Money. Trophies. Consistency. These are the three key contributors to a Premier League club’s promotion into the so-called “Top-6”. In the past decade, we have seen a consistent Top-6: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspurs. But Spurs have not won any significant trophies – the Audi Cup does not count. Liverpool has only won one Premier League Title (since its 1992 inauguration). And Arsenal has not won the Prem since their infamous Invincibles season in 2003-2004. Manchester United and Chelsea have failed to make the Champions League regularly, unlike their past success. So what is it that these clubs do, or have done in the last decade to earn the title of being called a “Top 6” club?
In the past decade, Arsenal has been crowned FA Cup champions four times; and that’s where their trophy count ends. Their glory days under Wenger have clearly passed. From once being strong title contenders every year and possible winners of the Champions League, Arsenal have gone in a downward spiral. This year has hit its lowest point in the league as they have earned just 14 points out of a possible 42, as they currently sit at 15th. So why is it that Arsenal is still a “Top 6” club and a force to be reckoned with? Boasting a record 14 FA Cup titles, with four in the past decade, Arsenal has continued their historic domestic trophy run. Adding on to that, they have also consistently contended for a European spot, a challenging task for any team. Their consistency also shows as they have come top-4 in the table for six years running (2010-11 to 2015-16). Their financial resources have not gone dry yet and can still attract some of the best players while also keeping their stars, with Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang being a prime example. Though Arsenal are currently in a state of misery and have gone through several managerial changes in the past few years, they will surely compete once again and be at the top. Until then, Arsenal’s decade-long consistency must be taken into account, as they rightfully deserve a spot in the “Top 6”.
Chelsea is a winning club, and there’s no denying it. Whether it is the Champions League, the FA Cup, or the league, they have always had a fierce team and are an opponent to be reckoned with. They won the UCL against a strong Bayern team in a crazy final back in 2012, have won the league twice in the last decade, and even managed to bag an FA Cup in 2018. Their trophy cabinet is no joke. And with the influx of cash coming through Russian-owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea is never short of funds. And this was shown in the past summer transfer window, as they spent over $200 million in bringing players to Stamford Bridge. Their consistency is very clear to anyone who has watched the Premier League this past decade as they have finished in a European spot nine out of ten times. Chelsea has managed to secure it all: trophies, money, and high-level consistency. Nothing less was expected from a historically big club, and Chelsea delivered, earning them a spot in the “Top 6”.
Arguably the biggest club in the English top-flight, Liverpool has continued to be a fierce force in the league and in European competitions. Though their most recent successes have come in just the past two to three years, with their first EPL title last season and a UCL title in 2018, Liverpool has truly always been at the top. Making a European spot six out of the last ten seasons and managing to come just one point off the title in 2019, Liverpool has shown their dominance in the league. Though they have not had much success in domestic cups, Liverpool has bred players like Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah, Virgil Van Djik, among others this past decade. It may seem like a wasted point to talk about the players they have had, but it shows how players who were simply just talents were tailored to become the world’s best. Through this, Liverpool and their current manager Jurgen Klopp have undeniably become one of the best teams in Europe. Liverpool also do not have the biggest issues with the financial side of the game, while also being able to scout promising youngsters and even raise their own, with Trent-Alexander Arnold and Curtis Jones being the latest of the crop. Liverpool’s historically overachieving teams and their current team is enough to give them a spot in the “Top 6”.
Manchester City is the only team in the last decade to come between Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the league title, and that too in dramatic style. And since their historic 2011-12 victory on the last matchday, City has conquered England three times since. They have also won two FA Cups this past decade and a domestic treble in the 2018-19 season – the only team to do so since the EPL’s inauguration in 1992 – making City the most decorated English club in the last decade. Their financial side is one that needs no introduction, as Manchester City has made quite a name for themselves on that side. Whether it be spending approximately half a billion dollars on just defenders or possibly buying their way out of a European scandal (hypothetically), City has excessive financial assets. Besides trophies and money, City has undoubtedly been one of the most consistent teams in England. Whether that means coming top 4 and competing in the title race regularly or consistently performing poorly in the UCL and getting knocked out, City have shown high levels of consistency. They rightfully hold a spot in the “Top 6” and most likely will continue to do so in the near future.
Even though Liverpool may be the most decorated club in English history and City in the past decade, Manchester United have made the Premier League and domestic cups their own since the inauguration of the EPL in 1992. Winning a total of 13 top-flight trophies, having added two of those in the past decade, along with a winner and a runners-up FA Cup medal, United are the epitome of the “Top 6”. Though their history makes them proper holders of a “Top 6” spot, do not let their current inconsistent form fool you. They are still a threatening team, whether it be at Old Trafford or away, and have a menacing squad. Though the tide of trophies is currently not in their favor, they will expect to hopefully get their hands on the Europa League once again and also any domestic cups they can this season. As for their record in the past decade, United have only missed out once from a European spot, the second-best out of any other “Top 6” team. Their financial game is still on point, as they can splash money into the market and in return get some of the best talents, with Bruno Fernandes their most recent success. United’s academy has also produced world-class and generational talent, such as Pogba, Rashford, and Greenwood. Their spot in the “Top-6” is unlikely to be questioned, not only because of their history in England’s top-tier but also with their imminent presence in the last decade.
This last one has people confused all the time. How is Tottenham Hotspur considered a “Top-6” club when the only trophy they have won is the Audi Cup, and that too it was a “friendly” tournament? In fact, Spurs have not even reached an FA Cup final this past decade or won the top-flight trophy since 1961. But people are missing the bigger picture. Spurs are the only team in the past decade to have gained a European spot without fault. Year after year, their consistency in challenging for the title has been clear, and they came within hairs length of securing it in the 2015-16 season, missing out due to an Eden Hazard wonder goal. Even then, they continued to move forward and have reached a Champions League Final, something Arsenal or City have not been able to do this past decade. Their fundings are also secure, and they do not have any worries regarding the club’s finances. Spurs have been downgraded and massively underrated this past decade due to their lack of trophies, but anyone who understands the game and watches English soccer, knows that Spurs unquestionably deserve a “Top 6” spot.
These 6 teams are the current “Top 6”, and no other team in England comes close to any of the Big Six clubs. As for the future, soccer is a very volatile sport, and who knows which team will secure their place in the “Top 6”. All we can do is wait, watch, and enjoy the Premier League.