English football - Why the Premier League stands out
When a certain strong English defender barged into the opposition striker to win a long ball and headed it clear to safety, the commentators remarked on how that was so typical of an English defender. The referee waved the play on and the player, who was on the receiving end of that foul, threw his arms up in the air, expecting the referee to do his job and blow his whistle for a clear and intentional foul on him.
Millions of football lovers would have called for a foul there, but not the ones who have been following football in England. So why are such incidents which are considered fouls elsewhere in Europe, are not so in England? It has everything to do with playing football the English way, which stands out from the rest of the leagues in Europe. And here’s why.
The football in England has always been physical in nature. It still is, and there is little chance that it is going to change. Import of more and more foreign players into the Premier League has had an effect on improving the more technical aspects of the game, but physicality it demands still. Players are pushed off the ball, tackled from behind, and even shoved into the ground. They get away with it easily.
The physical nature of leagues in England play an important role in the dip in form of foreign players who are brought in from other leagues, such as La Liga. Stellar players at their former clubs, Ozil, Cuadrado, Salah, Di Maria, when faced with the prospect of turning it on against the tall and strong defenders of the English League, found it difficult to reprise their excellent form from previous clubs.
It takes time for a player from Spain, where football is more technical and less physical, or a player from Italy, where it is slower and more tactical, to settle in, adapt and get things going. They get a lot of flak and the expectations are high.
Constant pressure is what you get when every single team in the league wants to compete. Every team has weapons in their arsenal, to cause trouble to every other team. When Gus Poyet brought his Sunderland team to Stamford Bridge on 19th of April 2014, it ended up as the first ever home defeat suffered by Jose Mourinho at the Bridge after the unbeaten run of 76 matches.
The unbeaten record did nothing to take the pressure off, and it got to the players. Chelsea had a phenomenal record against the top teams in the league. But it was defeats against the so called lesser teams, like Sunderland and Crystal Palace that effectively cost Chelsea the title in 2013/14. They felt the heat.
Toughest league in the world?
Another example would be Liverpool’s showdown against Crystal Palace in the same season. They looked poised to win the match and thereby, put themselves in a position where they could give themselves a big ray of hope of lifting the trophy. They took the lead, doubled their lead, and scored for a third time. The match was going in the direction every Liverpool fan wanted, and then that amazing comeback happened. The pressure to increase the goal difference to catch up Manchester City played in the minds of the Liverpool team and that resulted in them throwing away a three-goal lead.
These examples only go to show that winning the Premier League is not an easy task. It is one of the toughest leagues in the world where success consistently demands hard work, determination, tactical planning, fitness and skill, week in week out. Where else do you get such crazy results where Arsenal lead Newcastle by 4 goals at half time and the match ends at 4-4?
You rarely see such competition in Spain, Italy or Germany, where the lack of quality of teams towards the bottom of the table mean there is a lack of constant pressure throughout the season.
If you did not already know, La Liga is going on strike due to the recent ruling regarding distribution of money from television deals. Until now, the majority of the cash from television deals went to Barcelona and Real Madrid, widening the already existing gap in terms of club resources and finance. This difference in financial health between the two powerhouses and the rest of the league results in lack of funds to manage squads and poor quality overall on the field. It has always been a growing concern in Spain, and hopefully, the Government and the Spanish Football Association will come up with a fair and balanced system where every club gets equal rights.
This is where Premier League has stood out above the rest. It works on a balanced system. In a list of top 20 richest clubs in the world, released by Forbes, Premier League has 8 representatives, the most of any league in Europe. Two out of those eight are West ham United and Newcastle United, languishing at 9th and 15th in the league table respectively. The list contains just three clubs from Spain and all three are chasing the title in La Liga. This speaks volumes about how fair and balanced the system in England is. As the new TV deals kick in next year, this is only going to improve.
There is nothing like watching an underdog causing an upset against a big team. But when that becomes an expected result rather than an exceptional result at various times in a season, you know you have exciting seasons of football ahead of you. That’s the Premier League for you.