Who wants this league?

by Ian Ford

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

If we’re talking the league title, then on the basis of this weekend: nobody. It saw Chelsea lose to a Birmingham side starting the game in the bottom three, Arsenal conspire to throw away a 2-0 lead against their biggest rivals and lose; and United labour against 9-man Wigan.

It is a mark of the oddity of this year that all these results were simultaneously surprising and entirely predictable. ┬áChelsea’s loss was their third in four games. Arsenal habitually shoot themselves in the foot. And United have seemingly mastered playing terribly game after game but doing just enough to get the result. In short, unpredictability has become the happy norm.

The reason is that, from top to bottom, the gap has narrowed. Primarily because of financial reasons, the Premier League’s big guns have declined while the second tier has massively improved. Spurs have arguably the deepest squad around now, while City are powered ever upwards by Sheik Mansour’s largesse.

The narrowing goes further than this though. The telling stat being, at this stage last season, the gap between top and 17th was 25 points; this year it is 14. But, let’s not kid ourselves, Spurs and City aren’t going to win the title, never mind Bolton.

So yes, there is no outstanding team; no obvious champions-elect who have shown themselves to definitively have the quality and desire to win this league.

But I, for one, am sort of liking this. I think we, as fans, should want this sort of league: one that’s competitive, where there is always potential for upset, and you cannot say for certain who will win the title (and each time you do, they go and confound you by losing two games on the trot).

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining bitterly about the lack of quality, with some justification. But I would point out that it was not so very long ago that everybody was complaining about the lack of competition. And, it was not so very long before that (i.e. before the Premier League and Champions League created four juggernauts) that unpredictability and competitiveness were the status quo.

Finally, let’s consider the real alternative of La Liga. It increasingly resembles a trumped-up Scottish Premier League where everybody bar the top two teams — heck, maybe even just the top two players — shouldn’t bother turning up. It’s a crude comparison, but would you rather have the North-London derby just gone or the Almeria-Barca game?

So, let’s not begrudge the failure of an outstanding team to emerge this season. There’s plenty of time for that to change anyway; it’s not even Christmas yet. But, even if doesn’t, provided we continue to have good entertainment then I’m happy with an unpredictable league.

Even if it does somewhat screw with my betting accumulators…

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Mystical Mike

    I still Chelsea are way to strong, they created tons of chances at Birmingham. There’s no doubt they are having a blip.

    Man u are playing poorly but keep on getting results.

    Arsenal and City are way to inconsistent for my liking, win 2, lose 1.

    Which ever team van put together a run of victories will win the title, at this moment in time it’s way to close to call

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