. Even second-placed Manchester United have been accused of sleepwalking into a top-four fight.
For neutral supporters, the combination is perfect as it results in gripping matches rather than the permutations being sewn up before the season finale.
Attacking is the best form of defence. It’s hard to argue with the motto after watching Liverpool and Man City dominate England and Europe for the last three or four years. However, their rivals are starting to get the message. Spurs, for instance, might have hired a stereotypically solid coach in Jose Mourinho, yet the club’s philosophy centres around the top half of the pitch.
LAST CHANCE TO VOTE 💥💥
Don’t forget to get your vote in before the winner is announced tomorrow 👏
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 10, 2021
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have already beat the record for most combinations in a season. Chelsea, on the other hand, have brought in Thomas Tuchel, a manager revered for his fluid style. Since he was appointed, they have already beaten Liverpool, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.
With competition for places and plenty of goals at both ends, how can you say it isn’t one of the best top-four races ever?