We might as well start tagging the word “entertainment” onto the beginning of most sports, and not in that professional wrestling sort of way. Some are appeased by the attractive passing triangles, athleticism and records being shattered every other week. For many others, the added drama and unpredictability is a must. Is that what makes the Premier League king? It’s high profile and consistency to shock certainly gives plenty of credence to that notion.
The Premier League season was really kicked off in fantastic fashion by Michael Laudrup and his new-look Swansea team. Brendan Rodgers had continued the fine work set in stone by Roberto Martinez and now Laudrup was adding his own two pieces of silver to the project. Spanish football is really playing a big part in the success of Swansea so far, but maybe the Premier League needed a little bit of that. It’s always necessary for the bigger clubs to look abroad and take some of the characteristics that make foreign football successful and apply them to their own game, but smaller clubs in the top league also needed to venture down that avenue. It’s good football, but it’s also talking points, it’s surprise results, it’s teams enhancing the product.
Everton’s win over Manchester United on the opening weekend of the new season helped to keep the fires burning for what was already a promising start. We can expect very good performances from Everton, but the way they bossed the game against United and the manner of their win was impressive and sparked many more talking points.
There are surprise wins and fantastic games on the continent, but it’s almost as if the Premier League has a duty to get one over and add greater value to the shock. I’ve been over it before: there’s very little point in talking this league up if it’s offering predictable and rehashed storylines.
The Premier League’s finale last season was said to be the best in the modern history of English football, and it’s hard to argue that. The other point is, it wasn’t just restricted to the title race; Tottenham and Arsenal were battling for the safety net of third place in their quest for Champions League football. The relegation battle is also always one to watch, in a sort of perverse way. I really don’t see where the joy is in watching your team get relegated, but it’s all part of the package.
West Brom, currently in fourth place, could fall away and end up mid-table. On the other hand, what’s to say they can’t mount a challenge for a top six place? It adds to the competitive nature of English football and potentially gives us another perspective of Newcastle’s fantastic season last year. Newcastle might have dropped away and left European football to the bigger teams, history might suggest they should have done. But the club were smart where they needed to be and they brought in players that became the envy of many around the league. They also caused upsets and shock results in breathtaking fashion. West Brom vs. Liverpool on the opening weekend told a similar story.
It’s underdogs, it’s new managers having an immediate effect that washes over the entire country. That’s part of the reason Levante became so popular in Spain last season, eventually winning support in various parts of Europe and topping the La Liga table for the first time in it’s history. It’s something different and the Premier League can boast and should be able to boast those qualities.
It wouldn’t have been easy to predict Manchester City’s relatively slow start to the season, at least by their standards. They’re not picking up the points in convincing fashion, although the writing has been on the wall since Roberto Mancini’s summer bust-up with the club over transfer business. But we don’t really need City to storm ahead of everyone else because there’s a lot of faith that they’ll be at the top of the table come May. What we do need is something a little different to take our minds away from the title race, a race that really only becomes relevant around Christmas.
So far the Premier League is looking at it’s best, if you like that sort of thing. La Liga might have been able to run with a storyline of Real Madrid in crisis, but it would take a real radical shift from the norm to see Jose Mourinho’s team anywhere other than in one of the top two spots come the end of the season. Right now, we don’t know if Manchester City will retain the title; it’s not clear if Manchester United will be in the picture on the last day once again, or even Chelsea for that matter. Importantly, we don’t know what the make up of the top four will be, and that’s the charm of English football and one of it’s great selling points.