The lucrative nature of securing Champions League football makes the race to finish in the Premier League’s top four amongst the most enthralling sub-plots of each campaign.
Each season the top four from England’s top tier – courtesy of the nation’s leading co-efficient ranking – seal their passage into Europe’s elite competition, but which sides have secured the most top four finishes in the history of the division?
Here are the five clubs with the most Premier League top four finishes:
Manchester City – 9
The past decade of the Premier League has undoubtedly belonged to Manchester City, the Etihad club having been crowned champions in four of the past eight seasons, including winning back-to-back titles over the past two seasons.
City’s rise came in dramatic fashion following their billionaire takeover by Sheikh Mansour, the deal catapulting the club into the financial elite of world football and forever transforming a side which had long lived in the shadow of their cross-city rivals.
Pep Guardiola’s side are now arguably the dominant force in the Premier League and only four sides have ever finished in the top four on more occasions than City, their nine finishes inside the Champions League places coming consecutively over the past nine campaigns.
Chelsea – 16
Another side whose fortunes would forever change following significant investment from foreign owners, Chelsea’s own billionaire backing has seen the west London side sit amongst the most successful English sides since the turn of the millennium.
Chelsea finished inside the Premier League’s top four on three occasions prior to the arrival of owner Roman Abramovich, their dramatic final day securing of Champions League football in 2002/03 paving the way for the Russian’s takeover.
Since Abramovich’s arrival, the Blues have won five league titles and the Champions League amongst an extensive collection of major honours, finishing outside of the Premier League’s top four on just two occasions.
Liverpool – 16
Despite Liverpool’s well-documented run without league title success in the Premier League era, only two sides have ever managed to secure more top four finishes than the Merseyside club.
Runners-up on four occasions, the Reds have finished in the top four a further dozen times to take their tally to 16, a tally which looks likely to improve given their success under Jurgen Klopp in recent seasons.
Liverpool currently sit comfortably clear at the top of the Premier League ahead of the June 17 restart of the suspended league season, the club hopeful of securing a first-place finish for the first time in three decades this season.
Arsenal – 21
Arsenal, for much of the Premier League era, were regular contenders for the championship, the north London side’s rivalry with Manchester United in the late nineties and early 2000’s amongst the most iconic periods of the rebranded division.
Since winning the last of their three Premier League titles in 2004 it has been an indifferent period for Gunners in terms of silverware, whilst the mocking of Arsene Wenger’s emphasis on finishing in the top four looks foolish given the side’s recent struggles.
Wenger finished in the top four in his first full season at the club before overseeing two consecutive decades of Champions League football, their run ending in the Frenchman’s final two seasons in charge and the Gunners are yet to return to Europe’s elite.
Only one side can better Arsenal’s record of 21 top four finishes in the Premier League era.
Manchester United – 23
Unsurprisingly sitting top of this list is the most dominant side of the Premier League era, Manchester United having won an incredible 13 league titles since the rebranding of England’s top tier in the early nineties.
The Red Devils finished in the Premier League’s top two in each of the league’s first nine seasons, whilst their unbroken run in the division’s top four lasted until after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
The club’s transitional phase has seen the Old Trafford outfit finish outside the Champions League places regularly in the past six seasons, United missing out on a top four finish on four occasions during that time.