Is the Premiership in decline?

There’s been a lot of talk this year about the league being more competitive.  The smaller clubs are now taking more points off of the big boys – buy why? The gap is closing between the elite clubs and the rest, but is this because smaller clubs are improving, or that the top teams just aren’t as good as they used to be? I argue it’s a weaking of the elite. The undeniable truth is that the Premiership is no longer the best league in Europe, having been surpassed by La Liga. The  reason that teams like Sunderland, Wolves and Newcastle have been able to take so many points off the big four isn’t that the overall level of quality has improved, but that the big teams have gone downhill. In fact it’s rather alarming at how badly the big four have all declined. If the current Liverpool, Man Unt., Arsenal, and Chelsea teams were to play against the squad they had five years ago, all of the current teams would have their rear ends handed to them in a basket.  Just look at the comparison I have made below. Each of the starting elevens from five years ago are vastly superior to the 2010 vintage.  And thats also ignoring the overall squad depth. For example the 2005 Arsenal team I’ve listed leaves out players of the caliber of Dennis Bergkamp, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini (all players who could easily have walked in the first XI of Arsenal today). The player selections are based on the number of most appearances.

Liverpool 2005-06 ——— Liverpool 2010

Def 2005 10/11

GK Jose Reina —————Jose Reina
RB Steve Finnan ————Glen Johnson
CB Sami Hypia ————- Martin Skyrtel
CB Jamie Carragher ——–Jamie Carragher
LB John Arne Riise———– Paul Konchesky

Defensive Advantage : Liverpool 2005

Mid 2005                          10/11

RM Steven Gerrard ———Dirk Kuyt
CM Xabi Alonso ————-Raul Meireles
CM Dietmar Hamann——- Lucas Leiva
LM Luis Garcia ————–Maxi Rodriguez

Midfield Advantage : Liverpool 2005

Fwd 2005 10/11

ST Peter Crouch ———–Fernando Torres
ST Djibril Cisse ————-David N’Gog

Attack Advantage : Liverpool 2010

Arsenal 2005-06     Arsenal 2010/11

Def 2005    10/11
GK Jens Lehman ———Lukasz Fabianski
RB Emmanuel Eboue —-Backary Sagna
CB Kolo Toure————- Sebastian Squillaci
CB Sol Campbell——— Laurent Koscielny
LB Ashley Cole———— Gael Clichy

Defensive Advantage : Arsenal 2005

Mid. 2005 10/11

RM Freddy Ljunberg——– Samir Nasri
CM Cesc Fabregas———- Cesc Fabregas
CM Gilberto —————–Jack Wilshere
LM Robert Pires ————Andrei Arshavin

Midfield Advantage : Arsenal 2005

Fwd 200510/11
ST Thierry Henry———- Marouane Chamakh
ST Jose Reyes————- Robin Van Persie

Attack Advantage : Arsenal 2005

Manchester United 2005/06 Manchester Unt. 2010

Def 2005   10/11

GK Edwin Van der Sar—  Edwin Van der Sar

RB Gary Neville———– John O’Shea

CB  Rio Ferdinand——– Rio Ferdinand

CB Mikael Silvestre——-  Nemanja Vidic

LB John O’Shea Patrice Evra

Defensive Advantage : Man Unt. 2010

Midfield 2005 10/11

RM Cristiano Ronaldo—-  Park Ji-Sung
CM Darren Fletcher ——-Ryan Giggs
CM Park Ji-Sung ———-Michael Carrick
LM Ryan Giggs————-Nani

Midfield Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

Fwrd 2005 10/11

ST Ruud Van Nistelrooy ——Dimitar Berbatov
ST Wayne Rooney————- Wayne Rooney

Attack Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

Chelsea 20o5/06 Chelsea 2010

Def 2005  10/11
GK  Petr Cech———- Petr Cech
RB William Gallas —–Branislav Ivanovic

CB John Terry ———-John Terry

CB Ricardo Carvalho—–  Alex

LB Asier Delhorno————Ashley Cole

Defensive Advantage : Chelsea 2005

Mid 2005 10/11

RM Joe Cole———- -Florent Maluda

CM Michael Essien  —-Michael Essien

CM Frank Lampard—- Ramires

CM Claude Makelele—- John Obi Mikel

LM Arjen Robben——- Solomon Kalou

Midfield Advantage : Chelsea 2005

Fwd 2005            10/11

CF Didier Drogba/Hernan Crespo —–Didier Drogba/Nicolas Anelka

Attack Advantage : Chelsea 2005
Why is there such a huge gulf in quality from five years ago? The first answer which comes to mind is that it comes down to financial reasons. Five years ago the state of the economy was much better than it is right now. But that explanation doesn’t hold up for very long. First of all most clubs have increased revenue over the last couple of years, drastically so in Arsenal’s case. Yet Arsenal’s improved finances have not meant any improvement in the first team. Secondly, football clubs live in their own universe far removed from reality. Unemployment in Britain could reach 20% and footballers would still be making 200 000 pounds a week.  In the same time as the global recession has forced governments to cut spending, Real Madrid signed Kaka for 56M and C. Ronaldo for 80M pounds.  There’s as much money as ever in football, and English clubs are still swimming in it.
The only reasons I can  think of the decline in quality is a rather quaint explanation. I think the cliche of money ruining football has come true and is a key reason that the players coming through today are not as good as 10 or 12 years ago.  Youngsters who were graduating from academies in the late nineties were still influenced by old school players who came from the pre-prawn sandwhich brigade days. If you were trying to break into the first team at Man Unt. it meant that you would be training with guys like Roy Keane. At Arsenal you might be training with Tony Adams. Those were the last players to come through before the massive commercialization of today.  I think that for this reason players had to work harder to get a big money contract. The money comes too easily for players now which is a disincentive to push themselves to their limits. It’s a simple case of too much, too soon, which has stunted the development of players. This is why players today are just not as good as they used to be. Hardly any of those who were still up and comers around 2005 have lived up to their full potential. For instance Robin Van Persie isn’t half the player Dennis Bergkamp was (who he was supposed to replace) and Michael Carrick has never lived up to the expectations of replacing Roy Keane.  One of the only youngsters from five years ago who has lived up to expectations is Carlos Tevez. And that’s about it really.

SO yes, the problem is money I suppose. Too much of it.



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