Premier League best in the world? Don’t believe the hype
The British press are purring after Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United was decided by French winger Samir Nasri’s two strikes.
“Onlookers across the world were reminded that this sport, in its modern form, can cause excitement and awe in equal measure,” wrote the Guardian’s Kevin McCarra of Arsenal’s breathless 2-1 win over the champions.
After Arsenal’s bonkers 4-4 draw with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago, Hull City’s unbelievable start to top-flight life and the fact that Liverpool might just be genuine title contenders, the Premier League is once again ‘the best league in the world’ TM.
Or is it?
For the few upsets so far (Hull and Stoke City beating Arsenal), the chasm between the top four and the rest remains as vast as ever. Give United their game in hand and the gap between Champions League and UEFA Cup football may only be three points but can anyone really see Aston Villa, 2-1 losers at home to Middlesbrough on Sunday, breaking into the exclusive club?
While the melee below promises a cracking relegation battle, it also resembles the tightness of the Championship in recent seasons. You could comfortably divide the English divisions into five and not four.
And for every exhilarating Arsenal win over Manchester United, there’s a cagey 1-0 Liverpool victory at Chelsea or a dogged 2-1 Liverpool success over United. If every big four clash was as good as Saturday, then onlookers across the world would rightly be excited. The fact is they’re not.
Away from the top four and things get steadily worse. Last month Sunderland beat Newcastle United 2-1 in a North east derby. It may have been a windy day, but it was awful stuff. Sky Sports summariser Jamie Redknapp told us that this was in fact what English football “was all about”.
Haste over timing. Tempo over quality. A colleague simply remarked: “Is this the 39th game we want?”
Is the Premier League so good that the wider world wants to host a wretched midtable battle?
And on a weekend where Barcelona scored their 34th Primera Liga goal in 10 games and Real Madrid came back from a goal down three times, missed a penalty and still won 4-3, is it the best league in the world?
PHOTO: The Beautiful Game? Arsenal’s Niklas Bendtner climbs above Manchester United’s Michael Carrick in an aerial challenge during their Premier League match at Emirates Stadium Nov. 8, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville