We all know about the Big Six, the Premier League’s half a dozen richest clubs who monopolise the top places in the table, effectively creating a two-tier division of haves and have-nots.
It’s plain to see in the current rankings, with the biggest gap between positions anywhere in the top flight being the 12 points that separate Chelsea, in sixth, and Wolves, directly below them.
The problem with talking about a Big Six, however, is that it implies a measure of equality between them when the truth is that the top three – Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham – are in a league of their own.
City, Liverpool and Spurs highlighted that fact over the weekend with home victories by at least two-goal margins over Chelsea, Bournemouth and Leicester respectively.
That should have been no surprise; all three average well in excess of two points per game, with at least 20 wins each from their 26 or 27 league fixtures so far this term.
Oh, and the second biggest gap between places anywhere in the division? That’s the nine points separating Tottenham, in third, and fourth-placed Manchester United.
Manchester City thrash Chelsea
Champions City underlined the chasm between the top three and the Big Six also-rans on Sunday when they eviscerated Chelsea 6-0. It came seven days after they had eased past Arsenal 3-1.
The result lifted them back above Liverpool into first place, albeit on goal difference and having played a game more, and there looks to be a renewed focus about Pep Guardiola’s team.
For the second weekend in succession Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick, taking his tally to 11 goals in 10 appearances since Christmas.
For the third time in four games they struck within five minutes of kick-off, this time when Raheem Sterling netted the first of his two goals.
Of their last 12 matches in all competitions, City have won 11.
Liverpool shake off jitters against Bournemouth
Ruthlessness distinguishes the Big Three from their nearest challengers, which is what made Liverpool’s dropped points in consecutive games with Leicester and West Ham so notable.
The Reds, who have only lost once in the league all season, didn’t slip up again when Bournemouth visited Anfield on Saturday, winning 3-0 against a team who have now been beaten in 10 of their 13 away games.
If there was tension at first – even Sadio Mane’s opener was greeted with some stern celebrations – that gave way to joyful second and third goals by Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah.
Tottenham defy doubters
This was meant to be a top two by now, but Tottenham continue to defy those who predicted that injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli would cut them adrift.
Instead they have ground out results – in the league, at least – and made it four wins from four in Kane’s absence on Sunday when they saw off Leicester 3-1 with goals from Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min.
For all that, the suspicion is that this remains a two-horse race for the title. With so few points being dropped at all, the five between Liverpool and Spurs looks significant.
Fourth place is Manchester United's to lose
Had the season started when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in the dugout, United might be in the title mix themselves – and certainly among a Big Four.
Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham means they have taken 25 of a possible 27 points under Solksjaer. Arsenal and Chelsea, meanwhile, have been exposed as works in progress at best.
While the gap to Spurs seems too big to bridge now, and although they only lead the other two London sides by a point, the momentum is all theirs and fourth place is surely United’s to lose.