From the Press box

Nicole Carroll: A one woman mission to make a name in football

The race to win the mini league

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Following the weekends results, it’s neither the top nor bottom of the Premier League that’s making the headlines, rather it’s the fourth place spot.

The fourth place in recent years has rocketed in importance. In the past, the top four clubs, consisting of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have all comfortably finished in the top four to secure Champions League football for the following season and the extra money it brings in.

Talking about the top of the league simply isn’t exciting enough for the headlines. The teams winning the title are the same every year and the winner can almost be selected within ten matches of the start of the season. The team selection may change, but the teams at the top aren’t changing position in the league, and this gives people very little to talk about until the closing stages of the season. Similarly, the relegation battle at the opposite end of the table is now becoming predictable, with those who are promoted being touted as going straight back down. Although big name teams have gone down in the past, such as League One’s Leeds, at the present time their seems to be no shocks at the bottom of the table.

What we’ve had in recent years though, is a new pack of teams vying for this spot. They are not yet good enough to win the league, yet are picking up the results to challenge for the elusive fourth place finish. A team who secures the fourth place spot is heralded with those who could possibly win the league the next season, a massive achievement and a great message to send out to potential players in the summer.

Following Everton’s fantastic 3-1 win against United and Spurs and Villa winning their respective matches, the space between 4th and 8th place is going to become tight. Only eight points currently separates the teams, and with Manchester City failing to win at the weekend, teams below them such as Liverpool and Everton will see it as a chance to push on while Manchester City seem to have lost their scoring power.

Liverpool may feel that they deserve the fourth place. After spending so long at the top of the league, having to fight to get into the Champions League may leave Liverpool fans feeling slightly aggrieved and slightly worried at where their club is heading. This season they have failed to challenge the top of the league and have lost matches which they would have been expected in the past to win. After dabbling in the Europa league this season, Liverpool fans will be clambering to get back into the premier European competition. If anything, fourth place is for Liverpool to lose, and they are fighting to defend their name as a top four club.

Their neighbours Everton are an example of a team that has built itself up over time. They’ve been known to have difficult seasons where they’ve struggled at the bottom end of the table, but David Moyes has created a fantastic team on a relatively low budget. Everton are a team, who at home, other teams worry about playing. They currently lie in 8th, but with a goal difference of +1, they may lose out to those around them if they finish the season on equal points.

Villa and Spurs are both teams who have been heralded as front runners for the position. They play attractive football and are able to bag the goals, and will be fighting each other to take that fourth spot.

With twelve matches to go, Fulham could get involved with the fourth place league with a late surge and add extra pressure on those above them. With the mini league playing against their rivals, and crucial matches against the teams currently occupying the top three, to use a footballing cliché, the game is far from over.

Benitez promised earlier in the season that his side would finish fourth. Failure to produce this on the field will create waves in the media off the field come May, and will possibly herald an era of the “new top four” in the league.

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Written by Nicole Carroll

February 22, 2010 at 8:18 pm

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