I have been trying to analyse this topsy-turvy season in an attempt to establish whether teams have generally improved or if the top teams in particular are weaker. Certainly, financial constraints have limited the ability of most clubs to tempt others to sell their very best players and also made clubs more determined to keep hold of their most desirable assets. The consequence for me is that the top teams, apart from the obvious few, have not been able to corner the market so effectively through simply buying the hottest property at a whim while smaller clubs have been able to maintain a degree of stability by retaining their key performers. In my opinion, this has created a more level playing field which has impacted the unpredictable nature of this season’s results which sees the smallest point’s gap between top and bottom I can recall. The usual benchmark of 40 points for safety is no guarantee even at this stage of the season while the league leaders have failed to win 13 of their 34 games to-date. However, the question mark remains to whether the EPL is generally stronger or weaker.
West Ham who I would have imagined to be comfortably sitting in mid-table, find themselves languishing at the bottom of the league, albeit a handful of points from safety. Blackpool and Wolves have produced some convincing performances against top teams yet find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle. Aston Villa and Everton would have been expected to be pushing for 4th place but will be happy with mid-table positions. Tottenham threatened at one point to be title challengers and hardly looked out of place in the Champions League where they put in an impressive run. Yet they now look destined for the Europa League next season. Man City have muscled their way into the top four by buying whoever was available while Arsenal who looked capable of challenging for 4 trophies at one stage are now more concerned with not dropping to 4th place. Chelsea lost their aura of invincibility mid-way through the season and despite discovering their form towards the end are still not totally convincing. In the midst of this chaos, an efficient, slightly erratic and unspectacular Man U have accumulated enough points to make them title favourites in these latter stages and have established one foot in the Champions League final without conceding an away goal. What is intriguing is that even though the Premiership’s teams appear less than convincing domestically, across Europe, only Barcelona presents a superior presence. What does this all amount to?
If Barcelona is the only noteworthy competition across the European continent, it would suggest that the Premiership has become stronger. However, if all domestic leagues have suffered a similar fate then it is arguable that English football is in a weaker state. What do you think?
I think the EPL has been much more competitive this season with the bottom teams no longer rolling over for the big four. Sure we've seen a couple of unconvincing plays by the big four this season which some may interpret as a sign of a team weakening but for me it is the other teams improving their capabilities this season hence the league being unpredictable most of the time.
In my opinion it's for the good of the beautiful game and can only be good for England players as well if they get used to playing against strong opponents week in week out.
I look at Man U this season and they are a shadow of their former selves yet are still favourites to win the title. If they are the best we have to offer then has the league not got worse? Schalke in the Champions league look like a mid-table Premiership side at best which makes me wonder whether European football in general has declined. Barcelona are no better than last season in my view but in the face of limited competition still remain far and away the best team.
I've certainly enjoyed it! I think the chasing pack has certainly got stronger - the relegation candidates have changed all season which also suggests the Championship is stronger. There's also a lot more competition for the Champions League spots, and this will only increase next season as Liverpool and Tottenham strengthen. Man U haven't been a vintage side but they've done what they had to do, with a bit of luck of course!
Man UTD (self-proclaimed best team in the world, every year runing!) have won only 5 of their 18 away games this season and have dropped an incredible 30 points! EPL has been really poor all season, it`s not even worth a try to make excuses. You said "bottom teams no longer roll over for the top 4 teams"... So who could forget Man UTD`s 7-1 trashing of now possibly relegation facing Blackburn? Man UTD needed that sort of goal difference to overtake top team Chelsea at the time...And as always, Sam Allardyce obliged, so Fergie`s team could take top spot...and got sacked shortly after...It would be time that people stop idolising these overhyped, and mostly overpaid EPL players and realise that there are other perfectly capable leagues in Europe, offering far more entertainment than the EPL....
Donnacha C - I am in total agreement with your assessment of Man UTD although you forgot to mention that anyone who plays for them is also the best player in the World - NOT! A recent report on the English FA highlighted the fact that football is the country's worst run sport and out of line with the game generally, it is governed by a group of middle-aged white males from the NW of England. Historically, the NW has been a power base of English football and Man UTD are as such the chosen ones. re: my hub 'Are Fergies football friends too close', I have also questioned results against the likes of Allardyce's teams.
The English media are experts at over-hyping their celebrities and football is a victim of their sensationalism. You may appreciate that the football celebrity was an English invention.
I am a fan of the technical game and despite being born and bred in England, I have always been more allured by the South American game and the great European teams. One's that stand out are the amazing AC Milan team that included Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten, the youthful Ajax team that went a whole season unbeaten then won the European Cup and today's Barcelona. For me Arsenal are the best EPL team but do not get the favouritisms of Man UTD and are historically the media's team to continually undermine.
I think you will find most level minded English supporters still regards Spain, Italy and Germany as strong leagues - I would also include France. However, despite the more eye-catching technical styles of play in these leagues, the top English clubs still seem to be stronger with the exception of Barcelona. Tottenham who might not even make 5th place, beat both Inter and AC Milan while Man UTD have fairly strolled to the semis and are likely to reach the final although I anticipate them to get hammered by Barcelona. Chelsea were beaten by Man UTD and Arsenal succumbed to Barcelona.
I feel that due to limited transfer funds being available this season, the big teams in particular have not been able to improve significantly. At the same time lesser teams have been able to hold onto their best players and make a better fight of it. However, the standards are set by the excellence of the top teams and this is where I think the EPL and Europe generally has not been as good this year. The Man UTD v Schalke Champions League semi-final illustrates this for me. The other semi-final contains the best team in the World v Spain's only other competitive team who have spent millions of Euros to get back to the top but are some way from being there. I do not think Real Madrid and the football mercenary Mourhino can ever be a happy marriage.
I think the EPL is much stronger this year than in previous years, but at the expense of other successful European leagues. The EPL has been able to convert players from Spain, Germany, France, Italy, etc. over the last few years in order to reassert their supremacy in the sport. Professional football in England has integrated and added to an extraordinary pool of talent that no longer remains relatively exclusive to the big money clubs. As a result, I'm noticing a larger concentration of talent in the top teams in Spain and Italy and a thinner concentration of talent in Germany. It is the result of English teams (in my opinion) strengthening their squads in order to effectively compete with the growing English elite teams being able to win over elite players to the idea that the EPL is the best source of compettition for them.
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