Football Features

The four Premier League clubs most likely to gatecrash the ‘Big Six’ in 2022/23

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:00, 18 August 2022

The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ were back on top in 2021/22, with all the clubs occupying the top six spots in the division.

However, that is certainly not the case for the start of the 2022/23 Premier League table. Although we are only two gameweeks deep, there is definitely a chance for the Big Six to be broken once again, as it was in 2019/20 and 2020/21 when Leicester City and West Ham were the gatecrashers.

The reason there’s a potential spot opening up is because of Manchester United’s terrible start to the new campaign. Erik ten Hag’s side are currently bottom of the league, losing both of their opening two matches, scoring just once and conceding six – including four in that humbling by Brentford, the first time they had ever conceded four or more goals in the first half of a Premier League away game.

While there are only three of the Big Six currently in the top six (Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham), Chelsea have also started brightly and are only outside on goal difference, level on four points with five other teams. Liverpool are slightly further back on two points, still chasing their first win of the season after two draws against Fulham and Palace, and with Man Utd their next opponents one of the two will likely be further away.

But who is there ready to jump at the opportunity? Of course, nobody expects Liverpool or Man Utd’s slumps to be season-long, but there are teams already in a good position to put them under pressure should they continue to drop points. We’ve taken a look at the four big contenders.


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Newcastle

  • Current position and points: 5th (4)
  • Goals scored: 2
  • Goals conceded: 0

Theoretically one of the wealthiest clubs in the world, the expectation is that Newcastle will break into the top six at some point in the not too distant future and will do so with such might and authority it’ll have to go from the ‘Big Six’ to the ‘Big Seven’.

Fans of a certain age will remember when Newcastle went so close to winning the title and finished second on two occasions (plus third and sixth-placed finishes) in the 90s, while the Champions League spot challenges of the early 2000’s wasn’t just a plot conceived by the writers of Goal! for Santiago Muñez to get his moment.

Newcastle were among the top teams in the Premier League before Tottenham came into the fold and they did also finish fifth in 2011/12, ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool. But can they return to the top six this season? There’s certainly a chance, even if they haven’t been too active in the summer transfer window.

The Magpies have signed Sven Botman and Nick Pope while also making Matt Targett’s loan move from Aston Villa permanent. We also shouldn’t forget that the build started in January with Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier, with Newcastle clearly prioritising the defence with their signings so far. And it’s worked.

Only last seasons’ top two Man City and Liverpool (both 11) have kept more clean sheets in 2022 than Eddie Howe’s side (9), while again only Liverpool (16), Man City (15) and Antonio Conte’s Tottenham (14) have picked up more wins in this calendar year than the Toon Army (13).

After two games so far this season, Newcastle remain unbeaten with a win and a draw, scoring twice and keeping two clean sheets. Man City are the only other team yet to concede in the Premier League this season, so it’s fitting that they meet at the weekend.

Brighton

  • Current position and points: 8th (4)
  • Goals scored: 2
  • Goals conceded: 1

Brighton have been quietly going about their business under Graham Potter, often let down in their top half pushes by struggling in front of goal. It’s almost become a meme that Brighton will underperform against their xG in every match, such is the difference between the amount of good chances they create and how many they actually manage to score.

But last season they did manage to break into the top 10, with a ninth-placed finish their best-ever performance in a top flight campaign, in what was Potter’s third year at the helm. The Seagulls won more games than they lost (12-11) for the first time in the top flight and were just seven points behind Man Utd in sixth.

Since the start of April, only three sides (City, Liverpool & Spurs) have picked up more points in the Premier League than Graham Potter’s men (22), winning six and drawing four of their 11 games, with their only defeat coming at the hands of champions Manchester City. They also rank third for fewest goals conceded (9) and clean sheets (5) in that time (not including promoted sides).

This season Brighton have looked to show they aren’t looking to be drawn back into the battle in the bottom half of the table, rather chasing those above them and making a push for the European spots. They got off to an excellent start with a statement victory over Man Utd, winning 2-1 to record their first ever win at Old Trafford in their history thanks to Pascal Groß’s brace, and kept their unbeaten start going through a draw with Newcastle to extend their unbeaten run to seven games.

Brighton will be hoping to build a good run of results to start the season before facing Liverpool and Tottenham back-to-back, and Man City and Chelsea back-to-back all in October.

Aston Villa

  • Current position and points: 9th (3)
  • Goals scored: 2
  • Goals conceded: 3

Aston Villa started the new campaign with a shock defeat to recently-promoted Bournemouth but that hasn’t stopped them from being among the favourites to upset the Big Six.

While there is still work to be done, Villa are making steady progress under Steven Gerrard, winning 11 of their 29 Premier League matches during his tenure with five draws. And of the 13 defeats, seven came against teams in the Big Six including home and away vs Liverpool and Man City.

The Villans have been using the summer transfer window to bolster their squad with Philippe Coutinho joining on a permanent deal, while Robin Olsen, Boubacar Kamara and Ludwig Augustinsson have also signing, the latter on a season-long loan. There was also the big arrival of Diego Carlos, but he has ruptured his Achilles and will now be out for a long time.

Carlos’ injury came in Villa’s 2-1 win over Everton last weekend, their first victory of the season, a game they largely dominated and looked comfortable in before the Toffees started putting pressure on late on. It’s been 13 years since Villa last finished in the top six of the Premier League, but that was the end of a three-year run of qualifying for the Europa League. Some Villa fans will also remember them finishing as runners-up in the inaugural Premier League season and fourth then fifth a few years later.

West Ham

  • Current position and points: 19th (0)
  • Goals scored: 0
  • Goals conceded: 3

Don’t look at the table right now, because West Ham haven’t had a good start, but for a substantial part of last season David Moyes’ side looked as though they were going to gatecrash not just the Big Six but the top four, ending 14 gameweeks as one of the four highest-placed teams in England.

In the end, of course, that didn’t happen. Injuries in attack disrupted their form and they began to slide, first out of the top four and then the top six, missing the chance to leapfrog Man Utd on the final day of the 2021/22 after losing to Brighton.

Seventh was enough to give West Ham a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifying round and they may have that competition to contend in alongside the Premier League, which could hamper their top six chances. However, they surely can’t be any worse than they have been in the opening two weeks of the season.

West Ham were given the toughest start to the campaign against Man City so a defeat was probably expected but the manner of the Hammers’ performance was a cause for concern, as was their loss to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest. David Moyes’ side failed to score with any of their 25 shots across their opening two matches, missing a penalty and hitting the woodwork twice against Forest alone, recording their highest xG (2.47) in a Premier League game without scoring in the last seven seasons.

Things do get harder before they get easier with Brighton up next, a side that they are without a win against in each of the last 10 meetings between the two sides, but don’t count West Ham out.

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Aston Villa to win

Gerrard’s first two games of the season saw him take on former Premier League midfielders and that run continues against Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace. The Villans have won three of their past five Premier League matches against Palace, drawing one and losing one.

West Ham vs Brighton draw

Another match for Brighton against a fellow potential gatecrasher, the Seagulls are unbeaten in 10 Premier League matches against West Ham, with six of the previous meetings ending in a draw.

Newcastle to draw vs Man City

Newcastle are definitely up against it this weekend, and Eddie Howe’s record vs Man City (and Pep Guardiola) isn’t a good one. But, as mentioned, Newcastle are yet to concede this season…