In the first 11 weeks of this season, the label that is all too often associated with the Premier League has been undermined in almost every aspect of its meaning.
|Louis Van Gaal (Wiki Commons)|
Last week, United sat at 7th, only 2 points off of a Champions League spot. Last weekend saw them beat Crystal Palace 1-0 (their fourth victory with the same score this campaign) in a match that, despite being a quite frankly dominant display, exposed United's inability to turn their excessive 71% possession and 23 shots into goals. In other leagues, teams would be ripping United apart due to their lack of quality in the final third, but the majority of the teams in the Premier League are at this moment not any more clinical than United.
"Okay Olly, you say that other teams in other leagues would have superior quality than those in the Premier League, where is your proof?" I hear you cry. Look no further than Europe's top club competition, the Champions League.
With the exception of Chelsea, the English representation in this year’s competition has been quite frankly embarrassing, with Arsenal scraping points off teams that they should be beating with ease, and with Liverpool and Manchester City almost certain group stage casualties after only 4 matches. Last year’s English champions, City, have been outplayed in all 4 of their matches thus far in their group, and are currently sitting on 2 points at the bottom of the pile. Is it because of a 'European Curse?', a phrase that I hear all too commonly when talking about the clubs’ lack of success. No it is not. City, despite being 3rd in the league, drew 2-2 against 19th-ranked QPR last Saturday, only being saved by an as-always excellent Sergio Aguero (for other examples of teams being carried by constant goal-getters, look no further than Arsenal and Alexis Sanchez). This was not the first time that City have under-performed in the league this season. Despite the copious amounts of money that have been spent on transfers and wages in the last 5 years, City have already fallen 8 points behind leaders Chelsea, and with testing fixtures against Southampton and Swansea in the coming weeks, the gap may in fact increase further. Their position in the league is a facade. It exposes the fact that all of the teams (other than Chelsea and this season’s surprise package Southampton) have not had the quality to be billed as part of the 'Best League in the World'.
"Okay Olly, the teams in England are under-performing, but surely this makes the Premier League the most exciting and competitive league to watch, therefore making it the best in the world?" I ask you again to look at the table. If City and Arsenal continue to drop points as easily as they have in the first 11 weeks of the season, they will not even get close to the amount of points needed to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Southampton, who have both been extremely clinical in their first 3 months of the campaign. Despite impressive early results, I do not believe that West Ham and Swansea have the depth of squad to compete for the title either. This leaves Chelsea and Southampton to battle it out for the top spot.
Or does it?
Chelsea have dropped 4 points so far this season, and are currently that distance clear of Southampton. The Saints have yet to face 5 of the other 9 teams currently sitting in the top 10, compared to Chelsea who have yet to face 3 (these teams being Newcastle, Stoke and Southampton themselves, hardly terrifying fixtures for a team who has failed to win twice in the league all season). For all fans out there, mark December 28th in your diary. This is the date that Chelsea may as well be crowned Champions. If Chelsea beat Southampton on this day, I cannot see the League title going to any other club. The talk of Chelsea being the second team to ever go unbeaten throughout a Premier League season is not inconceivable, in my opinion, with their depth in squad and raw talent, along with a manager that gets the best out of his team nearly week in week out. However, every team can slip up; that is why football is exciting to us all. What I am saying is that, based on Chelsea's current form, they could well have stretched their lead over their nearest contenders to near double figures before even playing them. And so, The 'Not Best Quality but Most Competitive League in the World' could easily be decided as little as 3 days after Santa Claus has climbed down the chimney of every household in the world.
All in all, the label that was once rightly linked with the Premier League has long gone. The teams are not performing with the quality or consistency to warrant that title. Look at the league tables in Spain, where, despite the vast financial superiority of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the top 7 teams are currently separated by 7 points. Look at the German teams, where despite Bayern's dominance in the league, 3 of the German representatives in the Champions League are currently top of their groups, with Schalke sitting in second behind Chelsea. If English teams seriously want to regain their status as being part of the best league in the world, some serious changes need to be made. Not with buying more foreign talent. Not by charging fans more for every ticket they buy so as to improve facilities and keep their players happier with higher wages. The players simply need to work harder and put more effort into getting their team as high up the league as they possibly can, exposing every other teams’ slip-up and weakness. Until then, people that believe that England still possesses the best league in the world are simply not looking at the facts.