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Is the Premier League the Best League In The World?

Chelsea v Sunderland, Premier League 14/11/2010 Sunderland's players applaud their fans after the 0-3 win over Chelsea  Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

As Chelsea lost at home to Sunderland, the commentator, Martin Tyler was incredulous, saying how this proved how brilliant the Premier League was; it was the best in the world because any side could beat any other side

This struck me at the time as being a case of having your cake and eating it because the only reason he was hyper-ventilating about it was precisely because it was so unusual. Odd then that the same TV people considered it the Best League In The World previously when such unpredictability was rarer.

All of which goes to prove that this spate of ‘unusual’ results has put some of the league’s more naked self-interested ra-ra merchants into a bit of a quandary.

They know fans like it this way and that most of us tire of seeing the same clubs dominating but more unpredictability means the previously best clubs need to become worse which means they will not be as likely to dominate the Champions League thus making the league appear equally less stellar.

Opinion seems divided this year between those who welcome the new more competitive league with the top sides losing more than usual, others see it as a decline in the footballing standards of the league.

It would appear the decline of Chelsea and United is rooted in their lack of depth brought about by two changes. Firstly the rigidity of the 25 man first team squad, which has to have a quota of home grown talent. Secondly, the fact that from next season the amount of debt a club can carry is to become severely limited. Failure to limit it will result in disqualification from the Champions League. So the cheque books have been closed.

No club should make an aggregate loss of more than 45m Euros over three seasons from 2011-12. So at last, new spending regimes have had to be put in place to comply. At last, under the new fair play rules money spent has to bear relation to the income of the club. While some see this as restricting the development of smaller clubs, what it should do for the whole league is make the development of youth team players a much bigger priority and breaking the bank to buy in expensive players or pay huge wages less possible.

However, those proclaiming the dawn of a new more democratic era in the top flight of English football are surely jumping the gun until a club that isn’t Chelsea or United wins the league.

For far too long inequalities of wealth reduced realistic competition in the Premier League and made it dysfunctional as a tournament in the same way it is in La Liga which, thanks to skewed funding, has made Madrid and Barcelona so superior that no-one can ever compete with them.

Those arguing that there it is a drop in the standards in the EPL is probably right but this should not be a criticism.

Football is supposed to be a competition, after all. The surprise in Tyler’s voice last week and in most fans reactions to the result show just how deeply we all expected Sunderland to lose.

The neutral had all but discounted that game as a gimme for Chelsea and we do this most seasons for most games involving the top three and even beyond that.

With the top six only being drawn from eight teams for the last five years we’d be mad not to. Long gone are the days when a promoted side could challenge for the title, in fact long gone are the days when anyone who isn’t Chelsea, United or Arsenal won the league.

Most games we watch in the Premier League we watch as a neutral, wanting merely to see an exciting, competitive game. Just watching one of the big three creaming someone is just dull season after season.

While thirty and forty years go Liverpool would dominate the league, those challenging would change every year and occasionally smaller clubs like Derby and Notts forest would triumph. All that has gone now and we are the worse for it. The more money you spend, the more successful you’ll be has undoubtedly been true for too long. Even the very welcome incursion of Spurs at the top table has come at a high price – no-one except City has spent more in recent seasons

I’m sure most fans would rather the league didn’t become a kind of circus where all the best players are at a couple of clubs and they run rings around everyone else. It might be good for the marketing men for that to be the case, but to the genuine football fan, it is simply rather dull to watch one team outplayed by another and what’s the point in watching a game if you’re almost certain who will win before kick off?

Watching Barcelona put eight past Almeria might be impressive in one way, but it’s not a football match, it’s more of an exhibition and as good as it might be, that isn’t the same thing as a competition.

I’ve no more interest in seeing shiny, shiny players strut their not inconsiderable skills every week just in order to thrash a hapless smaller club. It’s ok occasionally, but the greatest football is about much, much more than that.

For it to have meaning and soul it has to have competition and for too long that’s been absent.  I hope this recent outbreak of inadequacy is a more permanent change, but I doubt that it is.

We should enjoy it while it lasts because the cynic in me suspects that despite the new fair play rules, the chances are that the financial hegemony will find a way to re-establish itself soon enough.

Does it make the EPL the league the best in the world or not? Who cares? It makes is much more enjoyable and that’s what should really count.

Editor’s Note: Johnny’s new book: “We Ate All The Pies: How Foot ball Swal lowed Britain Whole” is avail able via Ama zon US or Ama zon UK.

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  1. Milman

    September 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Im not devaluing his ability or goals, he is a fantastic player, but i seriously doubt that Messi would score 31 goals in the BPL

  2. javed

    December 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    i dont agree with the article above barccelona is the best team in the world if they can beat teams like arsenal 4:1 and real madrid 5:0 obvioulsy they will beat almeria 8:0 and beating almeria doesnt make spanish legue un competitive it just shows that spanish league is blessed with 1 of the best teams in football history barcelona and real madrid is also the 2nd best team in the world . chelsea lost to sunderland cause they were missing frank lampard while barca doesnt care who they missing they care about winning whether they have the like of messi xavi or iniesta

  3. Football Souvenirs

    November 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    It is easy for Martin Tyler to say it is the best league in the World seeing as it provides his income!!

  4. shonil chande

    November 25, 2010 at 4:08 am

    serie a table at the moment
    in premier league terms, this would be chelsea in sixth! hows the for competition.

    agreed on champions league argument. however, i point out that the prem only won in 2005 and 2008. serie a won in 2003, 2007 and 2010 despite being at its lowest ebb in years.

    final point, less great teams than la liga and arguably the premier league, but definately more good teams and much fewer very weak teams than the premier league.

    Pts P W D L F A W D L F A W D L F A
    Milan 29 13 9 2 2 22 11 5 1 1 14 5 4 1 1 8 6
    Lazio 26 13 8 2 3 16 10 4 1 1 9 5 4 1 2 7 5
    Napoli 24 13 7 3 3 22 14 3 1 2 12 8 4 2 1 10 6
    Juventus 23 13 6 5 2 25 13 3 2 1 16 10 3 3 1 9 3
    Roma 22 13 6 4 3 17 15 5 2 0 12 5 1 2 3 5 10
    Inter 20 13 5 5 3 14 9 2 3 1 8 4 3 2 2 6 5
    Palermo 20 13 6 2 5 22 18 3 2 2 11 7 3 0 3 11 11
    Sampdoria 19 13 4 7 2 14 11 2 3 1 5 3 2 4 1 9 8
    Chievo 19 13 5 4 4 13 11 3 2 2 6 5 2 2 2 7 6
    Catania 17 13 4 5 4 11 11 4 3 0 8 3 0 2 4 3 8
    Udinese 17 13 5 2 6 13 14 3 1 2 8 7 2 1 4 5 7
    Genoa 17 13 5 2 6 10 13 3 1 3 6 8 2 1 3 4 5
    Fiorentina 15 13 4 3 6 13 14 4 1 2 9 6 0 2 4 4 8
    Parma 15 13 3 6 4 9 11 2 4 1 5 3 1 2 3 4 8
    Cagliari 14 13 3 5 5 13 12 2 1 3 7 4 1 4 2 6 8
    Bologna 14 13 3 5 5 12 19 3 3 0 6 2 0 2 5 6 17
    Lecce 12 13 3 3 7 10 25 3 2 1 8 6 0 1 6 2 19
    Brescia 11 13 3 2 8 11 17 2 1 3 7 8 1 1 5 4 9
    Cesena 11 13 3 2 8 9 17 3 1 3 7 8 0 1 5 2 9
    Bari 9 13 2 3 8 9 20 2 1 4 5 9 0 2 4 4 11

  5. Matt

    November 25, 2010 at 3:11 am

    The English leagues produce a very compelling product for having these giants despite relative parity – only three teams have took it all, but should one of these teams falter, there are about 6 teams who can viably challenge for the title. And not in a Napoli/Atletico Madrid kind of way. And those teams that challenge change year by year. Check out the mid-table standings for every year since 95 and you’ll catch my drift.

    The parity in the EPL is in the midtable teams, but it is parity forged by competition, and not manufactured. And that is VERY good for seeing competitive games.

    It makes upsets against heavy hitters much more scintillating.

  6. Chris from Texas

    November 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    The EPL has the highest average team skill level for a league, but the best teams are in Spain. Spain produces better players, but England is the most entertaing to watch.

    The answer to which league is “best” depends on whether you mean skill or entertainment value.

    • javed

      December 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      football is about skills tactics and watching beautifull football is the way to go about thats the real football and obviously spanish league is about skills and tactics thats why it makes spain the best league in the world

  7. Peter

    November 24, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I have watched the Premiership all my life growing up as a Spurs fan. Dad became a Spurs fan when he was 19 and we used to watch any and every game we could. Premiership is by far the best European league. It has been for many seasons but this season it is overly competitive. Gone are the seasons when you played Bolton and expected to win it hands down. Teams are proving that there is a big mid-table fight. yes the top teams haven’t changed in many years but the point is that those top teams now have to fight to remain top. They are having to prove why they are the best.

    Look at semi finals of Champions League in past few years
    2009/2010 is the only one that defeats my argument with 0 english teams in the semis
    2008/2009 3 English teams
    2007/2008 3 English teams
    2006/2007 3 English teams
    2005/2006 1 English team (2 Spanish teams in this year)
    2004/2005 2 English teams
    2003/2004 1 English team (Portuguese, Spanish and French team make up the rest)
    2002/2003 0 English teams (3 Italian teams)
    2001/2001 1 English team
    2000/2001 1 English team (Leeds United? Remember them? Anyone?)

    It is VERY rare that you don’t see all 4 English teams qualifying. Add to that the despair of most true football fans when 2 english teams draw each other in semis because it means an exciting semi final, and probably boring final.

  8. SSReporters

    November 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

    That’s hard to measure. I say yes because it’s the league I enjoy watching the most based on the spectacle and quality of play.

    By the way Jon Champion was the commentator, not Martin Tyler.

  9. shonil

    November 24, 2010 at 10:47 am

    thats a fair point. outside milan and inter, you have Palermo, udinese, Sampdoria, Napoli, Palermo, Roma and Genoa and Fiorentina who are good teams with some talented players. in these teams you have hamsik, pastore, jovetic, lavezzi, alexis sanchez, jeremy menez, david pizzaro, kwando asamoah, josip illicic, cassano, pazzini, rafinha, miguel veloso, edinson cavani, zapata etc. point is serie ia very deep and the talent is spread quite thinly across the league. this season in particular, it is extremely unpredictable.

    im not saying its the best, the top four teams need to improve, but as a league overall, i dont see how la liga or the premier league are so much better. from top four down, id say serie a is arguably the best of the big three leagues.

    what i find fascinating in serie a is the contrasting styles and formations. you have 3-4-1-2, 4-3,3, 3-4-2-1, and many more. there is a lot of variety. some teams sit back, some are extremely attacking. i dont feel you get this sort of variety in england, particularily in the bottom 10 where there is precious little innvotation on the tactical and technical side.

  10. Que

    November 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    only in your own head amigo

  11. La Liga

    November 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

    The jealousy of La Liga rages on… 😀

  12. shonil

    November 24, 2010 at 5:35 am

    serie a actually has the deepest depth of talent and good teams. yes top four not as good as others, but further down there is far more competition and variety than either prem or la liga.

    eto, ibra, sneijder, pato, lucio, maicon, julio cesar, robinho, ronaldiho, thiago silva, melo, juan, diego milito all in serie a.

    futher down, you have hamsik, pastore, jovetic, etc. these are the best young players in the world.

    you have at least 8-9 good teams in serie a, look at the top six right now!

    its makes me laugh when a big team in the prem looses and its used to show off the leagues competitveness. no easy games! how many 6-0’s? as if big teams dont lose elsewhere, chievo beat inter last week. cesena beat milan. inter have not won in six.

    • no no no

      November 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

      nearly all the players u named player for inter or ac.One of serie A big signings was a man city reserve

  13. imz

    November 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    for gods sakes, please stop having questions as the titles of your articles!

  14. SkintEastwood

    November 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Good site here for footie news lads

  15. Patrico

    November 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    This has definitely been the best season of Premier League in terms of lower-table teams playing aggressively against the top sides.

    Nobody is crawling into a shell.

    (Except for Man City when Tevez is not playing…..)

  16. Jake Islas

    November 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Messi too! It’s so easy for him to score, that 8-0 game this weekend was a joke.

  17. Earl Reed

    November 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    The fact that nearly every team has a story that can be told makes the EPL what it is. Nobody cares about the lower teams in the other European leagues, they are simply a part of the food chain for the top 2-3 teams in their respective leagues. The fact that this blog has enough quality material to be written 7 days a week says it all. Even the biggest underdog team of the league, Blackpool, brings intrigue to the table.

    • Joe

      December 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

      I’m sorry, but to completely dismiss all other leagues simply because YOU don’t know “the story” of mid-table teams in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy…it’s absurd.

      It’s amazing how ignorance is seen as a virtue sometimes on this blog.

  18. jens

    November 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

    SPEECHLESS to Chelsea performance faced Sunderland. I hope Chelsea will get more and with best perform to kick MSK Zilina on Champions League.

    Premier League have very competitive league that the teams have more popular and skilled players.. And so premier league in another country

  19. Ringo

    November 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I really don’t understand how people can watch La Liga and enjoy it. The PL is fantastic and getting better with more parity, the Bundesliga already has loads of parity and is very exciting to watch, and even in Serie A there is a decent amount of competition (although I’m not always a fan of the style of play). La Liga is simply two teams on the level of the Harlem Globetrotters putting out ridiculous sides to annihilate minnows. It makes me sick to look at the benches of those two clubs – players who would (and should) be starting in any other side in the world. Thankfully, clubs like my beloved Spurs have been able to reap the benefits of such players defecting as of late, at cut prices no less. Perhaps Benzema is next?

    • aol

      November 23, 2010 at 11:23 am

      My question is…how much should the goals scored by C.Ronaldo in La Liga be devalued. It’s obviously so much easier to score 2-3 goals per game in most games as opposed to the Premier League where it was tougher to break defenses down.

      We’ll see how the two La Liga teams do in the Champions League to see if they should be devalued.

      • Ringo

        November 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

        The teams may very well be able to go far in the CL just based upon how deep and talented they are. However, the competition of La Liga as a league is about as low as you can get.

        For my part, I hope the other teams roll over them.

      • Ringo

        November 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

        In CL, that is.

  20. aol

    November 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I’ve talked about this before but I think it’s pretty simple to explain. The Premier League just has a lot of depth and talent from almost every notable country spread out throughout the league.

    While the parity in Germany if fun, most of the German squad can be found at Bayern Munich. Spain won title, but almost all of their starters play for one of two teams at the top of the table every year in La Liga. In my opinion, England has the most variety of players from top to bottom in the league.

    Take a close look at these two teams and see the talent spread around:

    Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Crouch/Defoe (England), Keane (Ireland)
    Bale (Wales), Van der Vaart (Netherlands), Modric/Corluka/Kranjcar (Croatia)
    Palacios (Honduras), Huddlestone/Lennon/Jenas (England)
    Gomes (Brazil), Hutton (Scotland), Assou Ekoto/Bassong (Cameroon),
    Kaboul/Gallas (France), dos Santos (Mexico)

    I mean…dos Santos is one of Mexico’s main weapons and he’s a fringe player on the sixth place team in the league. Enough said.

    Howard (US)
    Baines (England), Heitinga (Netherlands), Distin (France), Coleman (Ireland)
    Cahill (Australia), Pienaar (South Africa), Arteta (Spain), Bilyaletnitov (Russia)
    Yakubu/Anichebe (Nigeria), Saha (France), Fellaini (Belgium)
    Neville/Jagielka/Osman/Hibbert/Rodwell/Beckford (England)

    This is the 14th place team in the table. A handful of the top players from a variety of different countries (Howard, Cahill, Pienaar…). Even the top offensive US player came in on loan last year and was a role player for them before the WC.

  21. Simon Burke

    November 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Right now it is – the contenders are written off every week and yet they are still contenders, its unpredictable, its exciting and no one or 2 teams have dominated as yet.
    At the end of the season the journos will be saying its been the worst year ever with no great sides.. I’d take it the other direction. THe weaker teams have gotten better. Sunderland and West Brom are playing good football and troubling the big sides – this is what we want to see. I dont want to see 10 Blackburns fighting for 0-0’s every week and this year we are getting a real treat.

  22. Rene

    November 23, 2010 at 9:25 am

    EPL definitely most competitive of the big leagues in the world. I actively watch Serie A, which tends to be boring unless it’s a heated rivalry game, La Liga is a joke as the gap between Real Madrid and Barcelona and the rest is ridiculous….not even Sevilla, Villareal or Valencia stand a chance. I love watching a league where every game is a thriller, like Spurs losing to Bolton one week, beating Arsenal the next and Stoke City and Sunderland wreaking havoc to all big clubs

    • Joe

      November 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

      I can’t help but laugh at an argument for the competitiveness of a league where three teams have won in the past fifteen years and the top four teams were the same from 2004 to 2009.

      • u dont know much

        November 24, 2010 at 9:19 am


        • Joe

          November 24, 2010 at 5:05 pm

          Everton was top 4 in 2004.

  23. Bishopville Red

    November 23, 2010 at 8:15 am

    There aren’t too many leagues where you don’t have an elite and a second / third class. MLS could argue parity, but they got dumped on for just that over the last week or so.

    Best… Who cares? It’s my favourite league, and that’s good enough for me.

    • Sir Guy

      November 23, 2010 at 8:41 am


  24. Alisson Victor

    November 23, 2010 at 8:00 am

    no, because the best league is the Brazilian championship


      November 24, 2010 at 9:17 am

      er no.

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