You don’t need to be a psychic to predict which club will win the 2018/19 Premier League. While Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool may be burning money like candles at Christmas, most people can see that Manchester City are priming to pull off a minor miracle for English football.
You may now rage, red-faced and fuming, about our usage of the phrase ‘minor miracle’. Pep Guardiola is after all one of the world’s greatest managers working with both one of the world’s greatest squads and world’s biggest budgets. But defending the title is harder than you might expect.
None of UEFA’s 55 registered countries have gone longer than England without a club defending the top domestic title. Not since 2008/09 has the Premier League been won by the same team consecutively. That means that for eight seasons running, we’ve had the country’s top club drop the nation’s highest accolade and fail to hold their grip on English football elite division crown.
In fact, since Manchester United pipped Liverpool to the post to claim their third successive title in 2009, four different clubs have won the league. That, for all you maths whizzes out there, works out at a different team winning every other season.
It seems to have become one of those opinions that was once ragingly popular and then swiftly dismissed when it became too mainstream: the pub didn’t want to hear that the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world anymore, and so we slandered it as a predictable annual re-run.
But, if it’s not being stormed year in, year out by the same side, why would anyone think it’s boringly predictable?
It’s a fair enough question, but one that overlooks the influence of a certain Sir Alex Ferguson. It was Fergie who steered United into three running Premier League titles when the league was last defended and also into winning 13 titles in just 21 years. That kind of dominance will never be repeated and the view that the Prem rocked either gathered momentum due to his mesmerising successes or, in his absence, because of the refreshing victories of four different teams in just five seasons.
Turning our eyes abroad for a moment also reveals the fallacy behind our little statistic. Yes, four teams have won the league in the last eight seasons, in America six have, five in the supposed one-horse race of France and four also in Holland. Behind them sit three winners in both Italy and Spain and, of course, Leicester City’s triumph – although fantastic – was something of a fluke.
Defending the title and dominating the league, it would seem, is hard wherever you play.
Clearly, though, it’s the Premier League which is winning when it comes to just how hard it can be. Should Liverpool, United or Spurs triumph this season, we will have seen ten running seasons without a back-to-back win and that, in a league of 20, is certainly something to write home about.
Looking at last season’s table, it’s clear that England’s top tier provides a challenge throughout too. Finishes such as Burnley in 7th and Stoke in 19th combined with the separation of relegation from tenth place by just 11 points prove this better than anything.
The England squad showcased players from 10 different clubs and 49 teams have played in the league since its inception in 1992, meaning over half of the Football League’s 92 clubs have competed at some point.
So, while there’s certainly a case to argue that the Prem is a little predictable and perhaps not as competitive as Sky might have you think, it’s clearly not all a pack of lies.
Commonly held opinions die fast in today’s game but we shouldn’t slander what truly is the thrilling spectacle of a top competition. The Premier League may not be faultless and certainly has its issues but it sure as hell is competitive.
Fingers crossed for Pep’s implosion.