In recent years, fans and pundits alike have referred to Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham as the ‘Big Six’. But we can no longer kid ourselves. It is now the ‘Big One’ and the rest.
Manchester City wrapped up their fifth league title in six years this weekend, and they got across the line with ease in the end.
Liverpool have twice pushed them close over the last five seasons, but we have also seen City romp to titles by double figure point margins, and they look likely to achieve that feat again this year.
Is there anyone that can truly challenge them next year, or will Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side be lifting the Premier League trophy again in 12 months’ time?
The planning must start now for City’s closest rivals, and they will need to get their summer recruitment spot on to have any chance of catching the dominant force in English football.
Mail Sport takes a look at what each of the chasing pack needs to close the gap to City ahead of next season.
Manchester City won their fifth title in six seasons this weekend, with Ilkay Gundogan lifting the trophy on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium
For the majority of this season, Arsenal looked capable of ending their 19-year wait for the title. But their disastrous end to the season has highlighted the issues they need to fix to challenge City again in 2023-24.
Mikel Arteta looks set to overhaul his midfield this summer, with Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo both linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s regular midfield trio of Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard have largely excelled this term, but the former has lost form at the business end of the season, while Xhaka is edging nearer to a move to Bayer Leverkusen.
With Partey turning 30 next month, reinforcements are needed. Rice and Caicedo have shone at West Ham and Brighton respectively, and although they won’t come cheaply, they could be the players Arsenal require to take the next step in their development.
Arteta has been reluctant to rotate his squad this season, but that must change moving forward if Arsenal are to keep pace with City.
Finding a right winger so that Bukayo Saka can be rested from time to time is essential, and bringing in another centre back to provide back-up for William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes would also be useful as the Frenchman’s absence in recent weeks has been a major blow for the Gunners that they have not coped with.
Mikel Arteta has plenty to ponder after watching his side’s title challenge collapse
Signing West Ham’s Declan Rice could give Arsenal the boost they need ahead of next season
The Red Devils have made clear progress under Erik ten Hag this season, ending their six-year trophy drought by winning the Carabao Cup in February.
They also have the chance to win the FA Cup next month, ending City’s Treble bid in the process, and look set to qualify for next season’s Champions League. But the gap to City remains sizeable, and that can be put down to one key issue – their lack of goals.
Aston Villa (49) are the only top-half side to score fewer goals than United (52) this season. Ten Hag’s men have been far too reliant on Marcus Rashford, particularly since the turn of the year, and need to bring in a world-class striker this summer.
Harry Kane is the obvious target and would be a wonderful addition, having netted 28 league goals in a struggling Spurs side this year. Napoli’s Victor Osimhen is another name that has been linked, having led his team to the Serie A title for the first time since 1990.
Osimhen may not be the only Napoli player on his way to Old Trafford, as United are also reportedly closing in on a deal for centre back Kim Min-jae.
His potential arrival would be a welcome boost, and could prevent United from suffering any more defensive collapses away from home, after heavy defeats at Brentford, City and Liverpool this season.
Erik ten Hag’s team have made progress this season, but are still some way off challenging City
Bringing in a world-class striker like Harry Kane could take Man United to the next level
Jurgen Klopp’s team have had a bitterly disappointing season, but have shown they can go toe-to-toe with City in the past.
Two years ago, they finished 17 points behind Guardiola’s side but came roaring back last season to push them all the way to the final day. They will hope for a similar response next year after falling short of expectations this season, and revamping their midfield will be top of their priority list.
James Milner, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Naby Keita all bid farewell to Anfield on Saturday alongside forward Roberto Firmino. The midfield trio will all need to be replaced, and Liverpool appear to have identified potential targets.
Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister could switch the south coast for Merseyside, while the Reds are also keen on Mason Mount who is yet to agree a contract extension with Chelsea.
Liverpool have shown interest in Sporting Lisbon’s holding midfielder Manuel Ugarte as well, as they look to provide some healthy competition for Fabinho.
The team’s forward line looks strong with Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez set to cover the front three positions, but Klopp may be considering bringing in another centre back due to concerns over the form of Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, while Virgil van Dijk turns 32 in July and has fallen below his usual high standards this season.
Jurgen Klopp has watched his side fall out of contention after their stunning season last year
Liverpool need reinforcements, with Naby Keita (far left), James Milner (second left), Roberto Firmino (second right), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (far right) all leaving this summer
Mauricio Pochettino is set to inherit a bit of a mess at Stamford Bridge this summer when he is finally named Chelsea’s next permanent manager.
In Todd Boehly’s first year at the helm, the Blues have spent £600m but after finishing third last season they have dropped into the bottom half. High on Pochettino’s agenda will be trimming down his bloated squad. Chelsea currently have over 30 first team players, making it impossible to keep everyone happy.
The club have some exciting talent at their disposal, including record signing Enzo Fernandez, and Pochettino would be best served trying to build the team around the World Cup winner.
Chelsea’s main focus in the transfer market must be a striker given that they have only scored 36 league goals this season. Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic has been linked with a move to west London, while Pochettino must decide whether to bring Romelu Lukaku back into the fold following his loan spell at Inter Milan.
Apart from that, Boehly ought to put his cheque book away for now and give Pochettino some time to build harmony within the squad, as they currently look like a collection of players that hardly know one another.
It’s difficult to see Chelsea closing such a huge gap to City in a year – they could finish over 50 points behind them in the table! – but next season should be about putting together a team the fans can be proud of again.
Chelsea finished 10th in 2015/16 and came back to win the league the following year under Antonio Conte. Don’t expect such a dramatic turnaround this time, but the Blues should be capable of getting back into the top four if Pochettino can work his magic like he did at Tottenham.
Mauricio Pochettino must trim down his squad this summer when he arrives at Chelsea
Pochettino must make a decision on Romelu Lukaku, who has hit form at Inter Milan
It’s all doom and gloom at Spurs right now after a truly dismal campaign. The club are currently without a permanent manager and a sporting director, while fans have been repeatedly calling for chairman Daniel Levy to leave in recent weeks.
It has been almost two months since Conte was sacked and Tottenham are still looking for his successor. They are reportedly closing in on appointing Feyenoord boss Arne Slot, who has just led the Dutch club to the Eredivisie title.
Spurs have gone for the biggest names over the last few years, bringing in Jose Mourinho and Conte, and it hasn’t worked, so going after an up-and-coming manager like Slot would be a welcome change in strategy.
The 44-year-old would have a major job on his hands, as Spurs have faltered badly this season with only Kane saving them from further embarrassment. Keeping him is of paramount importance, but United are circling and the England captain is about to enter the final year of his contract.
Kane needs to be given a reason to stay, and one way to convince him would be to sign some better defenders. Spurs have conceded a staggering 62 goals this season, which is simply not good enough for a big club that wants to be competing for trophies.
Levy may also need to consider his future due to the environment at the club becoming toxic under his watch this season. Boos can regularly be heard at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and most of the fans’ frustration has been directed at Levy, with supporters clearly not happy at the club’s lack of progress since Pochettino was sacked in 2019.
Arne Slot has won the Eredivisie with Feyenoord and is now linked with a move to Tottenham
The pressure is mounting on Spurs chairman Daniel Levy (right) with fans calling for him to go
Newcastle have not been deemed part of the ‘Big Six’ in the past, but they are coming. In fact, they have already arrived.
Eddie Howe’s men are set to return to the Champions League for the first time in almost 20 years, and they thoroughly deserve to be there after producing an attractive style of attacking football this year.
Howe has got the best out of players that previously failed to convince at St James’ Park, such as Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, while also integrating rising stars like Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak into his starting XI. But if Newcastle are going to take that next step and truly challenge City, they will need to loosen the purse strings again this summer.
They are closing in on a deal for Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney, who would be an upgrade on their current left back options, and the club are also keeping tabs on RB Leipzig winger Dominik Szoboszlai.
Adding a wide forward to their ranks would be a sensible move, with Anthony Gordon yet to find his best form after his January switch from Everton and Allan Saint-Maximin’s future uncertain.
Newcastle should also be targeting a couple of midfielders to complement Guimaraes, Joelinton, Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff.
Eddie Howe has stated he wants to have ‘two teams of equal strength’ at his disposal next season, and he’ll need exactly that to reel in Guardiola’s City.
Eddie Howe has led Newcastle to the brink of Champions League qualification
He will need to sign more players of similar ability to Bruno Guimaraes (right) to challenge City