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This is the way it's supposed to be

This season it looks like there is a change in Premier League footballing equilibrium. For the last 15 years since Blackburn won the PL title the league has enjoyed, or endured depending on your perspective, a duopoly of one kind or another. Manchester United along with either us or Chelsea has shared the titles, with ManU having much the bigger share. Even the top four has been a given for the most part with Liverpool dropping out occasionally. But with a little over a third of the season gone it might now be shaping up a little differently.

With finances beginning to restrain the two clubs that have dominated the title for the last 6 seasons and the financial empowerment of Manchester City the landscape is changing. Add to these recent increases in broadcasting revenues and the benefits to the smaller clubs a more equitable distribution of the funds than currently exists in other major European leagues brings and the balance is tipping away from the degree of dominance over the last 15 years. Most of that change is positive. Other clubs are in many cases appointing managers that are wiser technically than we`ve had in recent times. The idea that in order to beat the top teams the smaller clubs need to get in their faces pack a load of players behind the ball and see if you can nick a chance is gradually being surpassed by managers like Di Matteo, Coyle and Holloway who realise that you have as much chance if not more if you take them on. With just a little more spending power that enhanced broadcasting revenues give them together with a greater need for financial prudence among the big spenders and the top half, maybe even the top two thirds looks as close as it has been for many seasons.

It would have been hard to predict that Chelsea would lose 4 of their first 14 league games or that ManU would only win half of theirs. Admittedly it`s not so much of a stretch to imagine that we would lose 4 games, we`ve long had the capacity to shoot ourselves in the foot, but it can be seen as something of a surprise for three of them to be home games. All of the clubs have had to endure bizarre results. If Chelsea can lose comprehensively to a Sunderland side fresh from a hammering a couple of weeks earlier at Newcastle then nothing else should be too much of a surprise. Of course there is the time, and there is still time, for a team or teams to assert some dominance, to put a run of games together that stretches the distance from the pack. Squad depth and injury fortunes will determine who is able to do what. It may yet be that the top four will still end the season with a familiar look about it but the challenge to that comfortable certainty of the last 15 years is more real than it`s ever been.

That`s the way football should be competitive, open, unpredictable and with nothing to be taken for granted. Football is far more exciting with a number of clubs believing they have enough to play for that they needn`t feel the big clubs are too powerful to take on - and for the bigger clubs to know that they are not so mighty that they can`t be toppled by teams lower in the league. Supporters might hope for a calm unchallenged orderly procession to a title but football is in pretty poor shape if that can take place too readily. It may be uncomfortable for those used to believing the top positions are set in stone but it`s much better for football overall if it isn`t.

It should be a good league this season. One well worth winning and one that is winnable but only one club will not be left with a feeling realistically familiar to few over the last 15 seasons - if only. A number of other clubs, perhaps more than usual, could be left experiencing just that feeling this time round.



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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday November 22 2010

Time: 11:06AM

Your Comments

Fair enough analysis Amos. Some pundits reckon it's a poorer league this season. It's not a view that I suscribe to; what do you think?
Gooner_Vin
Are the bigger teams poorer or are other teams outside the big 4 stronger? My feeling is that it is the latter. There is a bit of a shift going on at the moment with financial regulation beginning to constrain some clubs and financial imprudence temporarily limiting others. It may well be that a dominant group will reassert itself based on financial strength again before too long but for this season at the least its going to be less predictable than we've seen for a time.
Amos.
Top 4 have got worse and the rest have got much, much better. Simples.
shewore
It is funny that you brought this up, I saw a comment today that this is one of the weakest leagues in recent memory and thought to myself "what is that based on?". Certainly, it is closer, but how does the fact that one team is not winning every week make it weaker? Does that mean that the Spanish league is stronger? I have to say though, Chelsea listing only 19 players in their squad has to be an indication of a (temporary??) decline. What has improved in the league is the quality in the middle of the table. there are likely to be 6 or so teams realistically vying for that fourth spot. Definitely will make for great watching.
jl13
There are probably only 1 or 2 home bankers left in the premiership these days (Wigan and Blackpool?)... The middle teams like Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke, Blackburn have all improved dramatically and now have fantastic players like Gyan who are 10m+ and can change a game. I remember 3-4yrs ago when you could turn up at 50% of home games in a season and be guaranteed a win. Those days are over. I don't think it's that we have got worse, it's just the middle teams are stronger and have more confidence in their ability to come and win at any ground.
Chipo
I think subtle fluctuations in formation also have a part (which you probably touched on with the comment about technically more adept managers). The 4-5-1 is used by so many sides now that teams have seen that that formation doesn't have the stigma it used to. Playing 5-4-1 is no longer simply an invitation to play 5 midfield scrappers and boot it up to a lone big man. Compact teams can play 5 in midfield but suddenly have 3 in attack when they have the ball. Everton play with one striker, but with the likes of Pienaar, Arteta and Cahill staffing midfield, you couldn't say they lack creativity or firepower. The dominant teams tend to get copied, a few years ago wen Mourinho's Chelsea were on top, the trend for prosaic, defensive football was en vogue- albeit with much more limited players than Chelsea had. Of late, Barcelona and Spain are ruling the roost on the continent and I wonder if that has had any effect on managers?
Little Dutch
The quality of the league is much better. The Man United team that won the treble would finish well outside the top 4 this season.
Arsenales F.C
I'll agree with SW - In no past leagues would a team have lost four of their first 14 games and still have been top. Infact mostly the champions don't lose much more than that in a season. We still have something to aim for for sure, we're right in there, but if we can't step up and show some balls, we've got no chance.
Rocky7
Lets not forget Spurs beat the European Champions 3-1 either. It seems every Premier League team has the ability to beat any other Premier League team on a good day.
Arsenales F.C
A very good read Amos.
cb25Yid
There's no doubt that the scoring rate has increased over recent seasons. Chelsea won the title with a total of 95 points scoring 72 goals and conceding 15 in 2005. Their triumph last season collected 86 points scoring 103 goals but conceding 32. There's a similar pattern among most of the top teams with most scoring and conceding more than previously. Blackpool is one example of a current club taking an adventurous approach to the game. Bolton has scored only 2 fewer than any of the current top 3. Freer scoring games are likely to lead to more surprising results.
Amos.
What a good piece AMOS congrats. as some one has already said we beat inter 3-1 so does that mean seria is weaker. no it doesnt it is all the so called lesser teams no longer play with the fear they once had in regards playing Man utd or yourselves add to this the quality of player that is available to these clubs and you start to see the results that have been this season.
jljyid
Even before reading who wrote the article, I guessed it was Amos. Irrationally optimistic. We've blown our chance. Utd's post Christmas blitz hasnt started yet. I see them winning the title this year.
Sajit
To put it in another way, I dont care how many points United or Chelsea drop, I jsut dont see Arsenal finishing anywhere close to the top two.
Sajit
Ditto to what Sajit said.
jaelle
I would have thought it was fairly neutral rather than optimistic but if it is optimistic at all then it's reasonably rational optimism surely. Based on current performances of all the clubs how rationalised is your pessimism though?
Amos.
Given that the article is broadly not even about Arsenal, how can it be accused of optimism? I guess that's the result of the money driven, win at all costs era we are seeing. Nobody has any love for the game anymore, nobody has a sense of humour or perspective about it. When we lose, it's, "Oh, how can you have done this to me? You've ruined my weekend." It's become so bloody miserable that an article stating, quite correctly, that this is the most open Premier League season in years can only seen through the prism of Arsenal related misery. That's what this mentality does to you, it stops you functioning and seeing anything else but your own self pity. Seriously, I can't ever remember being so utterly depressed by a couple of responses to an article on this site in all my life.
Little Dutch
Very neutral, so much so I had to check twice to make sure it really was Amos who published it ;-)
iceman10
For some people Over Reaction is there only Reaction, which only sets off a chain reaction.
paul_ownz
It's quite true that the league has become more difficult, teams have raised their games, opposition managers are more savvy and tactically aware. And for all the trashing we do of the spuds, they are in fact a good team and Harry's a good manager. But how many teams repeatedly lose comfortable leads? Esp at home? How many teams lose to newly promoted sides AT HOME? Three times? Twice in one season? Yes, Utd and Chelsea have their problems but I don't see them doing any of that.
jaelle
Chelsea did of course lose at home to a newly promoted side this season though not in the league and ManU dropped points at home to West Brom having held a 2-0 lead at half time. I'm not sure that there is any greater significance in those results or ours than there is in the fact that we're the only ones to pick up maximum points away at Eastlands or that Sunderland pick up their only away win of the season so far at Stamford Bridge. There maybe significance in any or all of them of course but even so it's at least possible to see that this season isn't that comfortable for anyone so far.
Amos.
I think we have a lot more good footballing sides in the league today than 5 years ago. Teams that are playing it on the deck, defending well, bringing in quality youngsters on loan. I also think some of the good players who haven't quite made it at some of the top clubs have filtered back to the smaller clubs and are helping raise the level of quality there too.
Wyn Mills
Sunderland have a strike pairing that consists of an England striker who gets 20 premiership goals per season and an 11 million forward nominated for the ballon d'or. The quality of depth in the premier league is fantastic, the structure of the TV deal in this country means the mid table teams can either hold on to their better players or get top dollar for them and re invest.
iceman10
The significance is and was is that it was a derby, and biggest game of the season - reckon utd would do that against City? Chelsea against us/Tottenham?
shewore
A profoundly disappointing result for sure but the biggest game of the season? I would reckon that City have had more wins at OT in the PL era than Totts have had at our place. It's significant only that they are neighbours and one of a tight pack below us. Plus I suppose that the game came at a point which could have seen us go top of the table but equally those teams around us have also stalled. If we set aside our own allegiances for a moment what we can see is that the current more balanced competition is better for the health of the game overall though frustrating for some supporters.
Amos.
Sajit, every football club has yin and yang amongst its supporters. If you have a different view to Amos's just express your view. I think your views are almost always transient and fickle - depending on what was Arsenal's result that week. Still, that is your view and you are entitled to it.
Deltaforce
Not here to argue. I get the sense that for many people who support Arsenal Saturday was the final straw. Of course we're loving it. But in general it isn't good for the game if one club advances beyond the other to such an extent that the derby isn't a game anymore. The league will die without real competition. The emergence of Spurs and City is a massive boost for the league, if not for their red neighbours. What I will say is that in the NLD the turning- point was the lasagne Gate season. We pressed you in the final Highbury NLD and should have won. From that moment on the games have been generally more competitive.
Tony Rocky Horror
Saturday the final straw? In what sense? There is no final straw in football. There's always another game - another season. If there weren't spud supporters would have got through a few haystacks and a couple of barnfulls of straw by now. Lasagnegate wasn't a turning point at all. You've flirted with relegation a couple of times since then and we've never been as close to dropping out of the top four since. But there's no need to turn every thread into yet another promise of a new dawn for the Spuds. There's a whole lot more going on in football than just what's happening in our part North London and your part of Stratford.
Amos.
This sort of discussion has happened every season for the past 2, at least. At the same time last season, we were talking about the same aspect of the League, how the gap has narrowed, how the top teams have become a bit worse and how the other teams hvae become a bit better. Give it some time, come Feb/Mar, and we will see order restored (with City probably grabbing 4th spot). The top 3 will remain the same as last year, with either Utd or Chelsea crowned Champions (same as past so many years). Not much has changed, we see upsets every year, and we will see that this year also.
prits
We shouldn't have been talking about the same aspect of the league this time last season as at the same stage Chelsea had a 5 point lead over 2nd place and a 10 point lead over 3rd.
Amos.
Sure Amos, Lasagnegate wasn't a turning point. Nor were any of the other incidents that have happened since then: the 5-1, the 4-4, (another appauling capitulation) Spurs winning the CC, qualifying for the Champs League, 2-1 in the league and now this. Yeah we've lost a few as well, but it's game on now in the NLD, big time, on every front. Although you are still ahead of us, the gap is narrowing. You've got a hell of a problem with us now, I'm not suprised you're twitching your curtains and following our development plans. At the end of the day it's a problem that Wenger has brought on the club and that is why, for many of you, it's the straw that will finally break the camel's back. I think Wenger HAS to win the derby at WHL to save his job. If he fails I think your militant support ('Arsenal Action' is it?) will be preparing the white hankies Barcelona style. Well they threatened to do that on your other blogs last season at any rate. Oh well, at least Wenger will get that side of trying to emulate Barca spot on!!
Tony Rocky Horror
Although it was just one season in isolation, the fact that none of the English sides made it through to the semi finals of the Champions League last season could be considered as an indicator that the top clubs in this country are in decline. Certainly I feel that Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool's first elevens are nowhere near as strong as their respective peaks.
ishman
It's sad that the only benchmark you have is how you perform against us TRH - all you are concerned with is the gap between you and your far, far, far more successful neighbours (albeit now temporary ones it seems). Fact is that you are further behind us this season than at the same stage last season. You can't possibly live long enough to surpass what we have achieved. You are completely deluded if you think Wengers job hinges on what happens at WHL. That's total nonsense. You really do need to look at your team in a different way. Still if you get the move Levy wants you'll have Leyton Orient as a benchmark.
Amos.
he CL league was contested by Porto and Monaco not too long ago and last years finalists are nowhere in their respective leagues so far this season. It's a knockout competition and on a one off basis no more an indicator of strength than Portsmouth winning the FA Cup. If it were then the relative strength of second tier performers in the Uefa cup last season would indicate that the PL's second tier is getting stronger. Far better to look at the Uefa co-efficient rankings to decide whether there is any real weakening relative to other European teams.
Amos.
No, I think the benchmark was hammering the European champions, you were just the small fry from up the road who are of no relevance or significance in comparison. The cock is crowing and growing but for Wenger it isn't so much the knives as the hankies that will be out if he fails to win at WHL. Who knows, we could give him the perfect send off. Now, how does it go? Something about being sacked in the morning......
Tony Rocky Horror
Now you're just back to your silly infantile self TRH. Not that it was ever too far away. Spudland must truly be a wondrous place in a permanent state of dawn. Now how about staying on topic? There are still other threads for you to wave your willy if you must - and for us to laugh at you.
Amos.
"just express your view"? I hardly think I've taken a personal insult.lol. Well, at least I have not stooped into your level of "personal" DF. Irrespective of what sort of response we see in the next few matches, the inevitable fall into complacency is around the corner. On paper, Arsenal have the second strongest squad in the premier league. And we haven't been that badly affected by injuries either. But as LD said in the other article, there aint no cure for being stupid.
Sajit
Ive made*
Sajit
TRH you never cease to amaze me.... I will never tire of reading your hilarious posts. Bravo sir, Bravo.
foochan
Amos, a couple of questions. 1. Would you have published this article had we won against Spurs? 2. If yes, why wasn't this published last week or sometime before - when both Chelsea and United dropped points.. Is the league more open today than it was 3-4 days ago?
Sajit
I've asked this question before and I will ask it again. If my memory serves me right teams that win the EPL (first division of old) or the CL nearly always have the same players available for each game. Over recent times there has been a clamor to rest players (oh and yes I do agree re the milk/Carling cup)were evident before but the major titles always seem to retain the same defence with minor changes. When was the last time we played the same defense likewise when did Chelsea or Man Utd?? How can a defense manage to work together when there are so many changes. A player swapped here or there makes little difference but the main group IMO should play each game. I still think we have a chance to win and I am not being silly with that opinion. I too felt dead after losing to the Spuds but to be fair they had the more will to win than us. If someone thinks the return match at WHL will be a laid down win for the Spuds then whats the point in being a fan. As far as an NLD it was a top game, as it should be. At the end of the day its a football match and has been said before we have lost three games on the trot and still won the double. I still believe in the old saying everything comes in threes, silly but it has happened in my life so many times to be pure coincidence.
alwaysgunner
Sajit, thanks for your view as of this week. Its only a matter of a week before you change it.
Deltaforce
The article isn't about the Arsenal v Spurs game, so why would it matter whether it would have been written in light of that result or not? It's about something else entirely. Saturday was a very bad day, no doubt. But there's no need to wear a hair shirt and and bring it up at every available opportunity. This is a different subject.
Little Dutch
To answer your questions Sajit the article could have still been published if we had won against Spurs. It would have been just as valid. Whether it would have been uppermost in my mind or not I can't say. It could also have been published last week but if you think through what has happened where the results of the weekend before last favoured us with Manu and Chelsea dropping points unexpectedly and those of this weekend when they favoured ManU with us and Chelsea dropping points you can see the patterns that might be more likely to give rise to an article of this nature the greater the sequences of events. In a response to another post I pointed out that at this stage last year there was a 10 point gap between 1st and 3rd place. At the same point this year there is a 10 point gap between 1st and 12th. Before this weekend there was a 12 point gap between 1st and 12th so while technically the league is indeed more open than it was 3/4 days ago the real point is that it is more open than it has been for many years which is really all the article was about. So having answered your questions tell me - what are your posts about?
Amos.
It's not all doom and gloom. There's still the Carling Cup.
Clive 49
Do you think that the reason for the apparent drop in the "top 4" is due to the new rules coming in from the F.A. Could it be that some teams (CFC/MUFC) were living above their means and have had to check them selves a bit. they have both lost some top players, most of whom have gone abroad, and replaced them with cheaper and imo less talented players. I think its great from a perspective of a fan usualy outside the top 4 and makes for a very interesting season.
cb25Yid
That's another thing we perhaps haven't considered. Changes in tax on higher earners have made it more difficult for the top 4 to a) hold onto bigger players and b) sign the bigger players against competition from Spain.
Little Dutch
I think the FFP rules are a factor for some clubs as are the squad rules introduced this season. As LD points out there are also other economic factors, bank borrowing is harder, HMRC challenges to preferential football creditors should be giving some pause for thought to those owed money by other clubs and the amount of credit they would extend. Eventually these influences will settle down and football will still tend to align itself along the lines of the financially strongest but those distortions should be far less pronounced than it has been over recent years. If we still see football as a sporting competition that should be welcomed.
Amos.
just out of interest, if im right the new rules make it that teams have to live within their means meaning they cant spend what they dont earn (is this right?). if this is the case what does this do for teams like barca who get alot of funding from the government? are they still able to do this or could this mean a swing in the way they do business too?
cb25Yid
It's probably a far bigger topic than could be handled here but there are other articles on the internet that deal with it more comprehensively. In essence the FFP rules restrict the amount of football related debt that any club can carry and restrict the amount they can spend on player budgets (wages and transfers) to a percentage of the revenues they generate. It's a bit of a myth that Barca get a lot of funding from their government though there has been assistance to them and other Spanish clubs in the past. Much of their revenues (as with real) comes from the individual broadcasting rights they have which are collective in most other major European leagues. They have, and still do, carry a lot of debt owed to other clubs for transfers and have a reputation for not always paying on time. The new rules could impact on that behaviour. The way clubs do business and handle their finances will have to change for sure.
Amos.
Thanks for your help on that mate. sorry for going a little off topic
cb25Yid
Then I do have to apologize Amos. I mistook this as an attempt to justify or ease the pain of (depending on how you look at it ) Saturday.
Sajit
I think its because the standard of the league has fallen slightly over the last 4 years. I think Man Utd and Chelsea's quality has dropped a little. I think you guys have remained about the same level and Liverpool have fallen also (Although still are a good side) I think weve improved and City have massivley improved giving us a top 6 but overall the standard is weaker.
HuddersfieldYiddo
Yes, it's now a top 6. The big five when I was growing up were United Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, so not a huge amount changes, obviously.
Tony Rocky Horror
 

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