Is there still a ‘top 4’ in the Premier League?

There's never a dull moment in the Premier League, and this year might have shown us that what was once a 'Top 4' is now a 'Big 6'

Ethan Todd
5th March 2021
Twitter @WestHam

Premier League fans are brutally aware that the league is dominated by the ‘top four’, consisting of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

Each of these four teams are institutionally primed to dominate the league and have since it is inception in 1992. With 25 titles between them, it is clear that the ‘top four’ still exists.

Despite their faltering over recent seasons, the top four is still clear, given that even through losing two of the finest managers the league has seen in Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger they are still able to challenge and a mould a side from the ashes of the past.

Manchester United, even after a managerial merry go round they have seen under the much-disputed appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that they are still able to challenge heavily for the title with a squad brimming with world class talent such as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba with extremely promising youngsters developing brilliantly.

Arsenal have seen a clear drop off without Wenger and even towards the end of his tenure, it can be seen that Mikel Arteta is managing to mould a side which has potential to reach their previous heights despite inconsistency of their biggest talents.

Liverpool under Klopp have arguably developed the best and most ferocious side the Premier League has seen with their title win and Champions League victory maintaining their status as a top four side.

Even whilst dealing with a transfer ban, Chelsea have still managed to challenge for top four, even with periods of turmoil with managers being quickly sacked and trusting an inexperienced Frank Lampard in a very difficult period for the club.

Evidently, the top four will still challenge for Champions League places and the title, given their rich history and vast attraction to Europe’s finest talent.


Traditionally, it is widely accepted between Premier League fans that there is a clearly established ‘top 4’ teams, comprised of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal whom all are basically guaranteed a place within the highest four teams in the league.

However, in today’s game, it is undeniable now that given the further distribution of wealth within the Premier league, dissolvement of long-standing managerial careers with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger no longer at the helm, that the ‘top 4’ has morphed into a top 6 or even top 8 this season.

Manchester City’s meteoric rise to the top of the table, coinciding with the drop off of traditional top 4 teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal, has seen the biggest change to the traditional top 4 Premier League fans have been used to since its inception. Since the City takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, they have been a mainstay within the top 4, and under Guardiola’s guise there is an argument to be made that they are the best side the Premier League has seen.

Since their shock title win, but more consistently under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City have solidified themselves as challengers for a top four side but definitely that of a top six side with flashes of the pan north of fourth position.

West Ham have been the biggest shakers of the traditional top four this season, after finishing in 16th position last season yet now seem on course for a champion’s league position, revived under David Moyes.

The traditional top four sides as stated, will always challenge for these positions given their institutional success and ability to attract elite talent, however their place is not guaranteed as it seemingly has been for most of the Premier League’s tenure since 1992.

Further wealth distribution, big sides in dilemmas and high calibre level of coaching at previously smaller clubs in terms of top four challengers, has clearly seen the dissolving of the traditional ‘top four’ in the English Premier League.

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AUTHOR: Ethan Todd
Aspiring football journalist studying at Newcastle University.

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