Will Arsenal’s dip in form break up the big four?

9 Have your say

    Arsenal's players react after the oppening goal from FC Porto's Bruno Alves (not seen) during their Group G Champions League soccer match at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday Dec. 10, 2008. AP Photo/Paulo Duarte

    There can only be one word to describe Arsenal’s season – inconsistent. The draw at home to Liverpool means the Gunners have taken points from each of its fellow big four teams, but lost to the likes of Stoke and Hull, leaving them fifth and at risk of dropping from the crucial top four.

    Arsenal, along with Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, have made a habit of finishing in the top four in the Premier League era, qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, collecting the millions generated by the competition and sharing the EPL crown amongst themselves (with the exclusion of Liverpool) since Blackburn lifted the title in 1995.

    As a result, they could invest and attract the best players, keep winning at home and in Europe, and so the cycle continued as the gulf between the best and the rest widened.

    However, Arsenal’s place in the four is currently under threat from Aston Villa – a team that seems to be defying the recent trend of success in the EPL with a talented young squad of mostly locals without a recognised superstar.

    They may not have the huge financial reserves to permanently threaten the big four but should they continue their winning form, they could severely dent one of the big fours’ fortunes this season.

    The injection of funds from its American owner was spent wisely, adding talented players who contributed to the team unit and depth.

    Villa plays and acts like a team in unison, unlike the other perceived long-term threat to the big four, the richest club in the world, Manchester City, who unbelievably lie in the relegation zone.

    City must spend big and wisely in the January transfer window to avoid the drop after a dismal run of form. They should also look to Aston Villa as a template on how to build a team.

    Whether it’s Villa, City or another, threats to the big four are desperately needed for the sake of the English game.

    The rise and domination of the big four has been a poisoned chalice for the English Premier League.

    The big four have helped spread the EPL gospel through the Middle East, Asia and the world, their superstars are global household names. They are four marketing brands, as well as football clubs.

    They also deliver some great football, especially when playing each other.

    The Arsenal V Liverpool game was a testament to this – an intense affair that showcased world-class talent.

    But for the sake of competition and the long–term survival of the other teams and the competition itself, the EPL needs new blood competing up the front on a regular basis.

    The difficulty in doing this for the other clubs cannot be underestimated, especially in regard to finances.

    And qualification to the Champions League is no guarantee of achieving financial success. Remember Leeds United?

    This season has seen a wider variety of teams taking points away from the big four, and with further investment in other clubs, we may be seeing the beginning of the end for the big fours’ exclusive rule.

    On Boxing Day, Arsenal travel to Aston Villa – a game that hopefully delivers just as great a spectacle as the last time the sides met and will tell us a lot about the prospects of Villa’s threat to Arsenal.

    It will be fascinating to see which team, if any, can break up the big four. But one thing’s clear, money isn’t the sole answer to how this can be done.

    Just look at the contrasting fortunes of Aston Villa and Manchester City.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • Roar Guru

      December 23rd 2008 @ 8:20am
      Pippinu said | December 23rd 2008 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      It has become clear to me the last few years, that if you don’t have a long list and very, very deep pockets, European competition is like a noose around your neck (the example of Leeds is a good one).

      This even goes for the UEFA cup, where a team from the nether regions of its domestic comp finds itself qualifying one year, perhaps the only time of its whole existence, and it can just about break them.

      Palermo had the good fortune of qualifying for the UEFA cup following its return to the Serie A after some 30 years in the wilderness. It did ok in its first attempt, and was able to qualify again the following season, but by that point, carrying a few injuries, competing in the UEFA cup and staying above the relegation zone became all a bit too much.

      Luckily for them the 2nd time round they dropped out of the European comp early in the piece and was able to work at staving off relegation.

      Getting back to Villa, all I can say is be careful what you wish for, you might must get it!!

    • Roar Guru

      December 23rd 2008 @ 9:45am
      Kazama said | December 23rd 2008 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      LOL @ Man City. How funny would it be if they went down and had a team of superstars running around in the Championship?

      Back to the main issue, I think in the short term Aston Villa can challenge Arsenal for their place in the top four. If Arsenal are unable to spend money because of their investment in the Emirates and the financial crisis it levels the playing field and allows for the possibilty of the big four being broken. Aston Villa, from an outsider’s view, seem to be doing quite well for themselves. They have a top manager and some world class players. I remember a Villa youth team playing in a tournament in Adelaide a few years ago and sweeping all before them. This team was driven by the goals of Gabriel Agbonlahor, including a brace in the final.

      Can’t wait for the Villa v Arsenal game on Boxing Day – it should be a cracker.

    • December 23rd 2008 @ 5:50pm
      Alex Moore said | December 23rd 2008 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

      Arsenal continue to suffer from injuries and things won’t get better with Fabregas apparently out for 3-4 weeks after limping off at half time v Liverpool. I have always seen Arsenal as slightly petulant for a Professional club, Wenger proved that at the Liverpool post match conference with a bizarre rant about Robbie Keane, and William Gallas is a terrible choice for captain, terrible.

      But they have quality players in Fabregas, Adebayor, van Persie (shudder…), and Nasri (a genius). The Christmas period is what makes or breaks a team. Watch Arsenal come good and finish 4th by seasons end.

    • December 23rd 2008 @ 6:04pm
      Alex Moore said | December 23rd 2008 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

      Fabregas out for 3 months!!!!!!!

    • December 23rd 2008 @ 8:43pm
      Philly D said | December 23rd 2008 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

      As a fan of the Villa and having watched most of their EPL games this season, I can see that Martin O’Neill has created a team that can finally threaten the dominance of the big four. No recognised superstar? Maybe not yet, but watching Ashley Young play is a delight and like Barry this season, we will be fighting to keep him and Agbonlahor away from the predatory top four clubs that ‘steal’ the talent from the other clubs. What Villa must do now is strenghten the squad, not by making any wholesale changes, but by simply adding to the squad as depth is clearly an issue.

      Up the Villa!

    • December 24th 2008 @ 7:14am
      Ian Noble said | December 24th 2008 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      Martin O’Neill is a very canny manager and when asked about Aston Villa breaking into the top four he tactfully avoided the question. He has won alot of plaudits for bringing on young English players and has been superbly backed up by AV’s American owner who has taken back seat and let the football speak for itself. I am not a Villa supporter but the set up at Villa is admired through the EPL and I would not be surprised if they were close to breaking through at the end of the season.

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