klc123 wrote:I respect that view, but it depends what you define as getting weaker or stronger. I agree, the teams lower down in the league are now competing against the top teams for European places and so on. But as also mentioned, the top teams are a hell of a lot worse than they previously were.
The Champions league is always a good indicator, a few years back I remember an all English semi-final, last year there was only one English team in the semi's.
On the world stage, the German league has had massive leaps up the scale, and the Italian league which has always been a strong league improved. French and Dutch leagues also improved in their own right. As for Spain, words don't do it justice...Even the Scottish league has improved, as now Celtic and Rangers are more in competition, whereas usually one team walks the league. The majority of arguments I hear from English supporters is that the English league is the best because it is so tight, where as their argument a few years ago was that England dominated Europe. You don't hear many people talking about how poor English teams have been in Europe in recent years compared to those before though do you...
They also have the misconception that other European leagues are two horse races. Well in my opinion, the Spanish and Italian leagues have far better teams on average across the board, it is only made to seem like a two horse race in Spain because Real and Barca are just so good. If you put Barca and Real in the EPL it would be very interesting to see how many people changed their opinions of La Liga as a walk over.
One of the biggest comparisons you can make however, is the International stage. A few years ago England had a side that on paper was a potential world beating side. Now they are an embarrassing average and extremely over-rated team at best. 99% of England fans would reply to this saying that "English league imports all of its players from around the world", but they try to make that sound like a good thing? I'm sorry, having a reasonable amount of players from around the world is good for a league, but when there is next to no English players in the line-up for some teams, it just shows you how poor the English league is and the FA is,as it has done nothing to improve the situation on developing youth football.
Look at Spain, the best team in the world, most of those players either came through the Barcelona academy as kids, or they came through the youth systems of other Spanish teams before been bought by teams such as Real or Valencia. The thing I respect here is that even teams like Real who are infamous for splashing the cash for players, still look around for young Spanish talent from lower clubs, and pay good money for them and give them match experience. You rarely see such things happen in English teams these days unless some kid is exceptional.
Not wishing to pick a fight, but this seems a tad contradictory and frankly I'm not ready for bed yet. So here goes.
1) Using the Spanish national team as an example, how strong can the Spanish league be if all of the top players play for the same two or three clubs? I think eight Barcelona players started the World Cup final. One of the reasons the English league is 'stronger' across the board, or as I would put it, more unpredictable on a game-by-game basis, is the (slightly) more even distribution of local talent.
2) England have always looked good on paper and 90% of the time are embarrassingly average. 5% of the time they are embarrassingly bad and the remaining 5% of the time they live up to expectations. No amount of foreign imports has changed that; you rightly alluded to the need for more time, investment and effort into grassroots football. Most of the team from the 'golden era', e.g. the players under Sven who played in Japan/South Korea and Germany, played in South Africa. I think this is a good indicator of the predicament of the young English footballer today. Having few English players in the line-up of an English team is not an indictment on the strength of the league itself; it is a more fundamental problem than that.
3) Inter Milan started the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich with no Italians in the line-up (Materazzi came on for about thirty seconds). Yet in the Italy team that won the World Cup Final in 2006, all of the players were, at the time, playing in Serie A, representing seven different clubs. If the Champions League or international football are good indicators of the strength of a country's league, where does that put your argument about the influence of foreign players? In the Premiership about 60% of the players are foreign;in Italy the figure is 30%, while in Spain it is about 40%.
My point is that if a team does well in a tournament it is not because it is a part of a 'strong league' where most of the players are local, or where most of the teams are quite strong.
4) Celtic and Rangers are the only teams capable of winning the Scottish league, and the same has been true for donkey's years. Both Celtic and Rangers regularly disappoint in the Champions League. Scotland haven't qualified for an international tournament since 1998. On what basis has the Scottish league improved?
5) Judging by the performance of Roma against Ukraine's second team tonight, and by Milan's against England's fifth or sixth team the other week, I don't think it is reasonable to say that the Italian league is stronger across the board. Unless of course you dismiss the argument that the Champions League is a good indicator of the strength of the league. Don't forget that last year United were knocked out by an astonishing away goal and were not helped by some dodgy refereeing. In short, using tournaments, whilst useful in some respects, is not a perfect tool for providing evidence on the strength of a league. Nor, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is quickly forming opinions based on things that have only really been evident for about a year.
In closing I don't think it is really possible at the moment to say if one league is 'stronger' than another. Especially if you only use European and international tournaments as indicators. You can only really speculate about how much you can really speculate about the outcome of games or the final league table. In England and Italy the top four is likely to be different to last year. But I couldn't say with any confidence where, say, Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool will finally finish. Ergo the English and Italian leagues are more unpredictable, and in that respect more interesting to watch, than the Spanish league. Only Real Madrid or Barcelona will win the league this year; the same was true last year and the same will be true next year. The gulf between those two teams and the rest of the league is ridiculous, both in the calibre of the players and in the quality of the football being played.
It is important that we distinguish between the strength of a league, the unpredictability of a league, and the overall footballing quality of a league. They are not synonymous but they can be easily confused if one is not careful. Similarly it is not the strength of a league nor the strength of the clubs within that league which determine international success.
I've been getting rapidly sleepier as I type this so I hope it makes sense, at least grammatically. Do excuse any incoherence.
scottS4 wrote: So it looks like Nani will be out for 3 weeks or so.
That wolf got him good alright.
The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.