Premier League: 5 Reasons It Is Better Than Ever
The Premier League is one of the best football leagues in the world. Many would argue that it is, in fact, the best league around.
As with any league, some seasons are better than others; some years a team will run away from the chasing pack, and some years there will be teams who stand no chance of surviving (I'm looking at you, Derby County).
The point of this article is not to argue that the Premier League is better than La Liga; there are already thousands of articles on the Internet that have made strong cases for both leagues and there is still no clear winner. So, please don't read this article as an attempt to show that the Premier League is better than La Liga.
Indeed, it could be argued that the Premier League is in a bit of a slump; the two Manchester Clubs have been knocked out of the Champions League—indicating a lack of competitiveness with other European clubs—and some would point out that Chelsea and Arsenal both struggled to qualify for the knockout stages.
Furthermore, big name players like Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are having off-field problems; there have been racism scandals and fights over the rules on tackling.
Happily, however, there is still much to make the Premier League a great league to watch and, to paraphrase Mark Twain, any reports of its demise are exaggerated.
Please let me know any thoughts you might have in the comments section below.
The Premier League is more competitive than it has been in a long time. There a four real contenders to win the Premier League (Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham), as well as Arsenal, still a Champions League-quality side who could easily finish in the top four, and Liverpool who might yet find their way back into a Champions League spot.
The gap between the biggest four or so clubs and the rest of the league has also diminished a great deal. Just look at Newcastle's start to the season, the scalps Blackburn have claimed and the competitiveness of the newly-promoted sides.
This gap could be attributed to the weakness of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, and to an extent that is true. However, it is also down to the increased strength of the smaller clubs. They are able to get the most out of players, often blending young talent with older, experienced players to combat the megabucks of the top sides.
This competitiveness runs right through the league. No side looks destined for relegation, and every side is capable of pulling off an upset. QPR are currently 18th, but they've beaten Chelsea. Blackburn have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal.
All of this serves to make the Premier League far more interesting than it has been in previous seasons; every match could have important implications at both ends of the table, and results are far from guaranteed.
Recently, the Premier League has seen an increase in the amount of sides playing attractive passing football. Arsenal have focused on this style for years, with little reward, but more teams are beginning to play the type of football more often seen on the continent and experiencing success.
Swansea have impressed neutrals with their flowing passing, but have not let it compromise their traditional Premier League-style tough defending. The same is true of Manchester City, although they aren't as popular with neutrals.
Even Wigan, currently languishing at the bottom of the Premier League, play a good passing game.
At the same time, there are teams like Stoke, who are often criticised for their crude style. The criticism is not wholly warranted and ignores the more refined side of their game. If anything, their brand of football is beneficial to the Premier League.
As with a passing game, it is less about individualism and more about collective play, and also creates some very intriguing matches as teams struggle to break them down and panic at the prospect of a set piece.
The increasing influence of continental football is being mixed together with more traditional English football to create a hybrid style of play that takes the best from both systems and creates matches that are more fun to watch and tougher to predict. This is only going to help as English football looks to deal with claims that it is being left behind by teams on the continent.
The Feel-Good Factor
They may no longer be at their world-beating best, but in a world of enormous pressure dependent on huge sums of money, the return of old fan favourites exposes the nicer, less cynical side of professional football.
Fans of Manchester United and Arsenal are desperate to see their old new players do well, and so are many neutrals, something which adds a layer of interest to a match like last week's Manchester United vs. Bolton that might, were it not for the return of Paul Scholes, have been a little underwhelming.
Furthermore, it keeps fans guessing as to what might happen during the transfer windows. Nobody foresaw the second coming of Paul Scholes, and it leaves you wondering who might be next.
These events are, quite obviously, fairly rare. However, that does not take away from the feel-good factor that the Premier League has at the moment.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Manchester United vs. Arsenal
Liverpool vs. Everton
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Chelsea vs. Fulham
Chelsea vs. Arsenal
Fulham vs. QPR
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Sunderland vs. Newcastle
West Brom vs. Wolves
With all but one of those rivalries, you would be brave to put money on who would come out on top, and if you'd put your money on Chelsea beating Fulham (the more predictable one) on Boxing Day, you would have gone home empty handed.
The rise of Manchester City and Tottenham have injected new life into their rivalries with Manchester United and Arsenal, while Liverpool's recent struggles have made their rivalry with Everton tighter but taken none of the passion away from matches against Manchester United, in which they are still very competitive.
Sunderland, revitalised under Martin O'Neill, have responded to Newcastle's excellent form and will be hard to beat when the two clubs meet in March.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal may not be at Roy Keane-Patrice Vieira levels anymore, but United's 8-2 triumph earlier this season will make their next encounter far more tense; the revenge Arsenal fans will be out for and the salt-rubbing United will be hoping for will make for a feisty affair.
Not all of these rivalries are steeped in history, some have arisen merely because both teams have been successful in recent times, but that doesn't prevent them from being legitimate rivalries. History has to start somewhere and with each match played, the newer rivalries come to mean more.
The point is, there are a lot of derbies in the Premier League, and almost all of them are competitive and unpredictable—the thing that makes them scary for fans and exciting for neutrals.
Dealing with Racism
This season, there have been three major controversies over racism. Two of the incidents have involved big stars—John Terry and Luis Suarez.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea have been criticised for their unwavering support of their players and, at a glance, it looks as if the Premier League has gone backwards in the fight against racism, especially when you add in the recent racist abuse of Tom Adeyemi by a few Liverpool fans in a Carling Cup match.
Clearly, the incidents this season have undermined the complacent belief of some that racism in British football is a thing of the past. As this page from Wikipedia shows, there have been multiple incidents over the last few years. Happily, almost all of the perpetrators have been caught and have been widely condemned.
However, the scandal that has arisen from these three incidents, the truth of which may never be known, should be seen as a good thing. It is a mark of how far British football has come and also of how much work the vast majority of people are still willing to do to rid the game of racism.
Similarly, the reaction to Sepp Blatter's remarks on racism, although probably partially motivated by FIFA's snubbing of England's World Cup bid, is a sign of how unacceptable racism seems to football fans and players in England.
There are plenty of leagues around the world where racism is an everyday occurrence; players are subjected to cruel, highly-offensive chants that have no place in the modern game. Thankfully, the Premier League has welcomed players of all races, from home and abroad, and given them the opportunity to prosper and improve both themselves and the league.
That each racist incident receives so much attention shows not only how unacceptable it is, but also how rare it is.
The Premier League is not the only league to experience this improvement in attitude, but its record in dealing with racism, through the actions of the FA and organisations like Kick It Out, is unparalleled in Europe.
The quality of the football played in the Premier League is very much dependent on players of all races and creeds. Unfortunately, it seems that there are still people with prejudices in football stadiums, a fact that is highly damaging to the players they abuse, and to the league as a whole.
The actions of the fans who have come forward to out those racists and of the players who have made a stand against it, show that despite its flaws, the Premier League is doing its utmost to deal with racism, something that is undoubtedly making it better.