English league no longer the Premier attraction

by Michael Wade

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Patrick Vieira’s comments on Thursday that the Premier League is going backwards wasn’t just the withering criticism of a star on the slide.

It seems the legendary Arsenal captain has made good use of his time on the bench in Manchester by wryly observing the state of the competition and the failings of his contemporaries and has come to the conclusion that the league isn’t as good as it was in his hey-day.

The French World Cup winner told talkSPORT: “The players are fitter, stronger, faster and jump higher, but they’re maybe not as good with the ball as they used to be.

“We will not find players like Roy Keane, who was really tough and strong but also a good football player. Maybe we’ll see more players running faster and longer, but with not as much quality.”

It is a criticism that stands up. For a league which likes to think of itself as the best in the world the Premier League’s star names are struggling to create that spark at the moment and last week’s Ballon D’or nominations only underline the notion that England is home to a league in decline.

Only 3 of the 23 players shortlisted for football’s big individual prize ply their trade in this league, and one of them, Asamoah Gyan, has only been here since August and is generally a sub for Sunderland.

The other two are legitimate contenders but their inclusion doesn’t analyse well either. Cesc Fabregas’ time at Arsenal is winding down, this isn’t an opinion more an inevitability like death and taxes.

At some point he will move to La Liga, the actual best league in the world, to play alongside the likes of Xavi, David Villa, Dani Alves and Andres Iniesta (all, coincidentally, on the Ballon D’or list).

The other nomination from these shores, Didier Drogba, is soon to be a fading force. Right now the hefty Ivorian is some kind of awesome force of nature, on his day unplayable, and responsible for the kind of breathtaking goals, assists and all-round performances that take a toll on his body physically as shown by his regular absence through niggly injury.

Because of this he won’t be able to sustain performances at his current level for much longer, a season or two at most. This is in stark comparison to Spain’s stars of the show, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – 23 and 25 years old respectively.

This pair epitomise their sides and more importantly their league. They can be relied upon to turn in match-winning performances week after week, hardly what you would expect from Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres at the moment.

Rooney, our nation’s pride and joy, last scored a competitive goal from open play in March. The scouse toerag has had his hands full with extra-marital exploits, payrises and chicken nuggets to contend with menial things such as his day job while Fernando Torres hasn’t been much better.

When Liverpool needed him most the sulking Spaniard has been anonymous flopping, sighing and rolling his eyes with the best of them, as much a cause for his side’s drop into the bottom three as a solution to it.

Vieira, who led Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in an eight-year spell between 1997 and 2005, is right – the Premier League has lost its mantle as the best around and gone backwards. And before you say it, Gareth Bale isn’t the man to save it!

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