Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Nudge me when it gets exciting...

It's strange, you know. Just recently we seem to have been concentrating on everything except the Premier League. We've written about the Euro 2008 qualifying competition and the draw for the Finals. We've written about the draw for the World Cup 2010 qualifiers and the early rounds of this season's FA Cup, but the Premier League… well it's just not been on the radar.

Why should that be, I wonder? Is it not that exciting anymore?

Strangely enough, it should be at the top of our list. At the moment, there's a four-horse-race going on with Arsenal and Liverpool (1st and 4th respectively) still unbeaten with a game in hand over the other two, Man. United and Chelsea (2nd and 3rd) who have already lost two of their fifteen matches.

Even Man City are level on points with Liverpool although whether Sven Goran Eriksson can keep his magic going until the end of the season remains to be seen.

Then near the bottom of the table you have two teams that you wouldn't expect to find there - Bolton and Tottenham. Both have struggled and both have replaced their managers, but while the wait for drastic improvement goes on, so does the increased interest in them and the Premier League that, for the time being at least, remains their home.

Perhaps one reason we've not been bothered about England's top flight of late is because some of the big characters have either gone or gone quiet. Jose Mourinho - someone perfectly capable of starting an argument in a phone box - parted company with Chelsea several weeks ago, although even from his Portuguese home he still taunts the press with his 'might take the job, might not' approach to the vacant England manager's job.

In addition, Rafa Benitez has resorted to buttoning his lip and smiling sweetly whenever anyone asks him about the potential plans of Liverpool's American owners and Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger can only muster a meagre amount of foot-stamping whenever it looks like they're about to lose a game. So much for the personal angle in the game these days.

Player-wise, many of the big names seem to be having regular off-spells. Cristiano Ronaldo was slow to get going back in August, but every time he gets a decent run of form together, he either gets injured, sent off, rested or any permutation of all three. Frank Lampard's had a couple of brief scoring runs amid an unremarkable first three months, Dimitar Berbatov either hasn't been playing with andy confidence or or hasn't been playing at all and Fernando Torres has scored now and then but hasn't quite set the whole place alight as numeorus people thought he would do.

So what's going on? Is the thought of a four-horse-race simply not enough to satiate our thirst for the English game? Do we need more characters or bigger clubs back in the mix? Or is it simply that the Premier League Express is showing early signs of running out of steam?

Over to you with your suggestions...


Adam said...

I guess it does get a little tiresome when the title contenders are expected to win every game, and the race only changes when one of them drops points. It's almost as if they were starting with 114 points, and get -2 points for a draw and -3 points for a loss, rather than +1 point for a draw and +3 for a win.

So while clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd have put together simply fantastic teams that are a pleasure to watch on a game by game basis, it doesn't do much for the excitement of the league as a whole.

While American football is incredibly tedious on a game by game basis, it's probably a little more interesting as a league because any team is capable of winning the championship (even if there are clear favorites).

beneven said...

It is true that each Prem season starts with a fair amount of predetermined hype around the usual suspects. Portsmouth have put together a good run, City are decent and Blackburn are not half bad either (of course, I would like to list my team as well but sadly I am awake and writing, not asleep and dreaming), but there seems to be no question that the league winners will be one of the "big 4" (or is that 3?) and that the CL spots will go to two sides from that group. Its almost more exciting, more dramatic to watch the battle for the last Uefa Cup spot than the race for the top and the Champions league.

P Shaw said...

What with Man City slipping out of the top 4 and Portsmouth, Everton and
Blackburn slipping further and further away this season, it looks like being the usuals in the top 4 again.
Hopefully on this basis the top 4 next season will be a bit different. I believe that Blackburn and Man City will be able to stand the long haul thanks to some good signings. Maybe Eriksson and Hughes could come up with some great players coming in for not very much. Anelka anyone.

Your thoughts on next season Chris O

Chris O said...

Adam - would you say that the fact that all teams play initially in a four-team division helps make things more interesting? Is it that which helps make any team's progress possible?

Having been nosey and clicked on your user name, Beneven, I now see what you mean about being awake and writing! ;-) You're quite right, though - it's almost better to get rid of the top four and start from Man City down (as it currently stands). I'm desperate for someone outside the top four to make the step up and make things more interesting..

P Shaw - I'm beginning to think maybe Hughes has gone as far as he can with Blackburn, and that new signings won't improve things enough. That said, he's done an excellent job there, but they're still dropping too many points to break into the top 4.

Next season, Sven could get Man City up there, I really believe that. I think that is a case where a few extra signings (like the raft of players he bought in the summer wasn't enough) will help strengthen the squad even more. He's got the know-how - it just remains to be seen whether he can do it or not.

P Shaw said...

Very true Chris O about Blackburn, Hughes could become the next Man Utd manager when Fergie finally goes and Blackburn could do with a fresh face to take them another step forward into the top 4 and CL status.
Eriksson has done a great job and could easily get Man City into the CL with some more quality signings.

However it remains whether teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal can slip up and lose ground on the CL. With Arsenal and Liverpool improving and Chelsea and Man Utd already very good it will be hard.

Adam said...

chris o -

You're right to some extent, but I think there's better parity between the teams in the NFL than in most football leagues, especially the big leagues in Europe. While there are some teams definitively above the rest (Patriots) and some far worse than the rest (Dolphins), as a whole I think it's more balanced.

I definitely agree with beneven, though. The UEFA Cup Spots battle is more interesting than the race for the title, since there's always some unexpected faces (Reading last season, Man Citeh this season, etc.).

Also, the relegation battle is interesting, but that's most schadenfreude (lol Spurs)

chris c paul said...

Well, the battle for the UEFA cup spots is exciting. With half the premiership in realistic contention. Bit like scrapping for crumbs though innit- all be they golden crumbs. What am I talking about? Sorry, I 'm too tired to construct a proper comment I was vomiting until 3am last night after a touch of food poisoning BUT
I can't see the inpenetrabilty of the top 4 being... penenetrated...fuck... cannot write... for another 2 or three seasons. which seems like a long time in football years no?


Chris O said...

Chris C Paul - I appreciate the effort you made to comment while your health was taking such a battering!!!

I think it is going to take some time for the top 4 to change, and only then because one or two of them will weaken, thus allowing someone else to take their place.

Perhaps in 2 or 3 season's time we might see Liverpool and Chelsea replaced by, say, Man City and Everton? Hard to imagine, perhaps, but it's remotely possible...


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