Debates about which is the biggest club in England have long divided opinions among football fans.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur make up the so-called ‘Big Six’ in English football.
However, based purely on the number of major trophies won, Tottenham’s place in that elite group is hugely debatable.
They have won less silverware than Aston Villa, while Everton and Blackburn Rovers are among the clubs who have claimed more league titles.
On that basis, the genuine big hitters in England can be narrowed down to the other five clubs. The question is, which is the biggest?
To provide a definitive answer to the question, we have assessed several key criteria to determine which club stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The categories include stadium size, average attendance, social media footprint, club valuation and the estimated net worth of the owners.
We’ve also analysed the current squad purchase value, the number of major trophies won, success in the last five years and their current form.
We can finally reveal which club is the biggest in England by awarding points on a sliding scale from five down to one in each category.
Man United are way ahead of their rivals for stadium capacity, with Old Trafford capable of holding almost 75,000 fans on matchday.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is next on the list, but redevelopment plans elsewhere could shake things up over the next few years.
|Manchester United||Old Trafford||74,879|
|Manchester City||Etihad Stadium||53,400|
Liverpool and Manchester City are planning to expand their respective stadiums, taking their capacities through the 60,000 mark.
Chelsea are also desperate to redevelop Stamford Bridge to bring their stadium capacity much closer to the elite clubs in England.
Man United inevitably take top spot in the average attendance category, with very few seats available at Old Trafford on most matchdays.
The rest of the list follows the same order as stadium size, with most of the other quartet of clubs coming close to hitting their respective capacities.
Chelsea are the exception to the rule, with their average attendance of slightly less than 40,000 falling a little way short of their capacity.
This will likely be tied into their struggles in the Premier League this season, although it will be intriguing to see if they can fill Stamford Bridge when it is redeveloped.
Social Media Footprint
The Red Devils undoubtedly lead the way on social media, with the club boasting more than 170 million followers combined on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Chelsea are second on the list, which may surprise the Liverpool followers who think their club is a major player globally.
The Reds are a few million followers ahead of Manchester City, but the latter’s success in recent years has helped them narrow the gap.
Arsenal bring up the rear in the social media stakes, although their Twitter following (21.3m) is ahead of Man City (15.3m) and not too far adrift of Chelsea (24.1m) or Liverpool (23.4m).
Man United have long been at the top of the pile in this category, with only Real Madrid and Barcelona ahead of them in terms of current club valuation.
A lack of on-field success in recent years allowed Liverpool and Man City to reduce the deficit, but the Red Devils could be poised to ease away again.
While winning the Carabao Cup won’t make too much difference to their valuation, regular participation in the Champions League will have a significant impact.
A potential change in ownership could also be transformational for Man United, keeping them at the top of this category for many more years.
The Qatari takeover of Manchester City in 2008 undoubtedly had a transformational impact at the top end of English football.
Sheikh Mansour’s deep pockets have fuelled City’s domestic success, but the club are yet to make the breakthrough in Europe.
|Club||Estimated Net Worth of Owners|
While many critics have raised ethical concerns about City’s emergence as a football force, their fans are happy to ignore the noise and celebrate their growth.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool also have wealthier owners than Man United – a factor that could change if a takeover is completed.
Squad Purchase Value
The current squad purchase value calculated by Transfermkt.co.uk is a useful indicator of the respective strength of the playing staff at each club.
Chelsea and Man City top the standings in this category, although the former are yet to see any significant return on their outlandish investment.
|Club||Squad Purchase Value|
Liverpool are next on the list ahead of Arsenal, highlighting that they have not been afraid to splash the cash despite protests to the contrary by their fans.
Man United take the wooden spoon in this category, which amplifies why the fans are so eager to see new owners installed to allow the club to compete for the world’s top stars.
Number of Major Trophies
In this category, we consider all major domestic trophies – the league title, the FA Cup and the League Cup – and major European trophies – from 1871 to the end of February 2023.
Man United’s recent Carabao Cup success has put them two behind Liverpool, and the gap could be closed before the end of the season.
|Club||Number of Major Trophies|
Erik ten Hag’s side are still alive in the Europa League and FA Cup, while they are not too far behind Arsenal and Man City in the Premier League title race.
Man City could feasibly overtake Chelsea by the end of this season as they remain in the hunt for the league title, Champions League and FA Cup.
Number of Major Trophies in the Last Five Years
English football tends to go in cycles – a point hammered home by the success enjoyed by Man City and Liverpool over the past five years.
The two clubs have won 11 major trophies between them, leaving Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United trailing in their wake.
|Club||Number of Major Trophies in the Last Five Years|
Chelsea’s Champions League success in 2020/21 is given greater credence than Arsenal winning the FA Cup the previous season.
Man United broke their trophy drought by winning the Carabao Cup this term, but that trophy ranks bottom of the list in terms of major silverware prestige.
Current Season Ranking
With just over three months of the season remaining, it is difficult to give a definitive ranking in this category to each club.
Arsenal lead the way in the Premier League have reached the last-16 in the Europa League. However, City can also win the league and are still in the Champions League and FA Cup.
|Club||Current Season Ranking|
Man United have won the Carabao Cup and could feasibly win another three trophies. On that basis, we cannot split the three clubs.
Chelsea get the nod ahead of Liverpool purely because they could still make progress in the Champions League, whereas the Reds are virtually out after being walloped by Real Madrid.
Which is the Biggest Club in England?
Despite scoring poorly in three of the categories, Manchester United are the undisputed biggest club in England ahead of Manchester City.
Their rankings in those sections are linked to the Glazer family’s ownership of the club, starting with their estimated worth compared to rival owners.
A lack of investment in the playing squad has impacted its value and the club’s ability to compete for silverware in recent years.
New ownership at Old Trafford would potentially rectify those issues and send United further clear of England’s biggest clubs.
Manchester City edge Liverpool for second place on the basis of the squad investment made by their owners which has delivered on-field success in recent years.
Arsenal and Chelsea complete the top five, albeit a respectable distance behind the three north-west clubs.
Newcastle United’s new-found wealth could upset the established order over the next few years, although they have a lot of ground to make up.
They are unlikely to challenge Man United’s position at the top of the tree, especially with the Red Devils likely to improve their overall status going forward.
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