I’m getting a bit fed up with people stating that this Premier League season hasn’t been very good. At first it was just Alan Green, so I didn’t pay any attention because (a) he’s a miserable git and (b) I don’t pay any attention to him anyway. But quite a few commentators and columnists have said it (although not a lot of ordinary fans have – not that I’ve heard).
Admittedly – and yes, this is QUITE a big caveat – I’ve seen very, very few Premier League matches live. Possibly none at all – I don’t have Sky or ESPN and I don’t think I’ve been motivated to make a trip to the pub to watch any games. I’ve been following it in the form of radio and highlights. So my view is up against that of people who have watched loads more of it than I have. But the fact that I’ve enjoyed this season more than any for a while – including last season, which a friend of mine persistently said had been amazing, but which I thought was just pretty good – may be because the actual quality of football on display has been less of a factor for me.
This sounds stupid. But there is clearly more to enjoying football than the quality of the matches: an element of surprise also makes a big contribution, and the two are sometimes mutually exclusive. Surprise results generally require one of the two teams to play either surprisingly well or surprisingly badly, and you can argue that we’ve seen more of the latter than the former in this season’s numerous enjoyable upsets and high-scoring matches. There’s certainly been a lack of consistency – the same Wigan team which beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal this season also got spanked 9-1 at Tottenham (and matches like the latter are probably more fun to watch as 15 minutes of highlights than if you witness the entire defensive farrago).
It’s also the case that the title is going to be won by one of the two teams who’ve won it each of the past five seasons, both of whom have won it with better squads. Even the excitement of the ‘race for fourth place’ is fundamentally devalued by the fact that nobody in their right mind should be getting excited about a race for fourth place, and there is something fundamentally wrong with any competition where such excitement is liable to occur. Also, the four teams who’ve been gunning for that have been pretty fallible themselves: Tottenham have been excellent, yet lost to Wolves. Twice.
But to my mind, this creeping inconsistency is making the Premier League more interesting. Consistency was throttling the life out of the division, with its settled top four who often lost insanely small numbers of games per season. This year we’ve had a genuine three-horse race until a couple of weeks ago when Arsenal bottled it, and the title will probably be decided on the final day. It’s still far from clear who the top four will be. A lot of foolish predictions have been made, which adds to the fun.
But perhaps what I’ve enjoyed most about this season isn’t the season itself, but the possibility it’s presented of change in the established order. United might yet win the title and become the first to do it four times in a row, but they’re markedly inferior to the line-ups that won the other three and they’re mired in a hilariously abysmal ownership situation. Chelsea need to be totally refreshed over the next few seasons and seem to be banking on their young players coming good. As I type that, I’ve just watched Daniel Sturridge score an excellent goal against Stoke on MOTD2 but I think the Premier League is gearing up for a sea change and I am happy to let that be my own foolish prediction.