You often hear pundits arguing which is the greatest league in the world. Is it the English Premier League or the Primera Liga in Spain? Some might even argue that it is the German Bundesliga or the Italian Serie A. More often than not however, the pundits will insist that our EPL deserves the plaudits (biased or otherwise), with the emphasis being that the EPL is more competitive and that any team can win on any given day.
Personally, I’m not so sure. I think it’s an easy put down to make and typical of our lazy pundits and journalists to simply regurgitate the usual monotonous diatribe without having to use their brains to justify their comments.
Whenever someone suggests that the Primera Liga is better, you will instantly hear “aaah but it’s just a two horse race”. Fair enough, Barcelona and Real Madrid do tend to dominate, but then again so have Man United and Man City this season in the EPL. In fact the similarity between the top European leagues is pretty amazing.
In Spain the top two are clear of the pack on 78 & 72 points respectively. The next 6 places (3 – 8) are covered by just 7 points (from 48 points to 41). The next 9 places (9 -17) are covered by another 7 points (from 39 points to 32). The final 3 places (18 – 20) are covered by just 3 points (from 28 to 25 points). In summary then there are 4 mini-leagues with teams competing hard to reach the top of their own section.
In Italy the top two are clear of the pack on 64 & 62 points respectively. The next 6 places (3 – 8) are covered by just 8 points (from 51 points to 43). The next 9 places (9 -17) are covered by another 6 points (from 39 points to 33). The final 3 places (18 – 20) are covered by just 9 points (from 28 to 19 points) with the bottom club being adrift of the others. Almost identical to the Spanish league in many respects.
And so to our ultra-competitive EPL, the best in the world (though surely no one can argue that Barcelona and Real Madrid are leaps ahead of us in terms of entertaining football and technical ability), the one that everyone wants to be like (where money is seeing clubs falling into insurmountable debts), the one that all the top players want to be in (who wants to see Messi or Ronaldo anyway)? Where anyone can beat anyone (of course this doesn’t happen anywhere else)?
Well in England the top two are clear of the pack on 73 & 71 points respectively. The next 4 places (3 – 6) are covered by just 5 points (from 58 points to 53). The next 8 places (7 -14) are covered by another 7 points (from 43 points to 36). The next 5 places (15 – 19) are covered by just 5 points (from 33 to 28 points) with the bottom club being adrift of the others. Hmm, spookily similar to the others then! Even the Bundesliga follows a similar pattern with the top two clear of the pack on 63 & 60 points respectively. The next 2 places (3 – 4) are covered by just 3 points (from 54 points to 51). The next 5 places (5 -9) are covered by a single point (from 41 points to 40). The next 8 places (10 – 17) are covered by just 9 points (from 34 to 26 points) with the bottom club being adrift of the others on 20.
The similarities are obvious. So for us to hang on to our dated and blatantly incorrect beliefs that we are in some way superior to our European counterparts, because of the integrity of our league and the fact that a minnow like QPR can beat a giant like Arsenal (naturally the fact that Barca have lost to Getafe and Osasuna in the league this season are quickly swept under the carpet at this point), is quite simply arrogant beyond belief.
Don’t get me wrong I think we have a good league, our performance against Man City this weekend was evident of that. If ever you wanted evidence of a team with little to play for, going out and doing their utmost to win, then Sunderland is a perfect example. Do I think that we are any different to any other team in any other league, in our desire to win? No I do not. I think that we have a team spirit and desire to win that is perhaps greater than many others, but this is purely down to our players and management team – it is nothing to do with the league that we play in.
Football is cyclical on a European level, just as it is on a domestic level. It’s not too long ago that Liverpool dominated English football, they are now in the same mini-league as Sunderland in the EPL. In the 80s Italian football was the place to be. The EPL has enjoyed a purple patch that I believe has reached the top of its arc and is now beginning its natural decline, with the Spanish and German leagues becoming the new overlords.
I don’t think it’s something to worry about, in deed I welcome a fall from grace as it gives us a chance to bring our finances into the real world. It is time to let some of the overpaid prima donnas jump ship and take their mercenary greed with them to a new cash cow (Gyan could be considered a pioneer in this respect).
Granted, the EPL may lose some top players, but if that’s what it takes to give our clubs a reality check and force them to revalue their players and the wages they offer, then in the long run it might just save the soul of English football. It may also make the mythical claim that we are the most competitive league in the world a reality for the first time in many a year.
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