Grass is always greener on the other side
Football Pubcast blogger Hayden Shaw thumbs his nose at suggestions that the standard of Premier League has dropped this year.
Picture the scene, after months of rain and freezing temperatures Britain has a modest heat wave. We hit highs of 28 degrees. Ice cream sales rocket. The snood becomes a thing of the past. Beaches become packed and skin cancer warnings go through the roof.
Now listen carefully…can you hear it yet?
That’s the sound of people moaning that it’s too hot. That actually they prefer it around 20 degrees. Maybe a little higher if there’s a good breeze. The British, it seems, love to moan. They can and will do so about anything.
Right now there are people who would have you believe that this is the most mediocre season since football was invented back in the early 1990′s by Rupert Murdoch. The fact that no team has pulled away from the others and dominated, the way Barcelona and Read Madrid have in Spain, is seen as embarrassing and a reflection of the state of the English game. (The fact that no Premiership based players were in contention for the Ballon d’Or and the fact that our national team is bobbins at football already demonstrate this amply.)
Thing is, I’m pretty sure that only a few years ago when the Premiership was a two horse race between MUFC and AFC people called it dull. MUFC could lose to their main rivals and just pummel every other team to win the league. The same applied when Chelsea and MUFC were finishing miles ahead of the chasing pack. Comparisons were drawn to other leagues where the title was going down to the wire with 3 or 4 teams still in it. Nevermind that English teams were spanking these teams in the Champions League each week. That was where the fun was. The Premiership just wasn’t competitive anymore.
Well this season the unthinkable has already happened a few times. Stamford Bridge, once a constant source of three points for Jose Mourinho, has seen Sunderland turn up and spank three past Petr Cech without reply. Blackpool have done the double over Liverpool whilst both Newcastle and West Brom have pulled Arsenal’s proverbial pants down. Like Kevin McAllister doing some laundry in the basement, the “little” teams are starting to shout “I’m not afraid anymore”.
So Manchester United don’t look as dominant as they used to? So Chelsea are having a transitional season? Who cares? All four English teams have qualified for the next stages of the Champions League. MUFC conceded only one goal (in a dead rubber) to do so. There are five teams in the EPL with title aspirations right now. Results are going crazy everywhere. Condemned managers at the bottom of the league are suddenly getting their teams to go on mini-winning streaks. I’ll say it one more time – BLACKPOOL did the double over LIVERPOOL!
This season the top teams have been weaker than normal. But injuries have robbed MUFC (of a lot of their creativity for large spells) and Chelsea (of a defence). As a result the Londoners have slid down the table whilst the red half of Manchester has stayed top with a policy of winning at home and drawing away but hardly setting the World alight.
Liverpool are valiantly attempting to copy the Newcastle model – a title challenge that just fails after a ridiculous rant at Ferguson (I’d love it/These are facts), employ a decent man to steady the ship when it all goes wrong (Sir Bobby/Roy Hodgson), sack him, then get relegated with a Messiah in charge (Shearer/Dalglish).
Spurs have been on top of their game and credit to them, but they still have that inconsistency that means however well they play you still don’t quite believe they’ll do anything other than fail gloriously and beautifully. City are doing well but after spending enough to wipe out Third World dept I think it’s fair to say they should be capable of grinding out some results.
I’d love my team to play like Barcelona, I really would. But rather than moan that they can’t. Rather than knock every team in the EPL for not being as brilliant as one of the greatest sides every to play the game, why not celebrate what is brilliant about the EPL? That everyone is capable of beating everyone at the moment. People moan that nobody has been capable of grabbing the bull by the horns. Well when Chelsea slide further due to old age and lack of reinforcements, when United lose the old guard (Giggs and Scholes aren’t actually imortal – are they?) and debt keeps them from investing as heavily as needed, when City buy 357 full internationals and pay a world class assassin to take out Platini and his financial fair play enforcers, when Wenger decides not to spend any money on decent defenders, when City walk to the title by 20 points please don’t start wishing you’d spent more time appreciating the unpredictability of a season where none of the big clubs are really as good as they should be.
Savour it now.
And if you want a two horse race with teams playing football so pretty that it makes Keira Knightly look like a minger then watch La Liga as well. But just be careful what you wish for. Not that long ago England fans wanted Sven out and an Englishman in.
You can follow Hayden on twitter @elhaydo