English Premier League – Deteriorating?

Is it just me, or is the state of English football rapidly deteriorating? People can say that it’s the “best league in the world” as much as they want to, but I’m starting to not believe that. The competitive nature of the league makes it entertaining, that’s true, but the same can be said for the top flight of Colombia, or Australia, or a hundred other leagues, so what makes it so good? Very few leagues are actually “cut and dried” at the start of the season, and it looks to me like England won’t be one of the few for the foreseeable future.

Take the 2015-2016 season as a classic example of deteriorating quality within the English Premier League. On one hand, there’s one hell of a fairytale story brewing with Leicester City leading Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the tree with a handful of games remaining. Everybody in England loves an underdog, hence the popularity of the English FA Cup, so Leicester City now have plenty of neutrals on their side. To be fair, I’m one of them; I’d love to see a team randomly win the league from little other than their consistent hard work!

However, beneath that fairytale is a rather alarming slump of England’s top clubs. Chelsea have spent the bulk of this campaign in the bottom half of the table. Manchester United have been horribly inconsistent, and largely lacking in entertainment. Liverpool are a very hit-and-miss side at the best of times, and seem to spend a lot of their days deciding which players they can sell on for the most money rather than trying to keep them and push for titles. Realistically, Arsenal and Manchester City should be slugging it out for the title – yet neither are anywhere to be seen.

I’m a huge fan of Arsene Wenger’s. I think he’s done a job at Arsenal that nobody else could do. His ability to bring in youngsters for next to nothing has ensured that Arsenal have been able to pay off their new stadium, and leave themselves in a wonderful financial position for years to come. All he’s taken from Arsenal fans is stick, though, when he should be lauded for his loyalty, and determination. However, he’s done all that he can with this club now. They continuously lose their nerve from Jan/Feb onwards in every season, and end up finishing nowhere as a result, which is exactly what has happened this season.

I think that the only team that can be more embarrassed than Arsenal when it comes to not capitulating on the demise of their title rivals is Manchester City. As far as I am concerned, Manchester City have what I would call a “golden era” of footballers at their club, most of which are in the finest years as a footballer. Essentially, it’s the best squad of players that they’ve ever had – but they still can’t win back-to-back titles. Why? Money won’t buy passion, that’s why. The club was built on money, but that only brings mercenaries. Subsequently, the team plays well when there’s the chance to be heroes (of which the best example is unequivocally Yaya Toure) but their lack of grit makes it so hard for them to handle teams that simply work harder than they do. Looking at their squad, there is simply no way that they aren’t twenty points clear at the top of the table – but they’re not! They’ve not put enough into this season, as per usual, which has left a huge gap for other teams to leap into.

As a result, England has been left without a figurehead club. I love that Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are slugging it out at the top of the table, particularly as Leicester City have no real right to be there, and Tottenham Hotspur have usually bottled it by now. Looking further down the line, though, there are some very real concerns for the future of English football in Europe. If the quality isn’t there, how are England going to get enough co-efficient points to maintain their prominent position within European football? What’s to stop England following in the footsteps of Scotland?

The cost of tickets is rising in England, but the quality of the football isn’t there, so you have to wonder if there’s a big dip waiting just around the corner. All of the foreign investors that are active in the Premier League clubs aren’t going to be around for long unless they’re getting money back from their investments, and not many are going to manage that unless there’s some kind of consistency in which teams are finishing in the top spots. Without that investment, the English Premier League will revert back into an average league for a period of time because there’s no real structure to allow youth players to flourish in this country. It’s genuinely a concerning time to be a supporter of one of the Premier League’s bigger teams.

The only way I can see to get around this potential slump (to an extent) would be to implement a strategy that Arsene Wenger suggested some years ago. Basically, it was mooted that a team could gain more points from scoring more goals in games that they went on to win, if I remember rightly. In theory, a team could win 4-0, and earn five points; three for winning the game, and a point per goal scored from their third goal scored onward. The idea is that it encourages teams to play more attacking football, which I believe that it would. In the long-term, that should lead to England having more footballers that are naturally comfortable on the ball when attacking – which they lack a lot at the moment, hence failing at big tournaments so regularly – and that’d hopefully improve things on a larger scale for English football. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a really long-term approach to resolving the footballing issues within the country, but it’s the only one that I can see actually helping at the moment.

The above said, I genuinely wish all of the best to both Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. I think that both teams have played admirably this season, and both deserve to have successful campaigns.

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