In the aftermath of the massively disappointing defeat at the hands of Manchester City on Friday night, social media went into overdrive, possibly exceeding what has gone before this season. I guess that the match being shown live on terrestrial television had something to do with it. Virtually no credit was given to our opponents who played some breathtaking stuff at times, just as Arsenal did a few weeks ago. Quite frankly after the first 25 minutes we could not live with them. But then once again, a soft penalty was awarded to a top team. How often does this happen? They are better than us anyway, there is no need to give them an unfair advantage! Yes, to some extent we capitulated in the second half, but I don’t believe it was lack of effort. We just have to accept that we are not good enough to compete with the best.
Once, in a training exercise in the work environment, we were asked to come out with one thing that we really liked about social media, and something that we didn’t like. I liked the fact it enabled individuals to express an opinion which could be seen instantly by many people, sometimes thousands of them. For the dislike I toyed between the anonymity that social media provided, which meant that individuals often make derogatory or rude comments about others that they wouldn’t make to their face, or alternatively, the inability of people as a whole to accept that others have a point of view that may differ from their own. I guess the latter is a fact of modern life that seems to be shared by so many who believe that their opinion must be right, and any other views are not acceptable. I found that much of this was in evidence on social media in the immediate aftermath of the game, and has even continued in the couple of days that have elapsed since then.
In my view (and I accept there may be alternative views!) the top 6 teams are now getting further away from the rest of the Premier League than ever before. The three London clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, in conjunction with the three north-western giants of the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool, have so much more money than the rest, despite the massive injection of TV cash that some thought might equalise the situation. Of course, many who disagree with this will point to last season when the “Big 6” didn’t occupy the top six places, and the title was in fact won by a rank outsider, Leicester. For me this was a complete one-off freak season that I cannot see being repeated. And when you think about it, despite their indifferent seasons, all of the Big 6 finished in the top 10, despite the interlopers like Leicester, West Ham, Southampton and Stoke.
The Big 6 are showing an even greater domination of the Premier League this season, and I don’t think many would disagree that they will finish way ahead of the chasing pack. These are the same top six clubs that occupied the first six places in 2014-15. The season before, 2013-14, these six finished in the top 7, the other team to join the party were Everton. In 2012-13 we had the same situation, that is 6 out of 7 plus Everton. When we were relegated in 2010-11 it was the same top 6 plus Everton were seventh. In 2009-10 the Big 6 finished in the first seven, this time Villa crept in to the group and Everton were 8th. Can you see the pattern here? The top six are consistently much too good for the others over the course of a season, although there are some short-term minor blips. Everton are the next team down in the pecking order.
After last season, the expectation of fans for this season went through the roof, and partly this may have been fuelled by the board, insisting that to compete with the very top clubs we needed to move into a bigger stadium, enabling us to significantly increase our income. This is probably true to some extent, although many will point to Leicester, whose ground capacity and revenue falls well short of our own when we were still at Upton Park, and despite this they still managed to come out on top.
For more than 20 years the accountancy firm Deloitte has produced revenue statistics of football clubs. It is released in February each year relating to the season most recently finished. Generally you can measure the league success of teams by their income, and in broad terms the income league table is not too dissimilar to the current Premier League table. The top six clubs mentioned previously are the top six in the income league table too, albeit in a slightly different order. In income terms we sit in tenth place which is close to our league position, too. The same is true of most clubs in the Premier League. The problem for lower teams is that the gap is getting wider, hence the reason to move to a larger stadium where possible, just to try to halt the growth in the income gap.
To be continued …..