Would the Premier League be more competitive without the Big Six?

The English Premier League has a reputation for being one of the most competitive football leagues in the world.

Since its formation in the 1992/93 season, teams in the Premier League have attracted top players from world football. At times, massive investment and top-player recruitment has led Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, in particular, towards spells of dominance in the league in the past 20 years.
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Consistently high standards

In most seasons, there are several upsets throughout a Premier League campaign. The unpredictability in the league can lead to shock results, where even the bottom clubs take points off the league leaders. Most recently, West Brom’s 5-2 thrashing of Chelsea highlights this.

For teams battling relegation and those hovering in the mid-table positions, beating one of the top-six is a massive achievement and usually a highlight of the season. But these are rare occurrences. For example, in the 2020/21 season, league leaders Manchester City have only lost to two teams outside of the top six – Leicester and Leeds. Manchester United have the same record, losing to Crystal Palace and bottom side Sheffield United outside of the Big Six teams.

Without the Big Six, the clubs in the Premier League would certainly be closer on points, and they would have more opportunities to take points off each other because they are closer in standard. As a result, there would be more intense competition for the European places for current mid-table sides like Everton, Wolves, Leeds and Aston Villa, which would replace the usual battle between City, United, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool.

However, the ever-increasing quality of the Big Six and their ability to recruit world-class players is a trend that has led to rising standards among the 14 clubs outside of this elite group. Teams like Everton and Leeds recruited top-quality players like James Rodriguez and Raphinha this season to remain competitive. When this filters all the teams, the quality of the league raises as a collective. If all the teams were roughly playing at the same level, there would be less to strive for, and the quality of players in the Premier League would stagnate.

But in some cases, the disparity in quality is too vast for teams to stand a chance. For instance, in the 2020/21 season, Sheffield United have only won four matches from 32 and lost 16 of these matches against teams outside of the Big Six. Derby experienced a similar season in 2007/08 when they finished the season with 11 points and just one win all season – the worst return in Premier League history.

Without the Big Six, the Premier League would be closer in quality. There would be new clubs emerging for the title and European places each season. But the constantly improving level at the top forces mid-table teams, newcomers and relegation battlers to adapt and become more competitive. This constantly rising level is why the Premier League has become the most competitive over the past 30 years.

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