Sunday, 18 January 2015

Why English Football is More Entertaining Than Ever

by Oliver Wright                

Third in the League
(source: saintsfc.co.uk)
As the 2014/15 title race begins to build up excitement throughout the worldwide football community, I was drawn to watch an immensely entertaining clash at my home ground, St Mary's, between the unusually high-flying Southampton and the three-time Premier League champions, Arsenal. Last season, this would have been considered a one-sided walkover for the potentially Champions League-qualifying Arsenal; however, Southampton pulled off an unlikely 2-0 victory, including an ingenious curling effort from Sadio Mané, to continue the form which has now placed them third in the division.

However, at the beginning of the season, who could have predicted such events? Arsenal were signing big names such as Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Danny Welbeck, whereas Southampton had been stripped of what seemed like impossible-to-refuse offers for their star performers of the previous season, whilst being written off from any respectable finish the next season. Robbie Savage, the ex-footballer turned pundit even went as far as including Southampton in his list of relegation risks in a controversial pre-season article which he has recently apologised for.

Even though the average goals per game (2.59) is considerably lower than its three preceding seasons (2.81, 2.80, and 2.77 starting at 2011/12), my enjoyment of the unpredictable nature of the matches and the tighter more inclusive relegation dogfight has increased dramatically. Every ‘top team’ has had to watch their step to avoid tripping up against the seemingly more determined mid-table finishers, whilst only five points separates the bottom eight clubs, who are realising that they are in for the long-haul.


Fans' favourite, Yannick Bolasie
(source: BBC)
This is not to say that the quality of football is decreasing, as there have been some magnificent goals: Angel Di Maria’s precise chip against Leicester, or Graziano Pellè’s overhead spectacular versus Queens Park Rangers, just to name two. The fans have also been treated to more world- class players flocking to become part of one of the greatest leagues in the world; we have seen skills on a regular basis that some leagues are fortunate to see once a year. Yannick Bolasie is a prime example of this; he has used unbelievable trickery to beat players on the pitch, becoming a Crystal Palace and national fans' favourite in the process. 

I have, though, heard many express the view that Manchester United’s excessive yet unsuccessful spending throughout the year has dampened the traditionally best team in England, an argument that has been echoed throughout the country as many believe that young British quality is being shadowed by the talented foreign players who are being brought in for ridiculous amounts of money.     

To this, though, I would respond that it has made the League even more fascinating. 

Teams with much smaller squads with supposedly ‘less quality’ such as West Ham, Swansea, Newcastle and Southampton, have held their own against the giants, Newcastle even pulling of the impossible by ending Chelsea’s unbeaten season with a brilliant 2-1 in early December. Every game now is unpredictable, enticing every football fan into the consistent magic on show at most stadiums. 


Giant-killers, MK Dons
(source: mkdons.com)
Perhaps this is why the average attendance has been at its highest ever in the last two years, as avid fans and neutrals alike, are being drawn in to the fixtures that have given us drubbings, like Southampton’s 8-0 dispatching of Sunderland, tightly fought contests, such as QPR’s shock 2-2 draw against Manchester City, or even the unbelievable result that saw League 1 MK Dons defeating the £200 million pound Manchester United 4-0.


Finally, to those who say that the quality of Premier league football is on the decline, I present to you the fact that in Champions League football this year, the three qualifying English clubs all beat the top three German teams in their respective groups, gaining entry into the next round of the competition which brings together the greatest teams in Europe.

4 comments:

  1. Nice article, do you think Southampton can hang on to the top 4?

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    Replies
    1. As a Saints fan I'd hope so, but as we don't have as much depth in our squad, I think the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, and Tottenham might get the better of us.

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  2. Great article, I can admit that the majority of my article from a few months ago's content has been blown to smithereens! I still personally believe that Southampton could take top 4, unless Arsenal, United and Tottenham significantly strengthen their defences in January.

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  3. Also, in regards to Europe, I think we do need to wait and see how the last 16 and quarter finals play out. Yes City, Arsenal and Chelsea all picked up wins against the German clubs, but that doesn't change the fact that Arsenal were outplayed by Dortmund in the first match of the groups and City picked up a smash and grab win against a Bayern side who played 70 minutes with 10 men. And let's face it, when Chelsea and Schalke play, Chelsea are always going to win! I think it will be very interesting to see the last 16 ties play out, which do you believe will be the most entertaining game of the round?

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