September 26th, 2005 • 11:21 am
There has been lots of talk lately about the English Premier League having become boring… There is no doubt that Chelsea’s dominance and immense squad depth has made the contest significantly less interesting both for fans of other teams and for the neutrals.
On the other hand, it seems to me that it wasn’t so long ago that the EPL was similarly dominated by Manchester United… I wasn’t following the EPL back in the late 1990s, but based on the statistics, the period between the two Arsenal championships in 1998 and 2002 can’t have been too exciting either.
And one only needs to look at the Real Madrid situation in the past couple of years to realize that money doesn’t buy you everything… Granted, Chelsea seem to have been smarter than the Spanish club about their investments, and the wealth of Real Madrid is not exactly as immense as Abramovich’s fortune seems to be.
But there is still hope, from the neutral’s point of view, that Chelsea’s run of victories will come to an end and this season can still provide some kind of competition at the top. After all, they haven’t exactly been all that impressive, and they have had a amazing amount of luck. (The latest victory against Aston Villa is yet another example: two goals on set pieces, one with a lucky free kick and another one with a rather dubious penalty.)
It is also up to other top teams to mount a reasonably strong challenge. And in that respect, both Manchester United and Arsenal are disappointing not just their fans, but also the neutrals. There was nothing fortunate about Blackburn’s victory at Old Trafford on Saturday. And Arsenal’s goal-less draw at Upton Park was yet another uninspired display by a team that seems to have forgotten how to score.
It is true that both teams have been hit with a number of key injuries. But injuries are also supposed to provide opportunities for benched players to prove their worth. Arsène Wenger might have to deal with a very thin squad today, but why did he just purchase one player this summer? It’s not like the club doesn’t have any money at all.
Similarly, it was a fairly quiet summer for Manchester United. And now it looks as if they are totally dependent on Wayne Rooney. That’s way too big a burden to put on his shoulders, especially since he has a tendency to lose his temper and get into trouble.
More importantly, however, I would say that this controversy about the EPL having become boring is a bit overblown. The average level of boredom induced by EPL games doesn’t strike me as being significantly different from previous years. There are still good games and bad games, games with a boring first half and a more exciting second half (Birmingham – Liverpool on Saturday, for example), or vice versa. Part of the problem might be that there are just too many games on TV, and they can’t be expected to all be top-class entertainment.
Still, as an Arsenal fan, I certainly hope that Wenger will find some renewed inspiration for his tactics and his players, since they have been the most consistent providers of entertaining football in the past several years in the EPL.