So for the second straight week I’m not writing a column to actually defend the person or organization that I’m talking about in the title. I want people to read my column: sue me. What I am doing, though, is writing about why the English League, the EPL, needs teams like Manchester City to be a more interesting, more competitive league: I’m not trying to defend the hiring and buying practices (which, again, I could do), but instead only suggesting that the EPL needs teams like Man City to keep from being a boring league.
What a controversial premise! The good news is that, thanks to my good friend and noted soccer researcher Joshua Zeitlin over at Princeton University, I have some pretty impressive statistics to back up my argument. What I’ll prove is that in the last 10 years, the EPL has been an extremely uncompetitive league, judging by various metrics: first, the points gap between the teams that ranked 1 and 4, 1 and 10 and 1 and 20, and secondly the overall number of separate teams that ranked in the top 4.
|Average Point Gap||1-4||1-10||1-20|
|EPL POINT GAP||20.8||38.3||63.5|
|LA LIGA POINT GAP||14.5||28.3||48.2|
What’s impressive about this chart is that over the last 10 years, the EPL has had massively larger point gaps than La Liga in every single category, which shows that there is much less competition in the league itself. This point difference could be credited to various different factors: a major skill gap between the top teams and the middle and bottom ones, the massively different amount of money spent in comparison, or other factors. The point is that this difference in skill and level makes the EPL less exciting because its teams are generally mismatched: other than ManU-Chelsea-Liverpool-Arsenal games, the league becomes boring when these teams play anyone else.
This is even more obvious when one takes into account the number of teams that have even been in the top 4 (the C means they’ve won the league in that time).
EPL (7): Manchester United (C), Liverpool, Chelsea (C), Arsenal (C), Everton, Newcastle United, Leeds United.
La Liga (13): Real Madrid (C), Barcelona (C), Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal, Valencia (C), Osasuna, Real Betis, Deportivo La Coruña (C), Real Sociedad, Celta de Vigo, Mallorca, Real Zaragoza.
That’s 13-7 Spain, and 10-5 in the top flight.
So I guess this gets to the crux of my column for this week: the EPL needs teams like Manchester City who can come in and place in the top 4 so that the league itself can break out of the conventional “top 4” mode that its been in for the last 10 or 15 years. Say what you will about European competition (again, statistically, La Liga is at least as good if not better in Europe), but the truth is that domestically, the EPL is far from the dominant super-interesting powerhouse that many in this country (USA) make it out to be. It needs a team to really shake things up–and that team, I think, can be Man City.