Is the Premier League actually not that Premier?

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barclays-premier-leagueOn talk shows, comments sections of articles and other mediums for discussion on all things football, one of the most common complaints is that the Premier League is poor. Some call it average, some even call it mediocre from those really disenfranchised with what they are watching. Why is this? More importantly how do you judge the quality of a league?

Most fans and pundits would say that the Premier League was strongest when teams from the Premier League were regularly getting to the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Between 2007 and 2009 there were 3 English teams each year and the 6 finalist spots in those three years had 4 of them taken by English teams. If it was not for Barcelona under Guardiola, arguably the best club side of all time, then there would probably be a few more English names scratched onto that famous trophy.

However, during that period there were also complaints about the formation of ‘The big 4’ consisting of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United and how it made the league boring and predictable. So what is better? A predictable League with the same sides at the top doing well in Europe, or what it is at the moment with a predictable top 2 and then 4 or 5 sides battling after them for Champions League places but with worse performances in Europe?

What of the other top leagues in European football? Lots of talk has been of the growing strength of the Bundesliga, who have 3 sides in the last 16 of the Champions League (all on course to make the quarter-finals after the first legs). The Bundesliga has been impressively run financially, with most clubs making profits and the highest average attendances in Europe.  It’s also a league where Bayern Munich are currently 17 points clear at the top (although they had not won it the previous two years to a resurgent Borussia Dortmund).  There is also, however, a lot of competition for the Champions League places.

Similarly, La Liga has been said by many as the best league in the world and the arguments for that are quite convincing.  The slightly dubious Fifpro world team of the year from 2012 had all 11 players from La Liga (and just one not from Real Madrid or Barcelona), and boasts a large number of the elite talents in world football.

In many ways, La Liga is similarly structured to the Premier League, with two main teams competing for the league and then 4 or 5 teams competing for the Champions League (Athletico Madrid and some poor results from Real Madrid this year making against that last statement).  The collective performance of La Liga clubs in Europe last season was startling, 2 teams in the Champions League semi-finals (no surprise which two) and 3 in the semi- finals in the Europa League with an all-Spanish final.

Yet this year, Barcelona won virtually all of their league games this year and are well ahead of Real Madrid with only a Falcao inspired Atletico Madrid anywhere near them.  Furthermore there is a real possibility (although would be a huge shock if it did happen) that there will only one team from La Liga left in Europe in a little over two weeks time.  That team being Levante who are not exactly setting La Liga alight these days.

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