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The top six and the rest, just how big is the gap?

By Ben Huyton

Just how big is the gap between the Premier League’s top six and the other 14 teams in the league?

During five of the last six seasons, the top six in the Premier League has been dominated by the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

The 18/19 season has started in largely the same fashion with only goal difference keeping Manchester United outside these places, with the top five already pulling away from the pack. It could be shown that money and power is largely to blame for this huge gap, but certain statistics show otherwise.

Rewind to this exact same stage of the season a decade ago, it could be argued that a similar situation was apparent.

In the 2008/09 season the famous ‘big four’ consistently took the Champions League spots, but the league was far more competitive than at is now. After 12 games this season, it is the first time ever that three teams have made unbeaten starts this far into a campaign.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 11: Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and teammates celebrate after scoring his teams third goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Man City via Getty Images)

Chelsea who currently sit in 3rd place are on course for a 90 point season, which would match the point’s tally of the Arsenal invincibles 14 years ago. This stat shows just how many points teams need nowadays to challenge at the top.

In Spain, La Liga was ridiculed for years about the lack of competition. The top teams virtually won every game which led to Barcelona and Real Madrid getting an astonishing 99 points and 96 points respectively in the 2009/10 campaign.

Fast forward to the current day, where Barcelona currently sit at the top of the standings with 24 points. This remarkably would sit them in joint 5th place with Arsenal and a whopping 8 points off Manchester City, if they were placed in the Premier League.

For years, England’s top flight was described as the most competitive league in the world. It was considered by many as the toughest to win, and that ‘any team could beat anyone on any given day’. So do La Liga now need to teach the Premier League to be more competitive?

Liverpool’s Sami Hyypia (C) celebrates scoring with team mates Dirk Kuyt (R) and Steven Gerrard (L) during an FA Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at the St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, on December 28, 2008. AFP PHOTO/GRAHAM STUART FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY Additional licence required for any commercial/promotional use or use on TV or internet (except identical online version of newspaper) of Premier League/Football League photos. Tel DataCo +44 207 2981656. Do not alter/modify photo. (Photo credit should read GRAHAM STUART/AFP/Getty Images)

In the 2008/09 campaign only four points separated 7th placed Everton from 19th placed West Brom after the same stage. This reflected just how competitive the Premier League was.

14 points now separate those two standings which show the gulf in quality between the top and bottom of the league. The obvious argument to this is that money and power has ruined football. However Fulham spent over 100 million in the summer but are sat at the foot of the table, which suggests that money is not everything.

Theorists in Spain suggested there was a fear aspect for lower league teams against the top dogs, and they used to accept defeat before a ball had been kicked. Real Betis’ extraordinary away wins at the Bernabeu and Camp Nou this season show a change in approach for the lesser teams, as they now hold a genuine belief that they can go anywhere and pick up a result.

The Premier League was always famous for its unpredictability, with bottom six teams being able to pick up points against the top six teams. This season shows just how rare this is now. Throughout the top six, there has only been six defeats against teams outside of this bracket.

Compare this to 10 years ago, the top six in that particular campaign lost nine times against the bottom 14 at this same stage. The graphic below shows this.

Is it fear? I think it is. Premier League fans will hope for a change in the coming months and years, before it becomes a laughing stock for other countries across Europe.

What do you think?