The very concept of the ‘Big Four’ was effectively smashed last season. And the way the new season has begun, it’s hard to imagine it back in place come May. It’s asking a lot of Liverpool to reclaim their place, given that Spurs look the better side these days and City’s millions is something else to contend with. It seems as though this is said every season, but it really is as open as it’s been for ages this time around. So who’ll be occupying those four Champions League spots come May?
For me, this Chelsea side is very overrated. They can put 30 past the likes of Stoke and Wigan for all I care, it’s still three points for a win. The City game was their first remotely difficult game of the season; their only real test so far, and they lost it. With their opening five games, they were always likely to be on 15 points before Saturday, yet people have still been talking as though they’ve already won the league because of a couple of wins against Stoke, West Ham etc. They’re still favourites, and there’s no doubt they’ll be in the top four, but don’t get carried away with their decent start.
Poor start to the season for United. On the one hand, they’re unbeaten. But that doesn’t mean a great deal when you’re dropping as many points as they are. Draws at Everton, Fulham and Bolton aren’t, in my opinion, individually bad results. Cumulatively, however, United should have taken at least five points from those games. I still think they’ll at least challenge, though. But they need to sort out an increasingly shaky defence.
What a shocker that West Brom game was. To be honest, I think the size of Arsenal’s squad will continue to be a hindrance when it comes to challenging for the title. They’re as good as anyone on their day, but inconsistency is a real problem for them. They should sit comfortably in a Champions League place, though.
This is a big season for City. Finishing outside of the top four wasn’t exactly in the script last season; this time around, it’s essential. I reckon it’s important this season for City’s spend-happy owners to stick with Mancini. If they switch managers half-way through the season, it’d be more than a little disruptive. With the quality they’ve got, I think this is City’s year to break the top four. But talk of a serious title challenge is premature.
This is the toughest to call. It all depends on how Houllier gets on there, really, but a decent win at Wolves suggests he might do alright. Having lost Milner though, who was excellent for them last season, it’s difficult to see them improving on their sixth place finish of last season.
Another tough one. They’re just so bloody inconsistent. But on the back of coming fourth last season, they’re certainly in with a shout to replicate that. Champions League football might prove to be a distraction, though; it’s all part and parcel of coming fourth in the first place. Personally, I don’t think they’ll manage it. City weren’t far off them last season, and with the money they’ve spent they should be able to overtake Tottenham.
Don’t make me laugh. They were terrible last season, and they’ve had a terrible start to this one. I really can’t see Liverpool getting back in the top four; they’d do well to hold onto Europa League football at this rate.
NB. The order of this list is based on the current standing in the table of last season’s top seven. Not where I think they’ll finish. That insightful nugget can be found here.
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