Thursday, 29 October 2009

A 'big seven'?

There have been two interesting articles written in the last few days about a less rigid, more fluid order at the top of the Premier League this season. The relative weakening of all of the Big Four (no point-making inverted commas here), and the improvements of Manchester City, Spurs and Aston Villa could combine to make for a more competitive top bracket than we have seen since the start of this decade.

Henry Winter, in the Sunday Telegraph, said that the old order was finished:

Occasionally, those upstairs would be troubled by cheeky forays from those downstairs. Everton even got into the Champions League briefly one year. Villa pushed Arsenal close last season but faded. Spurs had a go but choked on their lasagne.

The Premier League mood music has changed. This season is proving gloriously unpredictable. The old order is under sustained threat from the new firm of City, Villa and Spurs. They have money, lashings of it in City’s case, and outstanding managers in Mark Hughes, Martin O’Neill and Harry Redknapp, respectively (and don’t completely rule out David Moyes’ Everton).

And he had particular praise for City:

Look at Eastlands. If Bellamy’s knee plays up, Martin Petrov sprints on. Even when Robinho is fit, the Brazilian who will start for the World Cup favourites next summer is not guaranteed a place at City. Any bench also containing Stephen Ireland, a shoo-in for most starting XIs, deserves respect while Michael Johnson makes a welcome return from his assorted travails.

Anfield must glance longingly at the exceptional Gareth Barry, who should have replaced Xabi Alonso but Liverpool dithered, allowing City to strike.
Kevin McCarra, writing on, made a similar point:

A Premier League in decline is heading in the right direction. This season's competition should remain engrossingly entertaining now that the leading teams are no longer good enough to feel safe. Manchester United, the defending champions, have been beaten twice and the initial lapse came at newly promoted Burnley. Sir Alex Ferguson's team endured four losses in the league during the last campaign, but the defeats then were comprehensible if not palatable.

It's interesting stuff. It seems true, at this stage of the season, that Manchester United and Liverpool are both less good than they were last season. It's less clear in Arsenal and Chelsea's case but still possible. Of course, these judgements are all on hold until May. And it certainly looks like City, Spurs and Villa have all improved. So we may see a more competitive and less predictable season.

One final point, though. The improvements of City, Villa and Spurs have not turned the Big Four into a 'Big Seven'. Even if there was a 20 point gap between, say, Villa in seventh and, say, Sunderland in eighth no such thing would exist. This is because the Big Four has more meaning than simply the teams that finish in the top four places every year. The point is that the Big Four benefit hugely from the money and the prestige of the Champions League, which means that finishing in the top four perpetuates their domination in a constant feedback loop. Unless Michel Platini reduces (or extends) the Premier League's representation in the Champions League there can never be a big two, three or five, because of the impact playing in the Champions League has.

1 comment:

clevblue said...

Quality article we have come to expect from lonesome death, good points made, too. Still the best league in the world and now getting even better.