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At first glance, the Premier League looks like a strong league. Indeed, if you ask many fans they will tell you that the Barclays Premier League is the strongest league in the world. Many of them will refuse to accept any debate on this matter and while 4 years ago they would have been spot on, the fact of the matter is the Premier League has been getting weaker and weaker by the season and now stands a distant second to La Liga and risks been over-taken by the Bundesliga and the resurgent Serie A if thinks continue to regress as they have.
A look at the top teams from last year tells the story:
Chelsea have slipped and they have an aging team. Whilst the appointment with Andre Villa-Boas is, in my opinion, a great move by the club, they have yet to address the glaring needs they have in midfield and on the flanks. Chelsea have a squad of great players, unfortunately many of them are past their best but won't be replaced until the day they decided it's time to go. There's also the constant interference of Roman Abramovich.
Roman clearly wants to be the manager of the team, and doesn't seem to realize that he simply doesn't know enough about football to do so. He drove Jose Mourinho from the club and ruined what would almost certainly have become a dynasty, and then sacked Carlo Ancelotti who managed a title and a runners-up spot in his two seasons in charge. Had it not been for the shocking injuries Chelsea had last season, they would probably have won the title. Until Roman takes himself away from the team and goes back to being the fan he was originally, Chelsea will have problems.
Manchester City are the new kids on the block. They have money, they have lots of great players, they have a great stadium filled with great fans and they have a manager with an impressive CV. Unfortunately, that same manager also seems incapable of playing to his teams obvious attacking strengths and instead hamstrings them by playing an overly defensive system and relying on the average Gareth Barry as an extra man in midfield when the world and it's mother can see that the inclusion of another attacking player, specifically Adam Johnson, would be far more beneficial to the team. I don't know that Mancini is capable of winning a Premiership title and for me, he is City's achilles heel.
Arsenal have great players, a great manager and play the best football in the premiership. If style won points, Arsenal would win the league by a distance every year. Unfortunately they've lacked a heart for the last few years. Arsenal have traditionally had an inspirational captain and Wenger's first two great teams were no exception. Tony Adams, and Patrick Vieira. Men who knew how to lead men. Unfortunately, while Cesc Fabregas is a great player he's no leader. Until Arsenal get themselves a true leader, and a central defender to play alongside Varmaelen, they won't win anything. There's also the minor matter of Cesc and Samir Nasri wanting to leave.
Tottenham have two great players, Modric and Van Der Vaart, some promising players like Sandro and Bale and a lot of mediocre players. They also have a manager who's way out of his depth. Harry Redknapp belongs at a smaller club fighting against relegation. He's way out of his league tactically at the business end of the table.
That leaves me with Manchester United, who truth be told, I don't rate. The team that won the premiership last year was not only the worst United team to win the Premier League title, it's the worst team I've ever seen win the title. United's title win last season was as much down to luck as it was to their ability. Other than Manchester City, all of the other top teams suffered horrendous injury plagues last season.
Except United, who's only major injuries were to Valencia and Rio Ferdinand and without question only one of those injuries hindered United, and that was Ferdinand's. With Valencia out, Nani moved from the left wing to the right wing and actually looked like a good player for the first time since he joined the club. Played in his natural position he had the best season of his career and carried United for a lot of the season.
Once Valencia returned and Nani moved back to the left he stopped performing and producing so you do have to wonder, had Valencia been fit all season could Nani have scored and assisted as many goals from the left as he did on the right. I seriously doubt it. They also benefited from an incredible amount of favourable referring decisions. There were 11 game-changing decisions giving in United's favour last season when all of them should very clearly have gone against them.
With the injuries to other teams, and the questionable referring decisions which went in their favour, United might as well have had a 15-point head start over their title rivals, and while United fans will be foolish enough to believe Alex Ferguson's nonsense about it being another great team, the truth is, they wouldn't have won any of the other three major leagues last season,
The Premier League is weak right now and if ever there was a time for Liverpool to hijack the title party and bring the title to Anfield, it's now.