With an influx of new money into the Premier League, some teams have risen and fallen at a breathtaking pace. But, the Big 4 more or less remain as powerful as they have ever been, albeit with a little more competition up and down the league.
Since the Premier League’s inception, the Big 4 have been known as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. These four clubs plus Manchester City and Tottenham are now often included in a Big 6, but these clubs have less of a historic tie to the inception of the current league.
Since the Premiership was rebranded to the Premier League, the Big 4 have been near or around the top four in the Premier League table nearly every year. But, how did these clubs establish a Premier League dominance?
Arsenal Football Club began the Premier League with a strong foundation and won the league twice in four years leading up to the Premier League’s foundation. But, the London club had a rough start in the first years of the Premier League, finishing 10th in the league’s first year and 12th in its third.
The architect behind Arsenal’s Premier League success and ascent to Premier League Big 4 status joined the club in 1996. French manager Arsène Wenger fundamentally changed the club culture and began playing an attacking, fluid style of play.
Wenger’s keen eye for talent and tactical genius turned the tides quickly, and the Frenchmen led Arsenal to its first Premier League win in 1998. It also resulted in the best Premier League season ever, also known as The Invincibles season in 2003-04, in which Arsenal won the Premier League without losing a game.
During Wenger’s time at the club, Arsenal was one of the most consistent clubs in Europe as they finished in the top four 20 years in a row.
Another London club, Chelsea, is the Big 4 club with the least prestigious history. With only one top-flight league victory before the Premier League, Chelsea had a lot to catch up on compared with their Big 4 rivals.
Similar to Arsenal, life in the Premier League was rough to start for Chelsea. But, in the late 90s and early 2000s they had established themselves as a club in the top four conversation every year.
Where Arsenal’s fortunes turned at the appointment of a manager, Chelsea’s luck began to change when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 for £140 million.
Chelsea immediately became a Premier League powerhouse and won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. Since Abramovich’s takeover, Chelsea has been a regular at the top of the league and been one of the best performing English teams in the Champions League.
Despite its immense historic success and solidified status as one of the most desired destinations for footballers around the world, Liverpool has actually had the least Premier League success out of the Big 4.
After a dominant period winning 11 league titles in less than 20 years, Liverpool found themselves struggling at the outset of the Premier League and in a period of transition. Their momentum quickly changed, and they became a regular fixture in the Premier League top four.
However, Liverpool failed to win the league for nearly three decades, the longest drought in club history.
With Jürgen Klopp at the helm and star players like Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, and Virgil van Dijk on the field, Liverpool has once again become the best team in England. A Champions League win in 2019 snowballed into their first Premier League title in 2020.
Before the Premier League, Liverpool had notched far more league titles than Manchester United. But since the Premier League started, Manchester United has caught up and passed their Northern rivals for league supremacy.
Manchester United has undoubtedly been the most successful club in Premier League history, with 13 league titles and counting.
And unlike the other Big 4 teams, United began the Premier League with a blistering start. With the guidance of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United won four of the first five Premier Leagues.
United and Ferguson’s reign at the top of the Premier League lasted until 2013, and in this era United fans saw some of the world’s best players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham.
Despite rough patches after Ferguson’s departure, United has remained one of the most desirable clubs in world football for the game’s elite players.