Is this the charm of the Premier League at work? The most obvious may come out on top in May, but despite this season still being somewhat in its infancy, we really don’t have a clear cut winner marked out.
Even with Manchester City getting all their business done early, bar the throwaway signing of Martin Demichelis, they’ve been unable to avoid any problems early on. The loss away to Cardiff City may be seen as a fluke, a one off, but it would be wise to analyse the problems that lie far deeper than a simple bad day at the office.
It’s proof that getting all your business done early can count for very little, although maybe that’s just a further test of the Premier League. Good footballing sides won’t always win the day. City dismantled Newcastle on the opening weekend, and despite the problems Alan Pardew’s side faced, you’d expect nothing else from a squad as a strong and capable as the one at Manuel Pellegrini’s disposal.
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So when some sections thought it became clear that the wholesale changes in the City attack would allow Chelsea to step forward – in comparison, Jose Mourinho’s side made tweaks rather than major changes – the loss at Everton offered another early glimpse as to how difficult it can be for even the strongest to go through the first five or six games of the season with a 100 per cent record. The fact that Liverpool are top of the table, a team without European football this season, and Arsenal, the club in perennial crisis, in second, will offer further weight to the notion that England’s product is best. We want unpredictability and curveballs, right?
This is all great for the neutrals, although I’d really, really love to meet these ‘neutrals’ that are so often discussed. Let’s be honest, it’s a myth, isn’t it? Everyone has an agenda, one way or another. There’s always something riding on a match which features a pair of teams which you have no affiliation with. Arsenal fans would have backed Swansea in their 2-2 draw against Liverpool on Monday night, a great advert for the Premier League (another tired and ridiculous cliché), simply because they had an interest in staying top.
But the point is, the “rigours of the Premier League” isn’t a myth, unless teams really screw up their chances of landing the league title, such as last season, offering United a clear run. Managers are right when they say you don’t achieve your targets by the business you do in July and August. We should be impressed by Tottenham’s business, right? But what if Liverpool finish above them? What if City and all their spending early on prove to be little in the way of competition for Manchester United, who we all can assume at present are not really favourites to retain the title?
It’s a good thing for English football. Some people like equilibrium and the maintaining of balance; La Liga, therefore, is an attractive product with one or two surprises along the way, just to keep you young. The Premier League in contrast, and by compensating for a lack of a really eye-catching and attractive football throughout – whether it’s Southampton vs. West Ham or Manchester United vs. Chelsea – keeps people guessing. Yes it is a charm in a way. It’s sports that occasionally steps over the boundary into entertainment – and no, not like Vince McMahon’s lot.
It can be boring and anti-climactic when pundits talk up a season as the best ever. Manchester City’s late snatch of the title from United wasn’t really groundbreaking, was it? Just as always, it was two teams fighting for the title. The circumstances may have been entertaining, but it wasn’t really different. This season, however, there could be legs in the idea that the title could go more than one of two ways. Maybe not four or five, but you’d bet that six teams will be in the mix for the top four. That’s the near certainty and the entertainment factor of this season. The surprise at the end of the campaign in the form of a league champion is the bonus. In theory, of course.
Will this be the most entertaining Premier League season?
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