‘Big six’ extend top-four domination after Leicester fail to repeat 2016 anomaly

Leicester (1)

Leicester narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification for the second season running – meaning their 2016 title win remains a remarkable statistical oddity.

Having spent more time in the top four than any other club this season, the FA Cup winners were denied as defeat to Tottenham on the final day left them a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

That means in the last 10 Premier League seasons, the only time a team from outside the perceived ‘big six’ has finished in the top four is when Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes lifted the trophy in such memorable fashion.

Premier League: top-four finishes in last 10 seasons

Only Leicester’s title-winning season bucked the ‘big six’ trend (PA graphic)

Those half a dozen clubs – Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – were the ones who attempted to join a breakaway Super League in April, and have monopolised the places in the existing European structure.

City have won five of the last 10 league titles and have finished in the top four every season in that time, and indeed for 11 straight years.

Chelsea have seven top-four finishes including titles the year either side of Leicester’s win, while United and Liverpool each have six including one league title. United’s three runner-up finishes give them the slight edge over their bitter rivals’ record.

Arsenal and Tottenham have not won the title in that decade but have identical records of one second-placed finish, two third and two fourth places apiece for five top-four spots in total.

That sees the six clubs account for 39 of the 40 places, with Leicester breaking in only once but striking the ultimate blow for the outsiders.

Leicester lift the Premier League trophy in 2016

Leicester provided a memorable interruption to the dominance of the ‘big six’ (Nick Potts/PA)

It is remarkable they have not added another top-four finish this season or last – they were in the top four this season after every completed round of matches bar the last two, and once they established themselves from September onwards in 2019-20 the same was true.

A more detailed breakdown of this season’s figures shows Leicester ended only 12 days outside of the Champions League places – two days in sixth, one each in seventh, eighth and 10th and the final week in their ultimate resting place of fifth.

They were top for 26 days and in the top four for 242 – an astonishing 86 more than any other team, with Manchester United racking up 156 days, and 111 more than champions City. Pep Guardiola’s side finished 118 days on top of the pile but only a further 13 in the Champions League places, with 56 days spent in the bottom half.

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