Tuesday May 15, 2012 at 12:13pm
No one can argue that the end to the Premier League season was remarkable. The scenes following Sergio Aguero’s goal were something that we haven’t witnessed for a generation and those last two minutes might just be the most exciting climax to a season ever – certainly since 1989 when Michael Thomas’ goal gave Arsenal the title with more or less the last kick of the season.
No one can dispute either that – particularly when the big teams met – there were some great games and that some of the football played was superb on occasion. There was also a tally of goals that apparently is the best since the Premier League began in 1992.
But when, on Match of the Day on Sunday night, Messrs Hansen, Shearer and Lineker proclaimed it to be the “best ever “ Premier League season, are we sure they weren’t just engaging in a bit of hype?
Simply put, I would argue differently. I would argue that whilst the end was exciting (and the way Man City overhauled the lead of their rivals was quite incredible) the quality just isn’t there in the way that it used to be.
City and United were the best teams, but the rest rather flattered to deceive. Arsenal were a shadow of their former selves and came third because they had Robin Van Persie. Spurs showed that they were nowhere near title contenders. Newcastle worked miracles to get where they were with the team they had and Chelsea’s period of transition looks like it might be couple of seasons before it’s completed.
What of the rest? Everton were ok, Liverpool’s expensive gamble didn’t pay off and then there were a vast amount of teams in the middle who will not look back on the campaign with any pride. The likes of Sunderland, Stoke and Villa have largely just plodded along, doing just enough to not seriously be in trouble really.
Norwich and Swansea performed admirably in their first season up and The Swans in particular impressed many with the standard of their football, while QPR for all the money they spent, just kept themselves up.
The teams at the bottom were bad. Wolves had a horrible season – despite briefly topping the table in August, Blackburn was a car crash waiting to happen and Bolton never recovered from their bad start in the way Wigan did. And in fairness to Wigan, who was better to watch than them in the last two months?
This is the first time for 10 years that all three promoted teams have stayed up. Now, granted QPR took it to the last day and spent a lot of money to do it. But that is not the case for the other two. Both Norwich and Swansea, it is fair to say stayed up with ease and never looked in any serious danger of going down. Is this a one off blip, or does it signify that the gap between the Championship and the Premier League is closing? And if that is the case then is the quality getting better in the Championship, or is it a top level decline?
There is more to a great season than just a list of teams. It’s about moments. It’s about skill and the quality of player seems to have diminished. There are some fine players in the Premier League, of course, but it does seem to me that the standard of the players is not as high as it was a few years ago.
Where are Bergkamps, the Le Tissier’s, the Henry’s, the Cantona’s? Those magnificent players that you would have paid to watch. This is – by common acknowledgement perhaps the worst Manchester United team for years and yet it came second. What does that say about the other contenders? Indeed, what does it say about Manchester United themselves that they were able to pull a man out of retirement and he looked their best player? In fact, what does that say about the rest of the league?
It is true to say that there is always a tendency to look back at the past and think everything was better and maybe there is an element of that here. However, if Manchester United had beaten Wigan and Everton as they would normally have, would anyone have been saying it was the greatest campaign in the last 20? But a great finish to the season does not necessarily accurately reflect what has gone on in the other months.
So maybe, when the dust has settled and the euphoria has died down, the 2011/12 Premier League season will be remembered as “the one with THAT end, but apart from that nothing else much happened.”
Not that Manchester City supporters are ever going to care.