Date: 24th February 2008 at 12:55pm
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What makes a club “big”? Why are the “top four” always referred to as the “top four” – usually by teams outside the group wishing to break the “top four”.

Well, other than being four teams with very good sets of players, that spend more money on players than the rest of the football league combined, they are essentially just the same as Pompey. A group of XI players, and one manager looking to win games. Actually, that’s not really true either, as they have a much bigger squad than Pompey, and they have a management team far larger, with a greater variety of skills at there disposal, and a much better scouting network. But apart from that, they are the same as us. Oh, and we don’t have the global fan base, billionaire owner or prestige…but apart from THAT, we are the same.

At first glance, there appears to be a massive gap between the top four, and the rest of the league, and a certain other site wrote a very interesting article about how we should get rid of them (not put quite like that). On first glance, I would agree. Lowly Pompey have no chance of winning the league, what chance of lifting the FA cup was significantly reduced when they got Pompey and Chelsea’s numbers in the FA cup draw muddles up (they didn’t really), and well, we are not in the carling cup final…but spurs have a small chance. The champion’s league? Well, we aren’t even in it. So in that case, we should get rid of them? No.

The top 3 teams (we can ignore Everton, as they are really in our “pack”) are 9 points clear from the rest of the table. Then, between 4th and 8th – where we are – there are only 4 points between us (one point per place), then it slips right away again, as there are 9 points between 10th (west ham) and 12th (Middlesbrough). The team in between really should be up with us, if they hadn’t had such a bad start. So there, we have a group of 3 teams, then a group of 6 teams, then again, from 12th to 18th, only 7 points separate 7 teams (one point per place). – before once again slipping away to derby at the bottom. Ok, there are a few teams “in between” – notably spurs – who are a little out of place, but realistically, the league can be divided into 3 distinct areas: Those competing for the title; those competing for Europe; and those fighting off relegation.

In fact, as you go down, these groups keep on getting bigger, and the process spews into the lower leagues. In the championship, you have just 29 points separating 24 teams. Anyone can beat anyone, and as Leeds demonstrated, one good season doesn’t necessarily mean the next will be – and equally Watford demonstrated that just because you are expected to go down, you can still come up. In many ways, the championship is the “ultimate league” – the way it is meant to be. No run away leaders, no collapsing losers, everyone has a chance, surely it is more exciting to see if a team can put on a good run, and in the space of a half a season go from relegation threatened to promotion challenging (crystal palace) than to see a side Pompey put together an astonishing run of results, over 10 games, and go from relegation threatened to…avoided relegation.

I started writing this article thinking “maybe we should have a cup for those not in the top four” – as it would surely be more interesting to watch than the FA cup or league cup. But actually, I have come to the conclusion that the premiership is just a dull league, and something has got to change!

In the premiership, you have the “top four”. Then you have the “next eight” then you have “the next 12”. It’s just a dull league, everything is predictable. At the start of the season, people said Fulham, Wigan, Sunderland, and Birmingham would struggle. They said Derby would be hopeless. They said Middlesbrough and West Ham would be mid table. Everyone knows who would be challenging for Europe, and even most people knew who would win the title. Ok, some people had arsenal failing, not Liverpool – they got that bit wrong – but it hardly makes up for the rest of it, but who had stoke city to be leading the championship in February? And I doubt many people thought Sheffield united would struggle and sack Brian Robson either. If we want to make the league more exciting, why scrap the top four, when we can scrap the premiership?

Written by pompeycarpet.

The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.

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18 Replies to “Scrap the top four?”

  • good article pompeycarpet – which was written sometime on friday i must add… tbh i think that this season has probably been the best top flight league we have had for al ong time, granted arsenal, united and even cheslki are moving away abit now but plenty of other sides – including pompey – are improving and the gap is getting smaller – just my opinion, so dont agree in many was that the league is ‘not very exciting’…

  • The trouble is it’s seen all over Europe in main footballing. A few at the top, the same few, then leagues amongst a league.

  • looking at the teams at the start of the season, i would have said that liverpool could have come 1st/2nd, but they havent performed well as a team, so yeah, any of 7 teams can get the final position, and guess whos already played all of the “top 4” twice? thats right, harry redknapps blue and white army

  • Nice one Carpet. The whole league system is unbalanced, the same old names week in week out winning all the trophies – also of course playing in Europe should be viewed as lowering the perceived value of the EPL and from another perspective why should my team play on a Sunday or Monday coz my opponent is still tired from their mid week travels – poor souls. I think the future is with a permanent European league, say 16 clubs – not sure how promotion and relegation would work tho….

  • yeah that sucks, we had to play blackburn on a sunday because of it originally being two days after their match, but we had a tuesday carling cup game that could have been moved to the wednesday, that wasnt moved!

  • I don’t see the problem. The top 4 refers to the clubs who make the Champions league. It doesn’t matter which clubs they are. If it happens to be certain clubs each year then thats because they are the best and desrve to be there. Any other meaning to the top4 is put there by fans and the media so if you don’t like the reference then don’t use it. The rest of the table is no different refering to UEFA spots and the relegation zone. If you want a more even and a less predictable league then the whole system has to be changed to balance the “wealth” of clubs more evenly or restrict who certain clubs can buy. Then there would be complaints that that was unfair. Basically there is nothing wrong with the league and the only boring bit is the way some clubs, Pompey included, are playing.

  • I don’t see it as being much different from other decades. Arsenal in the 30s, Spurs in the 60s, Liverpool and Man Utd in the 70s. If you have the biggest wealth you are always going to be ‘one of the top 4 teams’. If Pompey had a new ground and unlimited wealth we could be in that same category. Come on carpet would you be complaining then…no bloody way, you would be enjoying the experience year in year out. And you wouldn’t be alone in that matter.

  • I’ve just noticed I’ve made the top 10 list in the members league. I’ll show my wife. She tells me I don’t talk to anyone (her included) and I only want her for one thing. I do the cooking so she must mean to clean the house…

  • Guys as I see it the point is not so much that there is a top 4, more that the financial structure of the system prevents managerial and player skill from being the factors that most define a successful season. —– If you take all four leagues there is an almost logarithmic squeezing of power and subsequent rewards to those clubs that are able to wield the largest amount of cash. Unfortunately, there is no handicapping system in place that would protect the 80 odd clubs from the might of wealth generated in the financial markets of the US or oil and gas fields of Russia. But what I find most troubling about this situation is the almost Orwellian attitude that some fans adopt when wishing success on our team. On the one hand we want to succeed due to the ability of players and management and on the other we accept that the top clubs can only succeed with the help of huge pools of cash. That?s fine on the one hand but it drives inflation ? look at Pompey this year, our spending has been modest by 08 standards yet compared to 05/06 we?d have been near the top of the pile, including the so called big 4. I think the ?success at any cost? attitude and the lack of realisation that the current structure is unsustainable is a dangerous place to set out your stall if only because there is no rule written that says that PFC has to be one of the clubs that attracts BIG investment and in the present system that means only one thing….

  • ChrisW, I agree with you completely. Under the present structure there is only one way that can even out the playing field and that is to put a limit on the amount a club can spend each year and put a levy on every club based on a % of their turnover and then for the FA to disperse the money throught the league. It would be a very unpopular move and have the richer clubs screaming. But to leave things as they are is only going to widen the gulf between rich and poorer clubs and make the league more lopsided. I am not for one moment saying this idea is the answer as my real ideas go far further than this and will be the subject of an article later in the year.

  • wow, you aussies clearly feel strongly about this! :-). Although i feel that i should perhaps defend myself here, as i dont think you have entirely got the point of the article…or maybe i havnt written whatever i wanted to (quite likely…)…so i guess i should explain it…

  • firstly, i hate the phrase “top 4” – as such i have only put it in quotation marks, as everyone knows what it means, and who it refers to. a while back, i either intended to, oir did write an article about it…but essentially, i think its a load of rubish, and there is no difference between liverpool now and pompey – other than 3 pts (and possibly the fans), and there is certainly no diference between liverpool and everton as far as i am concerned, but last season, rafa benitez insisted on callibg both everton an portsmouth “little clubs”

  • also, you say “the rest of the table is no different refering to uefa cup places and relegation places” – my point was that that is not true. Taking liverpool as having a “fluke” season, as everyone expected them to chalenge for the title, and so ignoring them (and taking out there champiosnleague spot too), there are 9 pts between the 3rd and 4th, then only 7 points seperate the temas from 4th to 10th! and then comes another massive step down, as there are a further 8 points between 10th and 11th (to spurs, who are equally having a fluke season, and just recovering, so making there way towards our group. you have to go a further 3 pts to really join the “relegation group”) from 12th to 18th, there are just 7 points seperating the teams. the point of all this, is that the legue has completly devided into “top 4”, “uefa cup”, “relegation struglers”, and these are no longer just names put on teams, these are very distinct groups fighting amongst themselves – very closely – but coming nowhere near the group ahead.

  • now gray…if you read my final paragraph, i suggested maybe it would be best to scrap the premier league, and look at the championship. there, all the teams are in touch distence of all the other teams, and you can definatly not say that they have the same finaces. QPR are richer than chelsea, yet only lie in 16th, whilst stoke, i hve no idea where they came from, but they are leading the table, with more pointds than west brom, or surely have more “prestege”, a bigger stadium, more fans and more money than themselves. whilst the premier league is a prime example of how a league can very easily subdevide, and it may always have been like it, the championship is a better example of how a lague should be.

  • and finaly, as far as financing, i have very little experiance, other than having read an intresting article in the telegraph, about how united were the casue of the inflation of players wages… i shall do a little research into it, and come back with a fair response when i have a better understanding…

  • i dont buy into this ‘fluke season’ talk carpet, over a course of 38 games a season isnt a fluke – ultimately the table doesnt lie, you finish top because you deserve to, you finish bottom because you deserve to, you finish in the places in between… yep because you deserve to… if liverpool finished as low as say 7th, which lets not tip to round the issue they could and we finished as high as 4th, and spurs stayed in 10th say it will all be because everyone ‘deserved to’… so as i say you can have a fluke result or 2, or 3 but you dont have a fluke season…

  • fluke season… totenham had a useless start to there season, which quite frankly, witth there group of players, you would not think possible, and there carling cup win prooved that they are so much better than the table suggests. equally with liverpool, i have no idea what is happeneing there, but with the players they have, next season, you would expect them to do better… (as there champions leage win prooved…first team to beat inter milan all season…(or was it ac…)

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