When assessing the competitiveness of the Barclays Premier League, little more needs to be said than the facts put forth by taking a glance at the current table.
The top three are all within three points, four through eight are separated by a mere seven, while six points would get those in the drop zone safely to mid-table.
The Premier League is the world’s most cutthroat division, as any team can win on any given day.
A major factor in the league’s parity is the influx of foreign players that have crossed the British borders, as a recent study by the CIES Football Observatory concluded that 60.4 percent of players in the top flight are from foreign countries.
Premier League teams aren’t afraid to bring in outside talent, that’s for sure. Many of the league’s top stars, such as Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil and Robin van Persie, are foreign products, as the English game doesn’t discriminate based on nationality.
The league brings in talent, especially those that ply their craft on the world stage. Overall, 44.3 percent of Premier League players have been capped with their national team, while four out of every five Chelsea players are active internationals.
While moves like this guarantee the game is played at the highest level, there are quite a few reasons to view these numbers with fear.
From a club standpoint, bringing in international players shows a club’s commitment to acquiring talent. However, when bringing in outside players, more times than not there will be a hefty price.
Clubs all over the world, not just in England, have embraced the transfer market, as teams have never been more freewheeling as they were last year.
The CIES study found that players signed in the 2013 calendar year made up 41.3 percent of squads, as rapid turnover has become the norm at the club level.
With Financial Fair Play looming, transfer policies will become even more highly scrutinized. International transfers mean international transfer fees, which are intended to be curtailed by new rules.
With the reliance on international talent, fewer academy products have been able to make it through the first-team system. Teams like Manchester City and Chelsea boast very few academy graduates making an impact on the first team, as bigger and better superstars are brought in regularly.
While dependence on international talent may only hurt clubs from a financial standpoint, the effect on the English national team cannot be understated.
The Three Lions are quite possibly the most scrutinized team in the world, and rightly so. They come from the birthplace of the game and putting on the shirt has been considered to be one of the most prestigious honors in sports.
However, the Premier League’s influx of international talent has left the English contingent neglected, as the homegrown youth are given few chances to shine.
It may just be a chicken or the egg situation: are England’s current crop struggling because they don’t get valuable time on the pitch, or do they not get time on the pitch because they are struggling?
The FA has been working towards closing the gap between foreigners and English players, according to ESPN, as FA Chairman Greg Dyke set up a commission in September to put homegrown players back into the country’s top leagues:
English football, I think, is a tanker which needs turning. We have to do something. If we do not, it's hard to see England even challenging for the World Cup or the Euro Championships in the years ahead -- let alone meeting the targets I've set. If we do not, we will be letting down generations of English kids who might otherwise have made it at the top level in football but weren't given the chance. If we do not, we will be letting down the England fans who turn up in the thousands.
For fans, diversity makes the beautiful game even prettier, as the world’s best players can showcase their talent week in and week out.
But for those coming from the club and international level, the numbers represent a scary trend, as we may be facing the day where England no longer possesses stars to call their own.
How do you think England should respond to their dependence on international talent? Have your say with a comment below or tweet @R_Tolmich with your ideas to remedy the English game.