Why The Premier League has been ‘poor’ this season!
Chelsea’s inevitable Premier League title triumph has been greeted with an equally inevitable debate about whether or not Jose Mourinho’s side are boring.
The wider question, though – and the one which hasn’t been asked anywhere near as much – is simpler: is this the most boring Premier League campaign ever?
It’s simpler because there isn’t so much to consider – while there’s a genuine question about whether any individual team should seek to entertain, the entertainment value of the league overall is a byproduct of the performances of 20 different teams. It’s not about blaming anyone, simply evaluating the quality of the division.
Chelsea’s utterly convincing victory, of course, is one major reason why this has been a dull campaign. Irrespective of their own style, such a large winning margin ensures there’s has barely been a genuine title race: just as Bayern and Juventus have run away with the title in Germany and Italy, Chelsea have triumphed by a huge distance in England. It’s not Chelsea’s fault for being good, it’s more the chasing pack’s fault for being poor – Manchester City, in particular, have fallen away dramatically.
Further back, the race for the Champions League places has been similarly uninspiring. Both Arsenal and Manchester United wobbled early in the campaign, but those two and City all started the season odds-on to finish in the top four. Liverpool have declined from last season, needing to take a step backwards to take two forwards. The likely top six is exactly as they were predicted back in August.
Two other factors should also be considered. First, there have been very few memorable games this season, especially between the top sides. This is partly because of the lack of competitiveness, of course – Chelsea have rarely been troubled by their title rivals, and there’s simply been less at stake, the games themselves have been less meaningful.
In the previous three seasons we saw genuinely landmark results, historic games with astonishing scorelines. Between 2011/12 and 2013/14, we saw the likes of Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (twice), Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal, Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City, Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal and Chelsea 3-3 Man Utd.
There’s nothing to say that high-scoring games are automatically entertaining – but they’re certainly memorable. This season offers little in comparison: Tottenham’s 5-3 win over Chelsea on New Year’s Day is probably the only candidate for a truly outstanding game, Manchester United’s 4-2 win over City last month was decent, but nothing more.
On a related note, the goals-per-game ratio has also been low: 2.55. That’s compared with around the 2.80 mark over the last five seasons. Again, a lack of goals isn’t necessarily a sign of poor entertainment, but in combination with other factors, it hasn’t helped.
At the bottom, the Premier League’s quality was hampered by the addition of three poor sides. Burnley and QPR look set for an immediate return to the Championship, while Leicester have somehow recovered, but appeared the division’s worst side for the past three-quarters of the season.
The consequence of all this is simple: the relegation battle might be extremely tight, but it’s being contested by some very poor sides. Established Premier League clubs like Aston Villa and Newcastle have endured historically poor runs, but are likely to survive simply because the quality isn’t there.
All of this, meanwhile, is taking place while Premier League sides have flopped in the Champions League. No quarter-finalists summarises the struggles, and English teams appear miles away from the standard witnessed in the semi-finals this season – not only have the matches been dull, not only has the title race been dull, but the top teams aren’t even particularly good.
On a wider note, the availability of foreign football on British television means there are harsher comparisons, as viewers often switch from a low-key Premier League game to a high-tempo Barcelona or Real Madrid match.
And, finally, not all the superstar arrivals impressed. Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have been excellent, but Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao have disappointed, while Mario Balotelli has provided neither goals nor gaffes. With the league’s best player departing in the last two seasons – Gareth Bale than Luis Suarez – the Premier League has lost some of its star quality.
Is there anything going for this season? Southampton’s early-season run was a tremendous success story considering the doom and gloom predicted last summer, while Harry Kane’s emergence into a regular goalscorer was incredible – he was available at 1000/1 for the Golden Boot before the campaign.
But great seasons aren’t characterised by the team who finishes seventh, or the bloke who finishes second top scorer. This season has been something of a write-off – thankfully, 2015/16 is only three months away.
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May 7th, 2015 by Michael Cox