THE ‘big six’ is a concept talked about with such regularity and such solemnity that it is given a historical significance that simply doesn’t exist. It can feel at times as if Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and the two Manchester giants were the founding fathers of English football. As if a legend of each club should be carved Mount Rushmore-style at St George’s Park.
In fact, the ‘big six’ as we know it only came to be a decade ago, when Manchester City joined the elite and Spurs got their act together, first under Harry Redknapp and later Pochettino.
How strange then that this media-created construct that is so often implied to be enshrined is 15 years younger than Hollyoaks. That it materialised around the same time that avocados on toast became a thing.
Acknowledging this makes a mockery of the earnestness to which journalists ponder if Leicester should be inducted after winning the league in 2016 and finishing fifth last season. It diminishes too the conversations that pop up from time to time as to whether one of the ‘traditional’ big six should have their sacred membership revoked after suffering a few poor campaigns. The answer to both is yes, of course. Why the hell not?
It's getting tight at the top!
— Unibet (@unibet) January 14, 2021
Before 2010 there was a ‘big four’ and prior to that Arsenal and Manchester United enjoyed a prolonged duopoly but it’s what preceded all this that is particularly of note. In 1990 the three most successful sides of the eighties – along with two clubs of considerable stature – sat around a table with some power brokers and hatched the idea of a Premier League. They were in essence its founding fathers and duly became known as the ‘big five’. Those clubs were Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Everton.
Unless you are 67 years or older reading this – and if you are stay safe and God-willing a vaccination is forthcoming – then Everton have been in the top-flight for the entirely of your life. They have won the league three times more than Chelsea or Manchester City and seven times more than Spurs. And presently they are a team transformed, revived by a coach widely considered to be one of the very best in world football and inspired by a player in James Rodriguez who can legitimately lay claim to being a superstar.
Currently, the Toffees reside in sixth place in the Premier League and should they win their games in hand – by a handsome margin admittedly – they can snag second spot. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is high in the scoring chart having scored a goal every 128 minutes. The summer signings have settled quickly, significantly upgrading a midfield in need of it. Make no mistake about it, Everton are flying.
DCL scores his 15th goal of the season and puts Everton 1-0 uppic.twitter.com/M8D4ZnVAE5
— The Toffee Blues (@EvertonNewsFeed) January 24, 2021
Which makes it so utterly perplexing why some quarters of the media are so reluctant to recognise the threat they’re presenting to the established order.
On Sky recently Roy Keane dismissed their chances of winning the title but backed Leicester because they have Brendan Rodgers at the helm. Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League on three occasions and led three different sides to a league title.
Match Of The Day meanwhile displayed a graphic last week showing a ‘Big 6 mini-league’ – awkwardly shoe-horning Leicester in to make it a top seven – that highlighted how each side had fared against their immediate peers this term. Everton were omitted and this was odd given their league position and odder still when their fine return against Liverpool and co since September is factored in.
This compounded another ‘top six’ comparison the BBC ran with just days earlier. This one rightfully left out Arsenal who were 10th at the time and rightfully included Leicester who were third. Yet for reasons unknown Chelsea (7th) were swapped for Everton (6th) with the Toffees once again overlooked.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) January 20, 2021
For the record Everton have spent six match-weeks outside the top six this season. Chelsea have spent 11 weeks adrift of it and Arsenal 14. The former have just sacked their manager, so poor has been their performances. The latter presently languish in mid-table.
Seriously, what gives? It’s as if Everton are viewed as temporary squatters. The disrespect is palpable.
And as inexcusable as this is, it’s a disrespect that Evertonians are becoming well accustomed to very much against their will. Going back to the winter of 2019 their club was in the market for a new manager with Ancelotti their dream target and David Moyes also in the frame. Understandably, the Gwladys Street faithful wanted the Italian, a desire that seemed to annoy some sections of the media who wrote and spoke condescendingly about how the supporters should be grateful for whoever they got. Who did they think they are, demanding the highly decorated Ancelotti? A top six club? They should know their place.
This snobbery is again in evidence this season, only now concerning the fans of Everton’s opponents on Saturday, Newcastle. As a large tract of the fan-base call for Steve Bruce’s head with their team floundering near the foot of the table the response on the radio and in print has been nothing short of appalling.
According to the click-baiters posing as professional journalists it appears that Newcastle fans are unaware that they haven’t won anything for half a century. It seems they have got above their station.
In reality all they want is a team to be proud of and bluntly that is the direct opposite of the current state of play. Steve Bruce’s side head to Goodison having scored just once in their last 756 minutes of football and across the season they have managed the second lowest number of shots in the league along with the second fewest passes.
They are consistently abject and persistently predictable and unless something changes soon the spectre of relegation will haunt them.
As for Everton they top the table for headed goals (9) and this puts Calvert-Lewin front and centre as their likeliest goal-threat. The hosts have scored 60.7% of their league goals in the first half and should that trend continue Newcastle will be in trouble because Everton have gone on to win nine of the ten games where they have taken the lead.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Toffees can find themselves firmly in the mix for a Champions League spot, an achievement to date that deserves huge acclaim. Just don’t expect some sections of the media to properly acknowledge that fact.