The English Premier League has typically been dominated by the big four: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Recently, a second tier has begun to emerge fostering more competition within the upper half of the league. This second tier bridges the gap between the dominating big four and the lesser competitive clubs.
These three teams are still in a relative developmental stage in terms of greatness. They may have struggles with consistent play, but these teams have the capability in the present and the future to challenge the big four.
The first of these emerging second tier clubs is Tottenham. The Spurs have a rich history of winning and are in many ways the team of firsts. They were the first British team to win the European Cup Winners Cup and they also won the inaugural UEFA Cup. They have won a trophy each of the last six decades, a feat only Manchester United has equaled. The Spurs were able to finish in the top four of the English Premier league last year, allowing them to enter the Champions League this year.
Gareth Bale seems primed to have a breakout season. The young Welsh international is a forward thinking left back (and sometimes a defender) has an unparalleled creativity amongst the squad. Jermain Defoe is another crucial part of the Spurs attack. Last year, Defoe scored 24 total goals and coming off a World Cup campaign in which he scored one of the few English goals, Defoe should be ready once again to be an offense of spark.
Another emerging team is Everton. The blues were able to finish fifth in the English Premier League for the second consecutive year and also were able to reach the FA Cup final for the first time since 1995.
Steven Pienaar is a tremendous offensive weapon for the blues. The dynamic South African goalscorer missed 11 games last year but should be ready to once again show his knack for putting the ball in the net. Louis Saha was another strong offensive threat, scoring a team-high 15 total goals. With rumors swirling about attempts to get experienced midfielder Landon Donovan, Everton could become even more dangerous. Perhaps the best asset of Everton is the extraordinary goalkeeping. American Tim Howard and newcomer Jan Mucha of Slovakia are both extremely skilled that their craft causing major problems for the rest of the EPL.
The third emerging team is Manchester City. After several down years (resulting in relegation) in the 1990s, Manchester City has made a major rebound back into contention. One of the main reasons for the quick turnaround and why they are likely to continue to build upon recent success is due to the 2008 purchase of the team by the Abu Dhabi United Group, giving them almost unlimited financial power.
Robinho is the man to watch for City. The creative Brazilian forms an explosive attack that is sure to strike fear into any opponent. Shaun Wright-Philips, David Silva, and Wayne Bridge also provide great players to lead Manchester City into the second tier.