The Premier League is actually stronger this season, not weaker…

Date published: Monday 17th February 2020 2:28

Fabinho Andy Robertson Liverpool

Get your mails into…


Lucky Liverpool my elbow
I’m a tad confused about the conversation regarding how “weak” the Premier League is this season?

The thing I struggle to grasp is how the fact that teams expected to challenge Liverpool have dropped so many points, is an indication of league weakness. Unless I’m missing something, surely that is because the rest of the teams are much stronger than they have ever been. This is because of the amount of spending power that has grown for all the teams in the league, so that even mid-ranking teams can outbid top German, Italian and Spanish clubs for the best available talent. So, for me, surely this is a far stronger league than say 15-20 years ago, when there would have been absolutely no chance of the likes of Richarlison playing for Everton or Jiminez playing for Wolves or of players like Lerma, Gross, Tielemans, Pepe, Moura, etc choosing the Premier League over Serie A or La Liga.

Now, you could argue that that the standard of football across Eurpoe is poorer than it was a decade or two ago, but the English game is currently the centre of club football world. If your in any doubt, the fact that all four finalists in the CL and Europa League finals last season where from our league and every team playing in Europe has qualified for the knockout stages is plain to see. I can recall watching the CL on ITV not too long ago, where, around December time the pundits would be lamenting the lack of progress in Europe of our top teams.

The fact that so many of Liverpool’s games have been tight affairs to me tells me that the league is very tough, in my opinion tougher than it has ever been. The fact Liverpool continue to find ways to win is quite staggering and for me they are the greatest team we have seen in the Premier League. The seasons where a team regularly beats teams 5, 6 or 7 nil is surely more of an indication of a weak league.

I totally get that this is the ultimate nightmare for supporters of our rivals. The fact we have a set of players who adore the manager they play for, who are selfless and would run through walls for each other and the fact this has been created in a methodical way which means it is likely to persist, must be soul-destroying. But if you you all want to keep trying to convince yourselves that somehow VAR is responsible for the 25 point lead or that they are somehow lucky or that everyone else is not that good, then great, all that really means is that we will continue to dominate while you all wait for our “luck” to change.
Dale (RIP, Harry Gregg you were a truly remarkable man as well as being a great player) Marlow


Olé Olé Olé
Nice of Roode, MUFC to get his Ole excuses in early by claiming a bad result tonight shouldn’t be another nail in Ole’s coffin because it’s “a ground they have hardly won at since Ole was a player (and we weren’t winning frequently at the Bridge then either )”.

The point isn’t that United should be winning this and if they don’t that he should be given the boot. It’s simply because this is a huge chance to make somewhat of an amends for other results. Winning will put more paper over the cracks, but a loss will only exasperate the structural damage.

I’d also like to know his definition of “double standards”. My understanding was that two similar things get held to different standards. I’m not entirely sure how Arteta’s 10 game reign should be scrutinized in the exact same manner as a manager with 68 games in charge. One similarity they do have is the “points per game”. Arteta has 1.70 and Ole has a slightly better 1.75. However, while Arteta may be on an upward trajectory, Ole’s has taken a very, very noticeable dib since his appointment to full-time manager (2.32 vs 1.53). You might argue that Arteta’s upswing can be misleading based on one recent win, but I’d argue that that’s exactly the point.

But hey, Ole is really good at shifting deadwood, isn’t he? What other manager could possibly have spotted that a shit player was playing shit and that the team didn’t need shit players?
Big D, Luxembourg


Credit to Xhaka
Dear Ed,

I am no fan of Granit Xhaka. I never quite understood what he offered Arsenal and his outburst back in November saw me stood front and centre in the ‘never play for Arsenal again’ campaign. But, since then, what has impressed me more than anything else is his attitude. There has been no dissent, no transfer demands, no whining. He acknowledged his mistake, took his punishment and then simply knuckled down. On Sunday, he worked hard and put in a good shift. But what impressed me most was his trawl around the pitch after the match applauding the whole stadium.

To be frank, I’m still not sure what he offers the club. We have better holding midfielders (Torreira) and better central midfielders (Willock, Guendouzi). But the man must be given full credit for his attitude. We are very quick to shout when players get something wrong. Let’s at least offer some credit for a fine display of hard work and humility.

Well done, Mr Xhaka, I applaud you (which I did on Sunday when he came past me).

Now just stop falling over so much when you are brushed. It’s annoying!!

Tim, Bedfordshire Gooner, hoping to see Ozil and Cabellos play together more often.


Retrospective punishment
Everyone and their dog are gazing at their crystal balls, trying to work out what the heck is going to happen with Manchester City. There a million multi-page think pieces that say a whole lot of nothing. And outside The Athletic too.

One of the more interesting, though bizarre approaches, is to talk about retrospective punishments in the same vein as those Juventus suffered after their cheating scandal. That’s when, as well as being relegated, they had the previous two league titles taken away from them and given to second place Inter.

We’ve already had similar questions raised in the mailbox, but they’re missing one detail. These offenses are for 2012-2016. During that time City won a single title.

So, I’ve got two questions for the world (okay, the mailbox). Do we give Gerrard a league title? And how do Inter fans feel about those awarded championships?
Andrew M, Joburg


To all the boys I’ve transferred before…
Since Mansour “allegedly” financially juiced his club to the tune of 60 odd million per season,or a minimum of 300 million total, between 2012 and 2016, I thought it’d be interesting to examine the ramifications of that.

Completely ignoring any money earned by the ill gotten league and champions league success (in terms of money earned, because City have no CL success), how could this team have looked without it?

11/12 – no Aguero or Nasri (67 mil)
13/14 – no Fernandinho (40 mil)
15/16 – no KDB, Sterling, or Otamendi (185 mil)

These numbers take into account the net spending of those seasons, so as to make it as much about the injected money as possible.

This of course continued with players like Sane, Mahrez, and another 250+ million in defenders, but if we look at nothing but the time (and amount) they are currently being accused of and punished for by Uefa, it becomes clear, in my mind at least, that this isn’t a victimless crime, and that their success was only a product of their owner publicly agreeing to follow the same rules as everyone else, then giving the Premier League a big “fuck you.” Not only were their 12′ and 14′ titles the product of this fraud, but their current success is predicated on this team purchasing players who should have never been transferred because City should have never been able to afford them if they were following the rules.

I 100% agree with Andy (MUFC), that this is a club of cheaters who laid the ground work to assemble a team of cheaters that is still relevant 4 years after they supposedly stopped cheating.

For those at all familiar with testosterone use as a PED (particularly common in track), science shows that even after stopping use, your body can have achieved permanent gains you couldn’t have gotten had you not cheated to begin with, and so even if you serve a ban after getting caught, you will still come back as a better athlete than those who were clean all along. I see no difference here, where the City roster is still full of amazing talents that never should have been here, who they can also now sell on for substantially more than they bought for. The Premier League needs to make an example of them.
Jacques, Oxford


When the Abu Dhabi money first came in…
Since Friday’s announcement, I have heard numerous City fans complaining about the very principle of FFP, and how it exists solely to preserve a cabal of elite clubs at the top.  Whilst FFP may be flawed, there is something that needs to be pointed out to City fans and the wider club, something that has been lost in the annals of time.

When the Abu Dhabi money first came in, one of the first things City did was to make moves for the star players of their rivals, namely John Terry at Chelsea and Wayne Rooney at Manchester United, tapping up their respective agents and writing an awful lot of zeros on a napkin (or however these things actually work).  This left Chelsea and United in a predicament; either sell your prized asset to this newly minted rival or renew a contract you otherwise wouldn’t at a massively inflated figure (both chose option 2, giving out the highest contract ever awarded by the club at that time).  From City’s point of view, it was win-win.  You either get a great player, improving your team and weakening a rival, or you negatively impact their finances, and skew their wage budgets massively upwards with all the subsequent knock-on consequences that brings.  They did the same to Arsenal, though in that case the club were more willing sellers owing to their stadium debt and were happy to take the fees offered for the likes of Toure and Adebayor.

The point is, right from the get-go, City were happy to weaponise their money; to use it as a stick to beat their rivals with rather than merely one to enhance themselves (which to an extent is where they differed from Abramovich’s approach).  Football is a business, and not a particularly fair one, but is also still a sport, and in a sport you need competition.  The way City wanted to use their money before FFP would have meant, even more so than it already does, whomever has the deepest pockets wins. FFP may be flawed, but it’s better than the alternative path that City clearly demonstrated they were going to gladly walk down.
Lewis, Busby Way


Saka for England? He was rubbish yesterday…
I thought Saka was rubbish yesterday – heavy first touch, didn’t get back into position and routinely left his winger and centre back exposed.

My assessment of the young man’s performance has nothing to do with the fact that I want him to have the whole summer off so he can come back fully rested rather than going off to the Euros.

I think Southgate is doing a cracking job – there’s nothing to see at the Emirates – we’re 10th and all our English players are rubbish.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


On Ronaldo and existentialism
Just read Harry De Cosemo’s piece re Ronaldo’s single-mindedness, and the perception that he inhibits his teammates in his pursuit of personal glory. I guess the obvious counterargument is that his dogged pursuit of greatness forces everyone around him to strive for his standards every day, in training and on a match day.

I can only imagine seeing someone work that hard and turn up every single match day and give their all lights a fire under a squad like nothing else, and that’s definitely the impression that is given by Ronaldo’s past teammates – I’ve not really heard anyone inside his teams criticising him on this point, which would indicate that it’s an outsider perception and doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. I guess that it is based on his relative lack of league titles compared to Messi, but the instability at Madrid has rarely been conducive to the consistency needed for league wins.

Regardless, the man is about to clock up his 1,000th senior game on his next outing (724 goals, in case you were wondering). As a fan, this has plunged me into an existential crisis, as his signing for United on the eve of the charity shield does not feel like 16.5 years ago. As a teammate, I can only imagine that seeing someone with that quality display that level of commitment is inspirational every day.



A laboured metaphor…
Tesla, Uber, even Amazon (bit more to that one) and many more besides ….upstarts, disruptors, call them what you will, running huge losses for years (some making profits now) in a bid to built what are/will potentially become absolute corporate giants.

Can Ford and VW or your London cabbie or Waterstones (and now every retailer in the world who’s being decimated by Amazon) say hold on a second, you can’t do that, this is my world and you’re not welcome! ….we’re going to put some rules in place to stop you challenging our dominance!

Sound a bit like FFP and Europe’s traditional giants??

I know football is much more nuanced and tribal and linked to fans etc…but at the end of the day it’s a huge global business…. FFP is built on some very shaky ground for me!

I’m a Liverpool fan, I should be delighted but can’t help feel a sense of foreboding…

(I’d imagine Jonny nic, must be delighted as the football apocalypse looms large)
Mark Swift


Bernd Leno – any good?
I’ve watched a load of Arsenal games with Bernd Leno and I just can’t work out if he is any good.

On one hand he does not make a heap of mistakes but equally never gives off the feeling that nothing his going to get passed him.

Clearly not the best or worst keeper in the league, do people think he is good!?
Paul K London

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