Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal: The greatest Premier League XI of all the 'big six' clubs

  • Kobe Tong
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The Premier League is the greatest league in the world.

Ok, maybe there's some personal bias going on there, but even the most ardent critics of England's premier division wouldn't deny the drama, entertainment and tradition that makes it so adored.

Then again, the European Super League saga underlined that the Premier League isn't quite the level-playing-field fairytale that it's sometimes made out to be.

The Premier League 'big six'

Yes, that's right, we're talking about the infamous 'big six' clubs: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

You only have to look at recent league tables to know that the 'big six' aren't necessarily the 'top six', but it's hard to deny that they are the Premier League clubs with the most brawn and power.

And, well, it just happens to be a convenient template through which yours truly can look at some of the greatest Premier League XIs of all time. Sorry, fans of Everton, Aston Villa and so forth.

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Who are their best players?

That being said, with many of the Premier League's greatest ever players having represented one of the 'big six' clubs, you can rest assured that the line-ups are full to the brim with legends and icons.

Our decisions are ultimately informed by the opinion of your humble writer, but said opinion will be based upon the players' Premier League prime, longevity in the division and the good old eye test.

In other words, it's not necessarily an exercise in who the best players to appear for each club in the Premier League era were, but also who had the biggest relative impact across their own era.

Performances outside of the Premier League, before 1992 or for clubs other than the one they're competing to be included in the XI of are not being considered.

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Greatest Premier League XIs of 'big six clubs'

So, ready your passionate comments and picket signs as we dive deep into the pool of controversy by naming who we consider to be the greatest Premier League for each of the 'big six' clubs below:

Arsenal

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I'm sorry, but with all due respect, we can't be friends if you're going to debate the presence of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Vieira, Adams and Cole in Arsenal's finest line-up.

Elsewhere, Seaman gets the nod over Jens Lehmann for greater consistency and longevity, while Dixon sneaks ahead of 'Invincible' Lauren by a nose hair for similar reasons.

Truth be told, the right flank proved to be something of a weak point and as much as playing Alexis Sanchez out of position might be the hipster's choice, it's easy to forget just how magical Ljungberg really was in his pomp.

And as one of the leading creative forces in Premier League history, even during Arsenal's lowest moments, the oft-underrated greatness of Fabregas sees him beat Gilberto Silva to partner Vieira.

Chelsea

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Cech, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Hazard, Zola and Drogba are all givens, right?

As for picking Drogba's strike partner, though that was far more difficult and Diego Costa might feel hard done by having won two Premier League titles and scored 59 goals in just three seasons.

Nevertheless, we think Hasselbaink deserves the nod as one of the competition's most underrated ever players, scoring 87 goals and bagging a Golden Boot in only 177 outings for the Blues.

Meanwhile, we're inclined to think that Azpilicueta and Kante have surpassed Branislav Ivanovic and Claude Makelele and it only feels right that Terry should be paired with his partner in crime from the legendary 2004/05 season.

Liverpool

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With other post-1992 Liverpool teams not coming close to Jurgen Klopp's dizzying achievements, the likes of Alisson, Van Dijk, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Mane and Salah are practically shoo-ins.

Henderson is admittedly a little more debatable, but his contribution to Liverpool's maiden Premier League is undeniable and his silverware and longevity for the club ousts Javier Mascherano.

Elsewhere, we wouldn't blame fans for picking Sami Hyypiä and Steve McManaman over Carragher and Alonso, while even Fabinho and Joel Matip came surprisingly close to knocking on the door.

We feel dirty leaving out Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, we do, but Suarez's astonishing zenith of producing 31 goals and 12 assists in just 33 games with no penalties in the 2013/14 season was too insane for us to ignore.

Manchester City

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Again, there are some absolute givens here with Aguero, Toure, Silva, Kompany, Fernaninho, De Bruyne and even Zabaleta surely being universally agreed upon.

However, we can already sense that you're reaching for your pitchforks at the sight of Richard Dunne being selected over John Stones, Ruben Dias, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte.

And while three of those stars might well surpass him soon, we're plumping for Dunne - who was named the club's best player four years in a row - based on his longevity across 352 appearances.

Whether he we like to admit it or not, Dunne was more pivotal to his respective City side than his successors, even though they are - of course - far superior footballers technically, so it depends on your own, personal criteria.

Meanwhile, Hart still edges out Ederson in our eyes with a record-breaking four Premier League Golden Gloves, while City's weaknesses at left-back mean that Kolarov sneaks in as something of a cult hero.

As for Sterling, lest we forget that the England star is one of the most prolific wingers of all time and scored 35 league goals in just 67 appearances across Pep Guardiola's first two league triumphs.

Manchester United

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One of the more straight-forward XIs to select with Schmeichel, Neville, Ronaldo, Keane, Scholes, Giggs and Rooney immediately slotting into place.

Jaap Stam, Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce were all worthy contenders at centre-back, but we just think that Vidic and Ferdinand's cocktail of warrior-like spirit and technical brilliance is unmatched.

Patrice Evra can also count himself as unlikely to lose an admittedly close battle with the forever-underrated Irwin at left-back, but it was choosing Rooney's strike partner that proved the toughest decision of all.

In the end, though, Ruud van Nistelrooy's natural-born lethality was outdone by Cantona's unrivalled significance to United's Premier League dominance, which might never have been possible without him.

Tottenham Hotspur

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Let's run through the givens here: Lloris, King, Bale, Modric, Son and Kane. Lovely stuff.

Elsewhere, selecting Rose and Vertonghen might not necessarily seem fashionable, but we can't forget just how superb they were in what ultimately prove to be Spurs' greatest ever Premier League seasons.

On a similar note, we came very close to picking Stephen Carr over Walker, but bona fide world-class talent and individual impact ultimately won the wrestling match with slightly better longevity.

Meanwhile, we were so torn on who to pick out of Defoe, Teddy Sheringham and Robbie Keane alongside Kane that we simply let their Premier League goalscoring tallies for Spurs do the talking.

And finally, it doesn't get talked about anywhere near enough that Eriksen is in the all-time Premier League top 20 for assists above Scholes, Even Hazard and Mesut Ozil, so his spot is assured.

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How would your XIs look?

Well, I guess that's half the Premier League that we've hacked off there.

Obviously, with almost 30 years of history and hundreds of top-level players representing the 'big six' clubs, you could have had any combination of brilliant line-ups across each starting XI.

However, that's the beauty of football and the debates that surround it, so be sure to let us know your picks for the greatest Premier League XIs of the 'big six' clubs across our social channels.

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