Here is why the Premier League is not the best league just yet
It has been quite an eventful month for the beloved fans of the English Premier League. Chelsea deservedly secured the Premier League title in the first weekend of May. Last season’s champions Manchester City and Arsenal have assured themselves of a top four finish and so have Manchester United owing to their goal difference of +14 in comparison to Liverpool. However, when we extrapolate on the geography a bit and analyse the football that was played in Europe’s elite competition – the UEFA Champions League, it doesn’t look that beautiful for the EPL fans and it’s a stark reminder of how much the best of England need to improve if they want to be considered among the Europe’s best.
Taking another closer look at the two-legged semi-final between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, it’s quite evident to notice the pace of the game, the higher level of technique, the skills that the players possess and the speed at which they execute them. And then, there are some players, like Lionel Messi, who can turn around a match in his favour single-handedly. Compare them to the Premier League games and we shall figure that the league currently lacks the aura in each of the components.
Over the past few years, there has been some criticism over the exclusion of Premier League top performers from the FIFPro World XI and the inclusion of players coming from teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich only. But to be fair, how many players are there in the EPL belonging to the class of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manuel Neuer? Or maybe someone close as Neymar or Gareth Bale? There are some world-class players in the league like Sergio Aguero and Eden Hazard who may get a look-in and they may easily make it to the ‘Squad of the Year’, however, breaking into the starting 11 would be very difficult for them.
As Alan Smith would say it during an EA Sports FIFA match, there is a clear gulf in class in display between the best of England and the best of the world. How can the clubs bridge the gap is the million dollar question!
First and foremost, it’s really essential to understand that spending is not the solution. United spent a net £133.63m last summer, only to climb three places in the Premier League table. They look to spend a similar amount this season, thanks to the blockbuster sponsorship deal with Adidas, in a bid to reclaim the English title and assert their dominance on the league again. Another club from the same city, Manchester City FC have spent a net total of £619m over the last decade and all that spending has given them a best finish of R16 in the Champions League.
It has been a long time since an English club dominated a Champions League campaign out-and-out. True, Chelsea won the title in 2012 thanks to a smart tactically defensive approach, and there’s nothing wrong being defensive throughout, but it wasn’t a comprehensive display by any means. The last time English clubs dominated the campaign was in 2007/08 when United and Chelsea fought out for the title in Moscow. When we check the starting line-ups of both teams for the line-up, we observe that a total of 10 from 22 players were English. This season, for Chelsea, only two players, John Terry and Gary Cahill, started their games. For City, it was just Joe Hart, James Milner, and former Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.
It’s really important to understand that the crux of the team has to consist of home-grown players. Importing top talent from clubs could be all about money, but it’s just not possible to lure anybody and everybody. This is one of the areas where the league has to improve.
Although it may seem luring top talents is easy, but in reality, is it so? Given an option of a £180K/week paycheck from Real Madrid and a similar amount from Arsenal, which one would you take?
Most of the world’s current top talents are from Spain, Belgium or South America and they would feel comfortable going to a team like Barcelona or Madrid where there is not a massive culture change. Also, these teams are pretty much guaranteed a trophy each year so it’s a win-win situation for them.
The EPL is the most competitive league in the world and it is that fantastic quality which is currently working against them to becoming the best league in the world. Where Chelsea have Hazard, City have Aguero and Arsenal have Sanchez, Barcelona have Messi, Neymar, Suarez; Madrid have the fabled BBC (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo) and Bayern have Muller, Robben and Ribery. If one fails, the other comes to the rescue.
Slowly, the top teams of the England need to overcome this huge gap and be dominant again. As the season near its end, the clubs need to sit out and devise an agenda in order to compete with the world’s best again.