It’s time to dispel the notion that the Premier League is the best league in the world.
This was the case in the not so distant past, but no longer.
Sure, the Premier League is far more competitive than most leagues, which are often dismissed with the ‘only two teams compete’ argument.
Ardent supporters of the Premier League will point to the fact that the title race is wide open, as is the battle for fourth, and even the battle to survive.
They will also complain that PSG have already won Ligue One, and that top teams in other leagues have it all too easy.
The Premier League has the most money, the most televised games, and the biggest draw, they will claim.
The truth is, however, that the English top flight has never been weaker.
Personally, I’m rooting for Leicester to win the league. Their title push is like something out of a ‘Goal’ movie, and they represent all that is great about football.
Despite their fairy tale season, they aren’t one of the great teams.
Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan, Riyad Mahrez, Dannny Simpson, Marc Albrighton, Leonardo Ulloa, Andy King and others who’ve excelled this season all played at Leciester last season too.
Last season, though, Leicester finished 14th after a late upturn in form saved them from a relegation battle. They won just 11 games and ended the season with a goal difference of -15.
Claudio Ranieri deserves immense credit for turning relegation battlers into league leaders, and the signings of N’Golo Kanté and Christian Fuchs, as well as the emergence of Vardy and Mahrez, have greatly improved the side.
How many of their players would get into a Madrid/Barcelona/Bayern/Juventus/PSG team?
Would a club in any other major league go from bottom to top in less than a year? Absolutely not.
English performances in Europe
In the recent past, English sides performed strongly in Europe.
Liverpool triumphed in Istanbul in 2005, Arsenal lost out to Barcelona in the ’06 final. Milan got their revenge on Liverpool in 2007’s final, and Man United beat Chelsea on penalties in the following season’s final.
In both 2009 and 2011, Barcelona were crowned champions after they beat Man United (2-0 and 3-1) in the respective finals.
Chelsea won their first ever Champions League in 2012, and have since won the Europa League.
Since then, no English side has even reached a final. Why is this the case, if the English league is stronger than ever, as we are led to believe?
This year, Barcelona gave Arsenal a footballing lesson over two legs in the last 16 of the Champions League. This Barcelona side is arguably the best team of all time, but no English club should be content to lose to them all the same.
Strangely, many pundits praised Arsenal’s performance in the away leg, which almost seems baffling.
After all, when did losing 3-1 to Barcelona constitute a ‘good performance?’
In 2007, Liverpool won 2-1 in Camp Nou in the last 16.
PSG also deservedly beat Chelsea over two legs. The French champions will now go into the Quarter Finals against Man City as favourites. Detractors will say that PSG merely bought success, but could the same accusation not be levelled at Chelsea or Man City?
Mauricio Pochettino’s youthful Spurs side have been very impressive in the league this year, and may still win the title.
But Pochettino elected to rest players in the Europa League, and a weakened Spurs side was dismantled 5-1 by Borrusia Dortmund over two legs. Would Spurs’ best side have beaten the Germans? Doubtful.
Dortmund will now take on Liverpool in the last 8, where they will again be heavy favourites.
The decline of the ‘top teams’
Man Utd failed to negotiate the group stage of the Champions League this year, and were also beaten by FC Midtjylland. Need I say more?
Both Liverpool and Manchester United have serious work to do to compete once again at the highest level. What rewards have their respective investments reaped?
Arsenal, who probably boast the best squad in the league, have disappointed yet again. Their tie against Barcelona illustrated how far the divide between England’s best and Europe’s best truly is.
The top teams now make do with players which the top European teams were willing to sell, whilst these teams in turn return routinely to purchase England’s best players.
Over the last ten years, the Premier League has lost players such as Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Javier Mascherano, Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.
None of the world’s top players currently ply their trade in the Premier League.
Riyad Mahrez has had a wonderful season. But would be get in a Bayern team? a Barcelona team? Any top team in Europe?
Spurs have had a fantastic season, and possess a squad with vast potential, but are they a world class team?
The teams who have risen above the traditional ‘top teams’ aren’t great teams, merely opportunistic ones.
This season has certainly been surprising and entertaining at every turn, but despite the Premier League being richer than ever before, the league has never been poorer.
And what could illustrate this better than Leicester winning the league?
There is hope, however. Pochettino might well turn Spurs into a top side.
Chelsea are sure to bounce back.
Jurgen Klopp will have a full season to implement his ideas at Anfield.
Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and José Mourinho look certain to be managing in the league next year, and one of these talented bosses might restore English dominance in Europe.
by David Smith