It has been a bizarre PL season until now, with Pool, MU and the Chavs all well outside the top-four and Leicester STILL leading the league. The football on display is so much better than it used to be, especially from the sort of clubs you normally would not immediately associate with good football: Leicester, Watford, Bournemouth, Everton, West Ham etc.
The best thing of the Premier League is that every team can beat every team on the day and there are many examples of this throughout the 2015-2016 season. There is good money available for all clubs now, and if the Board of Directors of these clubs are half decent then they know how to use it well AND attract the right manager for their club. Ranieri at Leicester is a masterstroke, and so is the poetically named Quique Sanchez Flores at Watford. Martinez at Everton is a very good match as well, even though he is, like Moyes, also struggling to move the club to the next level of success. The football on display is very good, though, and with a bit of patience I can see them go places over the next few seasons.
And there are more examples of clubs getting it right, such as Bournemouth, and dare I say it, our North London neighbours. I am also really impressed with West Ham’s change of direction, kicking out ‘route one’ Sammy Allerdici for the brilliant Slaven Bilic, who, in his first season, ‘scalped’ all the big managers in our league at least once!
To me it is very encouraging that the megal-spenders of Chelsea, Man City and Manchester United are currently struggling to dominate the league and that, with a dozen games to go, Leicester, Spuds and Arsenal are above them. This might just be a seasonal blip as we would expect those with the biggest spending power to surface to the top again. Fairness in football, based on the principle that not all can be equal but that with competitive resources, the right strategy and leadership many clubs have a good chance to win the league or FA cup, is important to me.
The spending power and national attractiveness of say Bayern and Real Madrid and Barcelona have let to unfair and predictable leagues where it is likely that 9 out of 10 times one of those teams will win their respective leagues.
Bayern are mega-rich, and, as Owen Hargreaves it once vividly described, are regarded as the prettiest girl in the school, and when she comes calling players go weak in the knees and happily leave their club and team mates in the lurch to be with the hottest one of all. Attracting the best of your main competitors has a double wammy, brutal effect of course, as you weaken them and strengthen yourself at the same time: minus two and plus two makes plus four in these scenarios.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have held the rest in Spain to ransom for a long time with getting the vast majority of the all important TV money and then adding this to their superior ticket sales and sponsorship incomes. These clubs are also very attractive to both Spanish and European/South-American players because of their status and legacy, which makes it even harder for the rest to compete with them. I find it vulgar to see Barca attack us with Messi, Suarez and Neymar – an attack of the street value of say £250m. I could not help but think that if we had had one of these three players starting for Arsenal midweek, we would have given them a far better game.
The Italian clubs used to compete for the best talents but Italian club football is now probably at its weakest point ever, losing out to clubs from Spain, England and Germany almost every time.
I am glad that the PL has been so competitive this season and let’s hope this will continue. Even if Leicester do not win the league in May, they will have given all of the less dominant and rich clubs hope that with the right strategy, team leadership and clever investments in players success can be achieved. This hope/belief is vital to the success and attractiveness of the sport both short and long term.
The prerequisite for competitive/surprising PL seasons to continue beyond this one, is a relatively fair contribution of the TV moneys made, which in turn will lead to a very competitive league that will continue to attract mega audiences in the UK and across the world. The rest of Europe better take note.