Having previously written about how invigorated I was by the forthcoming season and the potential for one of the most enthralling and competitive Premier League campaigns in years, I have to admit that I’ve been hugely underwhelmed by what I’ve witnessed thus far.
The dearth in explosive, attacking football in the first four weeks of the new season, of which the Premier League brand has been built on, has been there for all to see. Despite what Sky Sports would desperately like you to believe, this is not the best, nor the most exciting league in the world anymore.
It doesn’t give me any pleasure in writing that, by the way. I’d prefer to tell you about how I’m in absolute awe of its magic and brilliance but dress it up all you like; last year was poor and despite a managerial merry-go-round that seems to have produced a more level playing field, it looks as if the actual quality has regressed even further.
Over the first four weeks, 28 out of 39 games have produced two goals or less and just 13 of 39 games have seen both teams score. That’s an average of only 1.95 goals a game. When you compare that to the Bundesliga (3.32), La Liga (3.00) and Serie A (3.00), the Premier League is being left behind like the little fat kid in the 100 metres sprint at the school sports day. Even France’s Ligue 1 – notorious for low scoring games – is averaging more.
Is this just an early season abnormality, though? Personally, I don’t think it is. Last season, by all accounts, was a relatively lifeless campaign, with a mediocre Manchester United squad – in comparison to their previous sides – strolling to the title. The most exciting aspect of it happened to be the relegation battle and even that failed to go to the wire.
Is there any particular reason for the drop off in quality? Like most things in life, there’s a cyclical sort of nature to sport - peaks and troughs, you might say. For years the Premier League was top dog, producing thrillers on a weekly basis as its teams dominated Europe. Back then, you could rightly proclaim it as the best league in the world.
Nowadays, I don’t think there’s one side competing in it you could really call great. Manchester United are defending champions but as I alluded to before, it’s nowhere near the quality of previous sides Sir Alex Ferguson produced and it doesn’t look like they’ve significantly improved, either.
Their nearest rivals last year were Manchester City and despite their vast wealth and continuous multi million pound splurges on world class talent, they consistently flatter to deceive on the big stage and whilst Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool can think of themselves as title challengers this season, can any of these sides really call themselves genuinely great teams right now? No, I don’t think they can.
Are any of the aforementioned on the same level as Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona or Real Madrid? No. Juventus and newly oil-rich, PSG could also argue their superiority and, perhaps most telling of all, even cash-strapped, debt-ridden La Liga representatives, Malaga progressed further than any of the English sides in last year’s Champions League.
To the annoyance of many, I spoke openly for the last few years about how German football was rapidly developing to the point where they would soon be the dominant force in European football and so it has come to pass. The Bundesliga is everything the Premier League isn’t right now. Its teams play a fearless brand of offensive football that produces matches full of goals and excitement in packed out stadia every week. The majority of clubs are half owned by its supporters and ticket prices are drastically lower compared to its English counterpart.
Due to Sky’s excellent marketing strategies, the Premier League continues to be the most watched league in the world but for the first time since its inception, there is a real danger of the actual product failing to offer its viewers value for money.
We, as fans of the Premier League, can only hope that the trough isn’t too deep and it returns itself to its former glories as quickly as possible. How it does that though, is a question for the FA and the Premier League, itself.