Big 6? More Like “Big 3”

By on November 13, 2009

So we are just shy of being one-third of the way through the season and we’re already at our third (!) interlull. When we return, it will be crunch time with 11 matches in the next 42 days, including Chelsea at home, Liverpool away, the final CL group stage fixtures, and, of course, City away in the Carling Cup quarterfinals. While most Arsenal bloggers are taking this opportunity to look back at Arsenal’s season-so-far, and Arsenal Station will likely do that as well over this break, I’d like to say a few brief words about the Premier-League-so-far.

Big spending by City and Tottenham, £150m in 16 months, had the pundits predicting that the Big 4 would now begin turning into a Big 6. Not quite. Rather than having seen the competition at the very top open up, the opposite has happened. Instead of a Big 5 or 6 or 7, we appear to have a Big 3. Now, I know it’s not early in the season, but a “season-so-far-review” can only take into account what has happened “so far.”

Arsenal have confounded the critics with their performances so far this season. So have Liverpool, but in a different way. Chelsea appear to be very strong, but hardly invincible having lost the same amount of matches as us. United are somehow level on points with us, mostly thanks to their most important player this season, Lucky McLuck. But for a few slightly different bounces, they could be fighting with Liverpool for 7th place right now.

Nicklas BendtnerChelsea are easily the favorites at this point. They have squad depth, though that will be seriously tested in January when they lose Drogba, Essien, Kalou, and Obi Mikel to the African Cup of Nations. Though the temporary suspension of their transfer ban means that Chelsea can now buy in the next transfer window. A perceptive comment was made by one of the writers on Sunday Supplement last week, he said something to the effect of, “Chelsea are right now playing to their maximum potential, but Arsenal, despite their fantastic form and results, have not even come close to their potential.”

Rather than opening up the very top, a second Big 4 seems to have come together beneath Chelsea, Arsenal, and United. Tottenham, City, Liverpool, and Aston Villa sit between 8 and 11 points off the pace already and it is hard to imagine any of those four sides making up such a big deficit.

City are lucky to only be 10 points behind Chelsea with a game-in-hand considering their run of 5 consecutive draws in the league. That’s 10 points dropped in 5 matches… the points-equivalent of having won 1, drawn 2, and lost 3. And it wasn’t an especially hard part of their fixture list, including the most uninspiring draws with Birmingham, Fulham, Wigan, and Burnley. The novelty has worn off and City fans are now looking down the barrel at a diabolically shambolic defense which cost almost as much as Arsenal’s starting XI, not including Arshavin and Vermaelen.

When it comes to Liverpool, only two words suffice: Gerrard and Torres. And that’s it. Criticisms of Benitez, I feel , have been totally justified. The man has had five years to build a side, brought in over 50 players in that time, and still has a two-man team. Carragher has lost a step and a half and the entire club, especially Mascherano, has not been able to deal with the loss of Alonso. With no bench as well, and very few youth prospects, Liverpool supporters are in for huge reality check this season as the side appears to be in need of massive rebuilding, something neither Torres, nor Gerrard, nor even Benitez may stick around for, and something that the owners can’t afford.

In Arsenal news, Jamie at Young Guns is reporting that negotiations have concluded on a new contract for Carlos Vela and only the John Carlos VelaHancock-ing remains to be done. That is fantastic news considering all the ridiculous rumours of lower-level Spanish clubs deluding themselves into thinking he was even the slightest bit available.

Yaya Toure rumours have cropped up once again, but they are even more ridiculous this time around. His agent has asked why Barca gave him a new contract, “just to sit on the bench?” Well then, why would he come to Arsenal where he obviously would not walk into the first team ahead of Alex Song? Nicklas Bendtner will be out for 6 weeks or so after his groin surgery, likely much to the chagrin of his 34 year-old baroness girlfriend. Also, Gilles Sunu’s desire to go out on loan to the Championship is being stifled by Arsene until the youngster signs a new deal with the club.

Right, so that is my take on the Premier League season so far. On Arsenal Station over the break we will have a look at Arsenal’s season-so-far as well as a guest piece from Ted Harwood on Alex Song and possibly another from Comrade.


  1. GoonerNick

    November 13, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Arguably it’s always been a Big 3, considering the Scousers havent won a title since 1990.

  2. gunnerstoday

    November 13, 2009 at 10:28 am

    The problem for Man City is the same as it was for Mourinho’s Chelsea. Hughes is a defensive minded coach and the new additions to the squad aren’t players he would sign (not including Toure and lescott). I noticed their stats at the start of the season and observed they weren’t creating a lot of chances. Don’t know what it is now but they have lost their defensive steel they had, the United defeat sparking the downward trend.

    As for Liverpool, I agree that criticisms at Rafa are justified, certainly when you see Wenger getting criticised for only getting us to two semi-finals and winning the battle for 4th place despite having almost every member of our first XI injured at some point. Yet, I think the overused idea of them relying on Gerrard and Torres isn’t true anymore. The former has been largely average I believe this season the latter has been good in some games. Someone they will miss a lot is Benayoun.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 13, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      I would say that the two man team criticism is overused because it is justified. The team has one striker. Benayoun is underappreciated and severely underused.

      • Vertino

        November 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm

        justified to some extent only. They only have one striker because Rafa chooses to operate that way most of the time. And I agree on Benayoun, that says a lot about Benitez player management.

        Whilst January will be a key month for Chelsea as they lose their African brethen, it will be a key month for us also. Not only do we lose Song and Eboue, but we play Villa away, Utd at home and then whatever we gain or lose from that – momentum – takes us to Chelsea away and Liverpool at home. That is a formidable 4 fixtures in a row.. Its good that we are picking up the points now though!

        • ArsenalStation

          November 13, 2009 at 2:52 pm

          But even if you are prepared to play 1 up-top all the time, knowing that your main striker has been prone to some injury in the past, surely you would go out and get a quality #2 striker. Voronin can’t even get in the Ukrainian side. Benayoun is fantastic but he’s not a striker.

          And of course, December and January are key months for all sides every season if only due to the amount of fixtures played in those months, up to 8 or 9 each. But, as you say, it is especially so for us because we also have tough fixtures in those months.

          • Comrade23

            November 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm

            Precisely, the other three of the “big 4” have someone that can step if they should be without their main striker: We have Eduardo, United have Owen, and Anelka deputized brilliantly while Drogba was out for long periods last season. Who do the Scousers have in reserve? Voronin? Ngog? Kuyt and Benayoun are really wing players, neither one fills that central striker role. Such personnel hardly would inspire confidence in me were I a Liverpool supporter…

          • Vertino

            November 13, 2009 at 4:46 pm

            RE: Anelka deputizing Drogba.
            It is precisely the reason why I believe they will be just about fine, thus being the only team who can stop us.

            As I’ve said man management is not Rafa’s not strong point. He has really cocked up there. You never know, more games under a belt instils more confidence. It even took Arshavin a little while to get going (statistically on the goals/assist count).

            I’m so glad we aethestically have a more attractive side without those worries. Shouldn’t have much sympathy for them but it does remind me of our 2005-2006, 2006-2007 seasons. We had bad luck with injuries last year but can’t be worse than playing a midfielder in left back. What was it like, 7 different players in that position. Yeah, definitely things definitely for the better for us!

          • ArsenalStation

            November 13, 2009 at 5:27 pm

            If I was a Liverpool supporter, I’d be absolutely suicidal. Last year when we cocked up the league in the first few months, at least we knew that we still had a young team that was going to get better. That is definitely not the case for Liverpool. They face the threat of either Torres or Gerrard or both leaving should they fail to make the CL and don’t look like getting back any time soon.

  3. gunnerstoday

    November 13, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Goonernick, historically the Top 3 are us, Liverpool and Utd. The 3 have enjoyed the most success domestically across decades and have been the brave enough in their periods of success to advocate and implement change to the definition of football.

  4. bobbygee

    November 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

    The big three are Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U. This year will be one of the craziest EPL title races in history. I still think the EPL champ will have anywhere between four and six losses. I love it when dogs (underdogs) have a chance to win it.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm

      That is a very short-sighted “Big 3.” As far as the Premier League goes(and its history), it’s a big 3 of United, Arsenal, and Chelsea… in that order.

      • Comrade23

        November 13, 2009 at 4:29 pm

        bobbygee, you cannot be serious. Liverpool have never, not once, won the Premier League. Man u have won 10 times, Arsenal three times, Chelsea twice. Blackburn Rovers won once, ffs. Liverpool supporters will chirp about Europe on and on, but they haven’t won domestically in what will this season be 20 years. And as far as this season goes, of the traditional “Big 4,” Liverpool have been on by far the worst form, to the point that they look to be out of the race now, in November. They may qualify for Champions League this season, but even putting this Liverpool squad in the same class with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, and to a lesser, luckier extent, United, is wishful and myopic.

  5. Comrade23

    November 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Very good points about Liverpool. They’ve been on a downward spiral since last season, and losing Alonso cost them dearly, much more than they profited on his transfer fee.

    Re: Vela’s contract, isn’t that a “Juan Hancock”?

    And finally, good for Nik! Not just a royal but a hot royal! Well done, son… now go make a baby!

    • ArsenalStation

      November 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

      When he puts his Pancho Villa on it, we’ll be good.

    • mjc

      November 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

      Or Juan Mano-Gallo…?

  6. wambam

    November 13, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Arsenal r scoring goals without creative players like rosicky,theo,nasri,eduardo.
    True what you say about arsenal not yet reaching full potential because with those players to come back,attacking options compaired to other teams looks good.

  7. Davi

    November 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I think city are good enough to make up a big4 to be honest.
    The critics write us off every year. It seems every 2 years at least wenger manages to pull out a decent seaon and “confound the critics”. I feel this year things have really changed. As long as he keeps this squad together to a reasonable degree success will come. We have so much strength in depth

    • ArsenalStation

      November 13, 2009 at 2:53 pm

      City may be good enough in the future but they are certainly not good enough right now. I also sense a big change in the side this season and just cannot see this side, if kept together, not winning some serious silverware in the next 2-3 years.

  8. ASNLthruNthru

    November 14, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Shitty are just that,as are the Spuds and Villa,all too predictable from management down to ball boys.Money will not make the difference either.Birmingham,Everton and the like are also loaded but are going nowhere.Would not be suprised to see the likes of Fulham and Sunderland in the so-called top 7.Liverpool will make CL qualifiers just behind Arsenal,ManU and Chelsea in that order!

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