Is the Premier League losing its competitiveness?
The Premier League is often claimed to be the most competitive footballing league in the world. However, is it really that competitive?
When pundits and the like talk about the Premier League; the phrase “it’s the best league in the world” always comes up. The rather brash statement has always seemed to stack up, with the claim that what makes the Premier League great is the competition, anyone can beat anyone.
Whilst the Premier League has been short on what can be considered the top world-class players for a number of years now, with most plying their trade for the two main Spanish heavyweights in La Liga, and others opting to swap the Premier League for Spain, recent examples being Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suárez, and now Philippe Coutinho.
But what has been the saving grace for the Premier League’s appeal in the face of a lack of true world beaters has been the fact that the league is exciting down to it’s unpredictable nature, however without that, the league could be considered second rate.
Which is indeed the situation on the horizon now, a glance at the league table now or at the end of last season is quite revealing- the table can be split into two or three distinct parts, with Manchester City seemingly in a league of their own this season, being 16 points ahead of their neighbours - second-placed Manchester United.
Only 10 points separate 7th-placed Burnley and 18th-placed Southampton, but between Burnley and 6th-placed Arsenal, the gap is 9 points.
The story was much the same last season with Everton in 7th, 15 points ahead of 8th-placed Southampton, who were just 6 points ahead of 17th-placed Watford, showing how there is little difference between most teams of the division, but a huge gulf in class between the lesser lights of the league and the established elite.
Some may say “oh what a crazy season” with so many teams clustered on similar points with fears of relegation, but in fact, the league will stay this way until the likes of Leicester City, Everton, and West Ham make significant strides to bridge the ever-widening gap.
The current situation has been borne out of the last two seasons, in which most of the big six were vulnerable and in a transitional phase, the two Manchester clubs had just appointed new managers who needed time to shape their squads, as was the case with Liverpool the preceding season. Also, Chelsea’s form fell off a cliff after Mourinho lost the dressing room.
The statement "The league is up for grabs" in both of those seasons was no understatement, so much so that Leicester City miraculously won the title in 2015/16 and Chelsea stormed back out of nowhere to clinch the title last season.
That transitional phase is well and truly over now, though, to the extent that the top five in the league have lost just nine times to the rest of the division between them this season.
The reason for this is, of course, the big investment that the likes of City, Liverpool and United have ploughed into their squads, and the unrelenting nature of the battle for the top four spots driving the will to avoid dropping points at all costs.
Currently, the Premier League has lost its competitiveness, it is too easy for the bigger sides to win most of their games, the matches between sides like Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town against the Manchester clubs spring to mind for the sheer fact that the acceptance of defeat was so obvious from the first whistle, with the view for damage limitation being the sole aim.
These sort of games damage the image of the league, and frankly, are an eyesore; it is no doubt the Premier League’s biggest problem and it looks set to grow, the league is losing its edge and without that, it cannot be considered the best league in the world, just a good league with some exceptionally talented players.