A lot has been made of how this season the top teams have started to slip up against the so called smaller team in the Premier League. There have been some real shocks this season, Chelsea losing at home to Sunderland, West Brom and Newcastle winning at the Emirates and Manchester United’s habit of throwing games away. Has the Premier League got stronger or are the bigger teams simply just weaker. It is clearly the latter. There is no way the Premier League is as strong as it once was, just look at the players that we have lost over the years. The top teams are more vulnerable than they used to be and teams are taking advantage of this.
Chelsea and Manchester United especially, have got weaker of the last couple of seasons. Manchester United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and only a few weeks ago, Wayne Rooney was complaining over the lack of ambition at the club. At Chelsea, they have weakened considerably. Chelsea lack defensive and attacking options away from their top eleven players. The investment at both clubs has decreased considerably. With arguably England’s top two teams spending less on players, the quality is going to fall. Do we really believe that Chelsea could have won the Premier League without the investment of Roman Abramovich? Of course they wouldn’t have. Chelsea need to keep investing, there is no doubt about that. Over the past five years the Premier League has had two challengers. Does that really show the strength of the top teams or just the top two?
For the last 5 years the top four Premier League clubs have dominated UEFA’s coefficient rankings, largely due to their success in the Champions League; five successive Champions League finals for English teams and three successive semi-finalists will do that for a league. Mouth watering “all English” quarter and semi-finals have been among the most watched, most talked about matches of the last five years. However that was dented last season with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United limping out before the semi-final stage. This season could see the same happen. We have Tottenham in the Champions League this season, who have qualified from their group but will struggle against a top team over two legs. Manchester United and Chelsea have had easy groups and sailed through, whilst Arsenal have made it hard for themselves. Will there really be an English team competing the final at Wembley? From the evidence this season, sadly it seems not.
There have been some important strides taken this season by clubs in the Premier League and that can’t be sniffed at. Sunderland have been excellent so far this season, playing with great attacking intent and imagination. They have slaughtered Chelsea away and should have beaten Manchester United at home. Bolton as well have improved. They again have changed philosophy, playing more football and it has helped Johann Elmander find true form in English football. Even though these teams have taken strides forward it is the fact that the teams who normally fight for European places have got weaker. Look at Everton and Liverpool this season. Do these clubs have the squads to compete in the top half of the Premier League any more. Time will tell but at the moment its hard to argue they have.
The Premier League’s smaller teams are competing with the top teams on a more consistent basis because these top teams are getting weaker. This is bringing the league closer together but in the wrong way. Teams have done well to compete at the top of the league, but it is only because teams have dropped off the pace or have had bad starts to the season. The teams at the top of the league need to invest, or the Premier League could go the way the Italian league has in recent years.