‘The best league in the world’ is a compliment often bestowed on the Barclays Premier League by enthusiastic commentators and fans alike. This has become a point of contentious debate and rightly so. Does the Premier League boast of the best team in Europe currently? None of the Premier League teams featured in the quarter-final stage of last season’s UEFA Champions League so I think not. Do any of the 3 best players in the world feature for any of the 20 clubs present in the Premier League? Well, no. Then why is it that the Premier League is so exalted in the eyes of so many fans worldwide? There are a wide range of answers varying from TV right deals around the world to fast-paced football that the Premier League faithful are used to witnessing. In my own opinion, despite it’s shortcomings (and there are a few especially when compared to the likes of Spain and Germany) the USP of the Premier League is its unpredictable nature.
The duopoly of the Liga BBVA has been a hefty stick to beat the Spanish top flight with for a number of years now. Unflattering comparisons to the Scottish Premier League are extremely wide of the mark in terms of quality of the league but in essence the accusation carried weight (at least while Rangers could still boast of being a superpower in Scottish football). In Messi and Ronaldo, Spanish football is home to unarguably the 2 best players of the world. And they’ve been integral to the freakish domestic domination of Barcelona and Real Madrid. To be fair to the clubs though, their awe inspiring record dates back to days before that of Messi and Ronaldo. Since Valencia’s league title winning campaign in the 2003-04 season, one of either Barcelona or Real Madrid have won the league in each and every one of the subsequent seasons. Only the Villareal side of the 2007-08 came close to breaking this stranglehold at the top, ultimately finishing in 2nd place. Tellingly this is the only instance of any side other than Barca and Real finishing in the top 2 since 2004. The likes of the above mentioned Valencia and Villareal along with Sevilla and most recently Atletico Madrid have all taken the battle to the big 2 but have ultimately found themselves wanting. Looking at this season, a red-hot Atletico spearheaded by Diego Costa have thrown their hat in the ring and given their more than impressive start to the season, deserve to be deemed contenders and yet one senses that come May it will be Barcelona and Real Madrid (or Real Madrid and Barcelona) sitting pretty atop the league table.
There’s an argument to be made that there are parallels between Manchester United’s dominance in the Premier League era and the success of the traditional big 2 in Spain. The major difference though is that very rarely do United dominate the league from the opening day to the last. Their propensity to make things difficult for themselves and slow starts mean that their rivals are more often than not in with a shout come the business end of the season. The invincibles of Arsenal, the nouveau riche Chelsea and City have all tasted domestic success in the spell spanning Barcelona and Real’s domination.
Which leads us to this season. To describe the Premier League as a changing landscape would be an understatement. The top 3 of last season i.e. United, City and Chelsea all have new men at their helm, all of whom have understandably had slow starts. These slow starts have opened the door to the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool to catch up to the 3 who seemed to be front runners at the start of the season. Arsenal got their much awaited star player in the form of the brilliant Mesut Ozil. Ozil’s introduction along with Ramsey’s blistering form has propelled Arsenal to the top of the table. Liverpool have continued their policy of rebuilding by buying young players and have managed to keep hold of Luis Suarez and find themselves 2nd in the league table. Spurs may have sold their key man Bale but they’ve invested the world record transfer fee and they’ve invested very very well. All this means that this is the most open title race in recent times. Whether all 6 of the teams can sustain a title challenge for the entirety of the season is doubtful but if early signs are anything to go by then this season’s title race could be one that could last the distance.
Outside the top 6, few of the mid-table sides have bought exceedingly well in the transfer window (Southampton, Swansea, Norwich to name a few). Everton seem to be finding their feet and West Brom picked up 4 points in their last 2 games against Manchester United and Arsenal. Villa have beaten both Arsenal and City already this season and Cardiff also got the better of City in what was their first home league game of the season. The bottom line is that the old cliches of “There are no easy games in this league” and “We can beat anybody on our day” are ringing true in the Premier League.
For instance, let’s look at Southampton’s trip to Old Trafford this weekend. The Champions have had a testing start to the campaign whereas the Saints are sitting pretty in 4th spot. William Hill have Manchester United as favourites at 4/7 but given the uncertainty of the Premier League and the form of the teams, I’d definitely advice you to claim your football betting coupon and split your bets on at least a draw along with a United win. After all 3/1 for a draw and 5/1 for a Southampton win don’t look too shabby eh?
Football hipsters tend to deride the Premier League and its multitude of followers. I see the pros of the other leagues and the cons of the Premier League and indeed would definitely watch say a Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund over a Chelsea vs Norwich. Having said that, the Premier League is still my favourite league to watch. I’ve grown up watching it and have come to revel in the dramatic and sometimes even chaotic nature of the league. And if early signs are anything to go by, this season is bound to bring more of the same!
What are your thoughts on the uncertainty of the Premier League? Drop a comment below and let us know!