As football fans worldwide prepare themselves for the biggest competition of all, I feel myself somewhat disappointed as I reflect on the recently completed Premier League season. Though we have seen Chelsea prevent Manchester United’s fourth successive title, Tottenham Hotspur’s break into the supposed ‘Big Four’ and Fulham reach the Europa League final, as I see it the Premier League 2009/10 was NOT a season to remember.
Before I’m accused of sour grapes, let’s look at the facts. The last time a team won the Premier League and lost six times in the process was a decade ago. Though credit must be given to Chelsea for completing the first double in the club’s history, their squad is ageing, they have been too reliant on their home form, and their off-the-field antics this year have been something of a soap opera. Losing out by only one point, the team that came second, Manchester United, has been widely criticised as being too dependent on one man. Without Wayne Rooney, Fergie’s squad have lacked both direction and a cutting edge, with Dimitar Berbatov who should stop thinking he’s the next Eric Cantona if he’s to have a future at Old Trafford. With regard to fourth place, although I am happy to see Tottenham’s ascent, I would argue the feat was more a result of Liverpool’s failings rather than the mastery of the North London outfit. Looking at the final league table, 14th-placed Bolton Wanderers hardly deserved to stay up with the way they played this season, let alone 17th-placed West Ham. Yes, this season was more competitive and therefore one could argue better for the neutral, but as a fan of a lower-league club (cue jokes) I feel the standard of the Premier League is of more importance than Chelsea slipping up at the DW stadium, or Manchester United losing at Turf Moor. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for the underdogs of this beautiful game, but not at the expense of England’s proud tag of having the ‘best league in the world’.
This is what worries me. The best sides in England this year have not only been inconsistent in the Premier League, but also in Europe. Fulham aside, English clubs have failed to set the European competitions alight. Liverpool failed to even make the quarterfinals of the Champions League while Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal were unable to make it past that stage. So what was the problem? I’ll keep the answers short and simple: Manchester United – losing a world-class talent like Cristiano Ronaldo would affect any club, yet from the £80 million pound fee, United purchased sufficient replacements. Chelsea – this year the midfield, with the notable exceptions of Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard, were lacking in class. Ballack is past his best and Mikel is recognised by Manchester United fans as the smartest money they ever made. Liverpool – selling Xabi Alonso was, in my opinion, Rafa Benitez’s worst decision as manager. Without the trusty Spaniard, Gerrard has been floundering, and his replacement, Lucas, would struggle to break into the starting eleven of a number of Premier League sides. Arsenal – where to start? Drop Arshavin; buy some experienced players; stop them all getting injured (there’s definitely something in the water at the Emirates). Despite all of these failings from the big English sides, the departure of Fabregas to pastures new seems inevitable; Vidic appears restless at Old Trafford; Torres and Gerrard might be offloaded… Am I being too pessimistic? It just seems that we’re succumbing to the financial might of Spanish clubs, and our league will be the one that suffers.