Premier League Parody in 2011

 

 

Radoslav Ivanov

The English Premier League, often dubbed “the best soccer league in the world,” is going through a very peculiar stage right now. Having been dominated by the Great Four – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal – for the last 15 years or so, it is now looking more even and competitive than it ever has. It was already evident last year that Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa would soon be competing for the first four spots in the league but I do not think many people expected to see City tied with United for first place and Tottenham comfortably in fifth po­sition, just one point behind Chelsea and many in front of Liverpool.

It is the Reds that have been struggling the most throughout the last two seasons. The change of owners and the two consequent manager switches have understandably led to hard times. Liverpool barely managed to qualify for the Europa League last year and are currently in 13th position, which is better than 18th, where they were only a few months ago but still sounds horrible to any Scouser. New owner John Henry has hired Kenny Dalglish in an attempt to finally bring some momentum and confidence to the team. After all, King Kenny, as the fans call him, was coaching Liverpool when they last won the Premier League two decades ago. Admittedly, he has not coached a team for more than ten years now but he does have the winning spirit and ambition of the Liverpool of the ‘80s, one of the best teams in the history of the sport. Even though Liverpool lost their first two matches since Dalglish’s arrival and drew in the third, the fans rimly support him and believe that, with the acquisition of one or two quality players during the January transfer window, Liverpool might again turn into a force to be reckoned with.

Like Liverpool, Chelsea is also experiencing one of their hardest slumps of the past ten years. Hav­ing started extremely well and virtually destroying every single opponent both in the Premier League and in the Champions League, Chelsea is current­ly in fourth position, seven points behind United. It is really hard to explain what led to this situation, but a 3:0 defeat to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge and a 3:1 loss to Arsenal (their first loss to their city rivals for quite some time) are just two of the most shocking results that the Blues have produced late­ly. While it may be true that they have had some players injured during the last few months, their stars Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Florent Ma­louda and Peter Cech have featured in most of the recent defeats, somehow unable to repeat any of the performances that won them the title and the FA Cup last season. Only time will tell whether this is just a short period of cleansing, so to speak, or if it is a chronic disease; in any case, coach Pablo Ancelotti is very lucky to have not been fired, given owner Roman Abramovich’s rash decions when it comes to managers and will definitely be forced to leave should this negative run continue for a few more weeks.

The other two teams in the Big Four are still in the title race, and have not lost any quality since last year, but it still seems they are not quite worthy of being champions, especially when one compares them to Spanish leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid. Arsenal, for example, have finally started playing better against their main rivals, and even managed to beat Chelsea, but are still not consistent enough to pose a real threat to the two leaders from Manchester. Defeats to West Brom­wich Albion at home in the Premier League and to Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup are just two examples of their oscillating form. Yet, as coach Arsene Wenger has been saying for so many years now, their young players are finally beginning to gain confidence and may form a very strong team in the next few years.

Finally, Manchester United is the only afore­mentioned team that, though undergoing a change of generations, has not lost much of their former brilliance. What is more, United has only lost a single game this season, a defeat to West Ham in the Carling Cup, and, having played two games less than City, is in a very good position to run away from their opponents. While some of their fans, myself included, claim that the Red Devils are lacking some of the creativity that used to be a trademark of theirs in the ‘90s and early 2000s, sure to be lost with the forthcoming re­tirements of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, it is true that the team has handled the loss of two of their best players in recent years, namely Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, quite well. Coach Sir Alex Ferguson is absolutely convinced in the abili­ties of his players and is refusing to buy anyone in January. Yet, even though they may managed to win the Premier League for a record-break­ing 18th time, it looks very unlikely that they can stop any of the Spanish superpowers in the Champions League.

All in all, this is certainly the most interesting season in the English Premier League for the last several years. Even though the top teams’ quality may have gone down a bit, the overall competitive­ness and unpredictability of the league makes for a very interesting tournament, one that no one will want to miss.