Many football experts say that the Premier League is the best in the world. However, this a view challenged by Pundit Arena’s Michael Laverty. He looks at the ways the league has changed and how it’s actually gotten worse overall compared to approximately ten years ago.
The intensity of the game has increased in the Premier League. There was a 30% increase in high intensity output in the six seasons previous to 2012/13, over 2000 meters extra high intensity movement since 2008/09! This is an incredible statistic, and shows how the game has become more intense, even since Cristiano Ronaldo has left.
Behind this is a lot of investment in players’ fitness, through tactical changes and implementing fitness training. There is a lot more turning and sprinting nowadays than there has been, even in recent years. You can also tell by the competitiveness and the upset in results, as well as a closer fight for the title at the top and to avoid relegation. Even the teams that aren’t at the top are investing in the players’ fitness and increasing the pace of their game.
This makes Ryan Giggs’ twilight years seem even more impressive now doesn’t it? Unfortunately with an increase in intensity, this may mean players are more likely to get injured and that the pace of the game forces them out of the Premier League at a younger age, although this a generalisation, and obviously not true in every case. Adaption is key and changing quickly to adapt.
English Pool of Players
One doesn’t need this writer to tell you how the lack of English players has affected the English national team. It seems this is an area the Premier League is suffering in, and they need to adapt quickly. I personally agree with Michael Owen’s view that a ‘B’ team system or a youth player loan system to bridge the huge jump between youth player and first team player is needed.
Of course, technical coaching also needs looked at, because whilst I agree with Owen’s views, when England has a team full of world class players, they fall short, and you have to ask why they barely even got close. For me, it is down to the technical and tactical side of the game, as well as pressure by the media.
Surely more should have come from that incredible team of talent with the likes of Beckham, Ferdinand, Rooney, Scholes, Gerrard, Lampard etc.?
A mix between Owen’s views and my own of using the personnel resources when they are good enough, which they didn’t do, are what I believe. This is the same for the Republic of Ireland at the moment, but I do believe there are some good Irish players coming through in the next few years.
The point is that Spain and Germany are clearly succeeding from their success of developing young players, and the likes of the USA and Australia are doing the same by attracting big players and giving young kids the dream of being their hero. This is where it gets important from a league quality and attraction point of view.
It is nicer for fans to enjoy having a hero in their team from the same country, or if they’re lucky, the same proximity like Scholes and Gerrard were. Nothing beats seeing top players from your own country perform at a high level. This is part of the attraction of the Premier League.
Top Players, Top Teams
In the Premier League at the moment, we have incredible players such as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, and Wayne Rooney. Incredible players to watch. I worry here because the amount of top players in the league is decreasing, and football experts rarely mention this trend.
Compare this to, say 2003-2005, you could name the incredible repertoire of world class players, all with different styles and recognition. 2003-2005 makes me think of great players such as Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Michael Owen, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Patrick Vieira etc., and even other favourites who maybe wouldn’t get into a Premier League XI of their time, but they still had their own style and recognition, such as Alan Smith, Damien Duff, Mark Viduka, Juninho, Jay Jay Okocha, the list goes on.
We are lucky to have Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing at the moment in La Liga, two true greats of all time in world football, but this selection of players is getting smaller and smaller in quantity. Nowadays I could struggle to name a world class full back apart from Lahm. Ten years ago you had Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Gary Neville etc. The same can be said in midfield, with Roy Keane, Vieira, Gattuso, those tough tackling midfielders. The point I am making is if you compare teams 7-10 years ago with teams nowadays, most of the players from back then would easily get a place in the team. The reason is quality, and the apparent lack of it these days.
What Has Happened?
For me, the quality of individual players and of teams have decreased, dramatically. I do not enjoy watching the top teams in the Premier League as much as I did approximately ten years ago. For me, although the teams and individuals now are excellent, with World Cup 2014 winners Germany being a fine example, the teams and the players of the previous decade are top players with a style that is greater to watch and provide more inspiration.
Manchester City have won two recent Premier League titles, but if they were up against Vieira and Henry in the Arsenal squad of 2003/4, I am not sure they would have come quite as close. Having these world class players that are household names, recognisable with their own qualities is the biggest difference to the present day. If you are English or Irish of course it is much better to watch Michael Owen, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Steven Gerrard perform week in, week out compared to now. This is why I believe the quality of the Premier League has decreased, despite the intensity and tactical sides of the game improving.
This should worry the Premier League. As soon as it loses attraction, it loses money, and world class players and kids who dream of being footballers like Beckham, Owen, Giggs or Gerrard. Thankfully, we can enjoy watching Ronaldo and Messi in the current era, but one wonders if we’ll ever see Ronaldo’s return, or Messi’s Premier League debut.