The state of football pre-Premier League

It occurs to me that there are two likely responses to Sunday's post about the state of modern football. First, that the Big Four have always dominated football. Second, that each period in football's history has been dominated by a small number of clubs, even if they aren't the same ones as today. I can check this out by comparing, say, the 16 Premier League seasons to date with the 16 previous seasons. Let's look at how many trophies the Big Four won in those periods and how many different clubs won trophies during those periods.

First, the Premier League years: Champions: four different clubs (Big Four trophies: 15) FA Cup winners: six different clubs (Big Four trophies: 14) League Cup winners: nine different clubs (Big Four trophies: 8 )

Now, the preceding 16 seasons: Champions: six different clubs (Big Four trophies: 11) FA Cup winners: eight different clubs (Big Four trophies: 10) League Cup winners: ten different clubs (Big Four trophies: 6)

Since the inception of the Premier League, the Big Four have won 37 of 48 trophies. In the previous 16 seasons, the Big Four won 27 of 48. However, it's impossible to make a fair comparison because of the varying fortunes of the Big Four during the period under scrutiny. Chelsea, in particular, were a largely irrelevant club until the late 1990s.

It's more interesting to look at the difference in the number of teams winning trophies. The number of different league champions has dropped by a third since the creation of the Premier League, while the number of different FA Cup winners is down by a quarter. Only the variety among League Cup winners remains, an indication of how little the big clubs value it. Taking only the league and the FA Cup, the Big Four have won 29 of the last 32.

But even that is changing. The Big Four have won six of the last eight League Cups, compared with three of the previous eight. Apologists for the Big Four are having to reach for increasingly unconvincing signs that the top flight of English football is still competitive. The FA Cup is fine, you see, because Portsmouth won it last season, an impressive feat that ended 12 seasons - yes, 12 - of domination by the Big Four.

Signs of life in the Premier League are even harder to find. That Aston Villa might finish fourth this season is the best anyone can do. Yep, fourth place is up for grabs, folks. When you think about it, this provides vast amounts of novelty. Sure we know that the Big Four will provide the top three clubs but which three clubs will make it? And in what order? And which makeweight will sneak into fourth place?

Yeah, that sounds great. I don't know what I was complaining about.