Premier League

No Competition: Why We Should Be Grateful for the Premier League

This Premier League season will be remembered for Manchester City’s brilliance, as they carried all before them to win with record-breaking style. The comparative weakness of their rivals will provide yet more ammunition to those that seek to criticise the Premier League’s competitive value, as Manchester United finished as the best of the rest on 81 points.

The Premier League produces so much to be cherished

Yes, the title race was arguably over in February, and yes, there was nothing for anyone to play for on the final day of the season, and yes, there is a noticeably widening gap between the new “top six” and the other sixteen teams, but despite all of this, the Premier League produces so much to be cherished.

City’s eventual dominance actually masks the fact that many of their victories remained in doubt right up until the final whistle. Wins against Bournemouth and Southampton (twice) were punctuated by last minute goals, whilst an Ederson penalty save against Crystal Palace preserved City’s unbeaten record for a while longer.

The spectacular fashion in which the eventual champions were handed their first loss of the season by Liverpool underlined the match-to-match uncertainty of the Premier League. Despite the lack of sustained competition over an entire season, City had to work for many of their victories.

Their 4-3 loss at Anfield, for instance, sits alongside another spate of memorable matches that were served up to us this season. Manchester United’s win at the Etihad, where they came back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 and avoid the ignominy of their cross-city rivals claiming the league title right before their eyes, also springs to mind. The final five minutes of Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham was another astounding seesaw of momentum and emotion. Two Harry Kane penalties (one missed and one scored) sandwiched a quite astounding individual goal.It was a privilege to witness the individual feats of several player’s, not least those from the scorer of that individual goal.

Salah has achieved Premier League redemption

If City’s players are to be remembered for their collective achievements, Mo Salah’s individual brilliance should sit alongside them. As with City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Salah has achieved Premier League redemption, after his first time failure in English football with Chelsea. Few can surely remember a player who has exerted such individual attacking dominance seemingly every time he has taken to the pitch over the course of a season. Harry Kane’s assertion that great goal scorers are repeat performers is true, but that should not detract from the quite brilliant season Salah has had, which may yet end with European silverware in Kiev.

The fight to avoid the drop might have flattered to deceive and, in a slightly sadistic way, it is always a shame when such things have already been decided by the final day of the season. Yet, we still could marvel at how Roy Hodgson put Crystal Palace back together after a Frank De Boer experiment that had left them in pieces. Darren Moore also provided a glimmer of hope for a miraculous West Brom escape.

Nevertheless, the relegation of three existing Premier League sides underlined the continuing competition at the bottom end of the table. City fans may remember this season for their club’s dominance but the supporters of Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle will revel in defying the odds and staying up. There is hope for whichever side joins Wolves and Cardiff in the top division next season.

As Arsène Wenger bade farewell to North London for the last time, he offered that Arsenal was not about just watching football; it was a way of life. This sentiment is apt for the Premier League, which has become a way of English footballing life during its 25-year existence. City may have won it with ease this season but many of us will not forget the countless and breath-taking encounters at stadiums around the country. We are wrong to boast of it as the “best league in the world” or, as City showed us this season, call it the most “competitive”. In fact, we are wrong to try and describe the Premier League in a single word at all – we should just be thankful for the footballing entertainment it continues to produce.

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