4 spots for 6 teams
On Saturday, Adebayor face-stomped Robin van Persie. That was the first bush-league move from Manchester City all season… unless you count Adebayor’s celebratory slide in front of Arsenal’s grumpy fans. Other than the antics of the Premier League’s version of Terrell Owens, though, City has looked every bit the part of a contending team. They counter-attacked with surgical precision against Arsenal, so much so that I would say they may possess the best counter-attack in the entire league. That alone makes them incredibly dangerous.
Spurs were on bye this week. At least, that must be what they told the players, because I have no other explanation for the total lack of energy and emotion from a Tottenham side that had every reason in the world to want to put the boot in the neck of a Manchester United side that whups them every season. But let’s call that game a fluke. As Ape Man pointed out during our live chat of the game, the Spurs defense is always pretty decent. Now that they have 4 potent strikers and midfielders like Lennon, the injured Modric, and Palacios, they’re stacked in every aspect of the game.
It would be a surprise if any one of Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U, or Chelsea didn’t make the top 4, but can’t you say the same about City and Spurs now, too? Are their rosters any worse? Are their resources any less? At this point, why should there be any distinction between the big four of the last several years and the upstarts this year? I am pre-emptively rolling my eyes at anyone who simply says “history.” How many trophies does Arsenal have the last 5 years? What about Liverpool since their FA Cup in 2006? How many championships have the players on this Man U team won without Ronaldo? (Other than Ryan “Get off my lawn, you rascals!” Giggs.) And how many coaches have Chelsea tossed aside since Mourinho left?
It’s not that history isn’t a factor, but I do think people confuse history with experience. And it isn’t only the current rosters of Tottenham and Spurs that face limitations in the experience department.
As bad as it is for the fans of any one of the big four to ponder the humiliation of dropping from the Champs ranks of the EPL, it’s good for the overall game for there to be so many competitive teams bunched at the top. More games seem like big games, there are more giants to slay for the EPL underdogs (and also more big-name vistors to boost ticket revenue), and it might mean that lower overall point totals will be required to win the League. That also slightly increases the odds that, one of these years, a team truly can come from out of nowhere to win it all.
American teams have been trending towards parity for the better part of 20 years. I wouldn’t exactly put this development in that category; after all, it’s not like there’s a salary cap in the Premiership. But the privileged few are no longer guaranteed a safe landing spot, and that will make the entire season infinitely more exciting.
Note to self: Just remember this if/when my team is one of those left out in the cold.