The race for fourth place has entertained for many years. Tottenham and Everton breaking Premier League tradition to realise their Champions League dream, in Tottenham’s case anyway. But be prepared for a return to relative normality, for many years to come, there is a new ‘Top 4’ in town and there here to stay. The top four, for the next five years at least will contain Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and United.
Mancini’s City side will remain strong, be reinforced if needed, possibly if not needed. They can only benefit from consistency in the management team. If the board choose not to maintain consistency and part ways with Mancini, they will appoint the Special One. The way I see it, this will only happen if Sheikh Mansour can guarantee Mourinho’s signature. Either way I feel their place in the ‘Top 4’ is guaranteed for the foreseeable future. Arsenal may be some people’s contenders to lose their Champions League place. Wenger may not be able to build a squad of champions but he can certainly build one more than capable of securing a place in Europe’s elite club competition, as they have proved season after season. Chelsea flirted with the idea of Europa League football at one stage this season. They then brought Fernando Torres and David Luiz. Chelsea’s quality, determination and experience, coupled with the continued backing of Abramovich and the emergence of a future spine (Cech, Luiz, Mikel,Ramires and Torres) for me proves beyond doubt their credentials to challenge for the league title, now habitual to the club. Manchester United’s relentless persistence to win games whilst not performing at their peak along with the set up and personnel at Old Trafford makes it hard to present a case for them falling out of the ‘top 4’.
This leaves the challengers, Liverpool and Tottenham. ‘The King’ has returned to Anfield, installed confidence and belief and re-energised everything around the club. Rumour Dalglish will be backed with a ‘warchest’ will comfort many, but how far will this money go? It may be enough to enhance the quality of the squad; it won’t be enough to take Liverpool to the next level. To replace the class of Alonso, Mascherano and Torres will be hard, impossible when all you can offer is Europa League football. How long will Reina wish to stick around? The same can be said for Suarez. Any improvement will not be enough to break the ‘New Top 4’ resilience. Harry Redknapp will find himself in a similar situation at Tottenham. Keeping Bale, Van Der Vaart and Modric will prove a tough task, even more so when faced with £30 million pound bids and the ambition of these players wanting to express themselves on Europe’s biggest stage. Harry insists the club need to continue to spend, but they will not be in the Champions League next year, not many top class players will opt for that. Ancelotti expressed this point in a recent press conference, highlighting Modric in particular. A mischievous attempt to turn the head of someone who would be a perfect addition to the Chelsea squad. An interesting summer story in waiting.
Liverpool and Tottenham will try, maybe even push until the final games of the season. Both have quality, desire and ambition to bring the star stamped footballs back to grace their turf. The clubs standing in their way are just in better positions to maintain superb levels of performance that will only be enhanced. They have no need to sell their prize assets, if they do, they will be ruthlessly replaced. A simple football equation. The elite of English football will only look to improve at the expense of two unfortunate underdogs.