Friday, August 26, 2011

Two At the Top

Correspondent Ed and a pal, doing their best impersonation of the Thompson Twins
photo by A National Acrobatvia PhotoRee

Ed is back, with an analysis that (for once) is hard to argue with:

There’s a campy ‘80s hit by a band called the Thompson Twins that begins:

If you were here, I could deceive you,
And if you were here, you would believe

Well, “campy” is a bit negative; it’s actually a cute little tune that can be tough to get out of your head once you start to hum it or whistle it or whatever. But it pretty much sums up what we’re being sold these days by the media about the EPL. “Oh” they say, “it’s no longer a Big Four, it’s now a Big Six.” Or, “there’s really six teams at least fighting for the top spots in this league.” Well, sorry folks, but as much as the EPL’s going to be exciting this year, it’s really turned into a league of two.

Yep. First there’s Manchester City. As the grandmother of a friend of mine used to say, “Rich or Poor, it’s good to have money.” And I think that sums up where City’s at right now.

City have an annual payroll of something like £100MM. Wow. People keep speaking of the number of talented players on their bench, and how wastefully they’ve spent. Well, perhaps that’s part true, but City brass has been pretty clear that they’re looking to have two top tier players at every position on the field. This gives them depth over a very long season, and it gives them the ability to put the guy in form into the rotation, and bench the guy who just isn’t getting it done for some reason or another. This strategy is expensive. However, it’s also very calculated and effective. It’s kind of like the Terminator showing up at the doorstep of every person named “Sarah Conner.” In the end, you know you’ll get your guy.

Granted, City “struggled” a bit last year. But despite not looking smooth or complete, they still bludgeoned their way into the fourth spot in the EPL. This year? Well, they’re looking like they know what it’s like to play with each other, and despite giving up two goals to Bolton, they looked like a team that’s on the march. City have few weaknesses, and are built for the long haul of the EPL. There’s really only one team in their way: Manchester United.

Yes, that United. The one that was able to win the EPL last year and get to the finals of the Champions League with Ryan Giggs still playing a critical role. United this season was able to shore up their defense as well as bring in some top tier players up front by spending a mere £50MM. And they haven’t even dropped another £30MM for Wesley Schneider yet. Wow, that’s a lot of jingle.

United currently has about four top tier strikers (only City comes close to that number), including the guy who led the league in scoring last year, Dimitar Berbatov, who now might not even be good enough to stay on the squad. Credit is also due United management, with their development and bringing in the right young players. That said, Sir Alex’s team this year is one big attempt to get smaller and faster and therefore able to match up with and beat Barcelona. That’s his focus right now. It’s interesting that he seems to be matching player types; query whether that’s enough or whether the system also needs to be changed.

So which of the next four in the "big six" matches up with these two powerhouses? Arsenal? They’ve spent nothing so far, and have unwillingly sold their two best players to Barcelona and City. Liverpool? Well, after selling Torres for £50MM they turned around and made some nice additions, but let’s face it, they have nowhere near the speed of United or the talent of City. Spurs? Please see the brilliant work by the other Spurs fan at farlieonfootie published only two days ago. Chelsea? Well, Chelsea certainly have some cash, but the Torres move last year was folly, and they weren’t even willing to do what it took to bring in Luka Modric. In short, Chelsea doesn’t have nearly the manpower of the Big Two.

So where does that leave the EPL this year? Pretty simple really. It’s the teams from the same city battling for number one, and everyone else in the Second Four battling for the next two. Fun? Yes. But let’s not be deceived to believe something else.

This is farlieonfootie for August 26.

1 comment:

  1. Bah humbug! When Liverpool start to gel and get one more defender, they will be on par with the Manchester teams. Granted, they don't have the depth beyond the bench, but the first team is laden with quality. Injuries will likely keep them fighting for a top 4 finish, but if they get lucky in that regard - title contenders!