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This is the way it's supposed to be

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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Date:Monday November 22 2010
Time: 11:06AM


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?
22/11/2010 11:31:00
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.
22/11/2010 11:45:00
Top 4 have got worse and the rest have got much, much better. Simples.
22/11/2010 12:04:00
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.
22/11/2010 12:10:00
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.
22/11/2010 12:11:00
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
22/11/2010 12:29:00
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
22/11/2010 12:33:00
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.
22/11/2010 12:35:00
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
22/11/2010 12:36:00
A very good read Amos.
22/11/2010 12:41:00
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