Sunday, 1 March 2015

Premier League - Not so Premier

While all the money is flowing into the Premier League, the real action is taking place elsewhere.

The world's best teams and players ply their trade in Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Clubs like Atletico and Dortmund have got there without throwing large amounts of money at their problems. Results in Europe only make a stronger case. Manchester City are feared domestically, yet there are several top teams from other leagues that they would struggle to beat.

While the Champions League struggles of English clubs receive enough attention, the common belief among fans that mid-table Premiership sides are better than their foreign counterparts is wrong as well. Europa League results in the last few seasons make very poor reading for Premier League fans.

Fiorentina celebrate beating Tottenham in the Europa League
Fiorentina dumped out Spurs from the Europa League (Image credits: Daily Mail)

Fiorentina outplayed and dumped out Tottenham from the Europa League last week. Besiktas bested Tottenham in the group stages and then knocked out Liverpool, a team that scored over 100 goals in the Premier League last season and dropped down from the Champions League. Only Everton have done well, but that appears to have come at the cost of their league position. There are more teams from Russia and Ukraine than England in the Round of 16.

While Premier League teams are able to stand up to each other, they are unable to live with continental opposition of any kind. Only Chelsea compete at an elite level, thanks in large part to the nous of Jose Mourinho.

The world's most popular league simply does not have good teams.

Part of this is due to the lack of good domestic talent. Foreigners, particularly South Americans, aspire to play for Barcelona or Real Madrid. Those two pick and choose, and leave others to fight over what remains. This makes it very important to build talent from within to compete. It's also good for top teams to have players and a style they can identify with. The constant influx and outflow of foreign players isn't helping either way, but clubs are more concerned with the here and now, getting results today.

Spot the Englishman
Let's play a game of "Spot the Englishman" (Image credits:

The USA has done better than England in the last two World Cups. In both tournaments, their squad consisted of players largely from the MLS and the lesser teams in England and Germany. This is looking a bit alarming (shout-out to the clairvoyant title of this book), considering that England should theoretically have better players to choose from (Players from top Premier League teams).

Like Barcelona and Bayern in the mid-to-late 2000s, English football needs to take a step back and build a solid structure rather than throwing money at the problem.

With full knowledge of the craving for his signature in Europe, Marco Reus put pen to paper on a new contract when Dortmund were in the relegation zone. It would've been easy to turn it down and join Lewandowski and Gotze at Bayern, or a top club in Spain. When even the likes of Steven Gerrard admit that their heads were turned, this is a commendable display of loyalty.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Marco Reus celebrates victory of Schalke
Dortmund's superhero decided to stay (Image credits: WhoScored)

It's always a massive boost when a club's talisman shows his faith in dark circumstances. It's hard to imagine that this act (along with his return from injury) has not played a part in sparking a revival that has seen Borussia Dortmund go from a relegation battle to sitting 8 points away from Champions League qualification.

Confession: I love the Batman-Robin photo. I just wanted to write something so that I could use it!