Are we fooling ourselves in thinking that the Premier League is still the best in the world? Are we six years out of date?
Sky Sports pre-season time machine advert featuring Thierry Henry reliving the greatest Premier League moments and proclaiming it is the “best league in the world” had every football fan excited for the upcoming season. Now almost three months in, all Sky subscribers could possibly sue for misleading advertising.   
 
Last weekend’s Manchester derby epitomised the standard of football that has been on display over the past few months – extremely average. Over the 90 minutes it defied the theory that the Premier League is the highest level of football, as there wasn’t a shot on target until the 80th minute in a game between two of the biggest powerhouses in the league.  
 
In the absence of two of their best attacking players, Man City still could not look to their £100m duo of Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne. Sterling’s only significant contribution was to almost give away a penalty.  
 
There are many fixtures that normally exude passion, excitement and end to end football which instead have been games where the level of football was so poor; the vast majority just wanted them to end. The Man United v Liverpool game is another one that springs to mind. 
 
Reading various football forums after that game, fans were once again questioning how these players earn the extortionate wages that they do.  
 
Therein lays the catalyst for the unravelling of the Premier League – money.  
 
Money leads to greed, and greed has replaced desire in some players’ cases.  
 
The smaller teams and players that earn half the wages those who play for the “top four” do have been outshining their perceived more talented and higher earning colleagues.  
 
West Ham boasts a proud list of coups that include Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Leicester city are only 3 points off leaders Man City, with a squad that probably cost one tenth the price.  
 
Swansea and Crystal Palace too have come out on top in fixtures against Man United and Chelsea respectively, games they would not have been expected to win. 
 
While it is great to see some shock upsets as it keeps the league interesting, it is not great to see the lethargy which some of the bigger teams are playing with.
 
Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record of 77 games was not broken until April 2014 after bottom club Sunderland claimed a shock 2-1 win courtesy of Fabio Borini’s late penalty. It is almost impossible to envisage the current Chelsea side lasting until Christmas without being defeated home or away at least twice.  
 
Is it a coincidence that the standard of football has been declining as transfer fees and players’ wages have consistently been on the rise over the past six years?  
 
Now Mourinho is facing the chop three months into the season, even though the Portuguese manager delivered a league title to Stamford Bridge last year.  
 
Money can’t buy patience or afford second chances it seems.  The money and football argument has been done to death over the last decade but all the arguing isn’t achieving any satisfactory solutions.  
 
Fans boycott games because they can’t afford tickets, players hold clubs to ransom, and all the while the Premier League keeps on going as if nothing is wrong.  
 
Football is a sport with working class origins but now it couldn’t be further away from its roots because the working class cannot afford to go to games.  
 
Bayern Munich fans staged a protest at the Emirates last week due to their disgust at the excessively priced £64 ticket. This was a once off payment for them as the Bundesliga teams are more fan-considerate with their prices, but fans in England consistently have to fork out extortionate amounts to watch the teams they love.  
 
“£64 a ticket. But without fans football is not worth a penny”, one banner read. Many clubs in England seem to forget that essential component – the supporters.  
 
The Premier League spends more money than any other European league on players and clubs charge higher ticket prices than those in Spain, Italy and Germany. Yet what rewards are they reaping, besides heavily deepened pockets? 
 
Over the last ten years, two English teams have won the Champions League. Out of those ten games, five of the runners up were Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United twice. They may have made it to the biggest stage in European football, but they have been outclassed and outplayed more often than not. 
 
Arsenal are/were consistently one of the best teams in the league throughout the noughties and yet they have never won a Champions League. What does that say about the standard of the Premier League?  
 
There has been no Premier League team in the final for three years and they appear to be finding it increasingly difficult to make it to the next stage.  
 
Besides expensive ticket prices, another example of why football is far less down to earth and respectable than it used to be is players such as Mario Balotelli.  
 
In most walks of life if you are bad at your job and do not work hard, you will not succeed. Mario Balotelli has not performed anywhere near the standard expected of him for three years, nor has he made an effort to do so and yet he is still pursued by the biggest names in world football. 
 
What sort of impression does that give to young, aspiring footballers? He who does not work hard shall still be rewarded.  
 
Football is not still the same charming, working class sport many adored. 
 
Fans struggle to grow attached to players like they used to because they know in the back of their minds it will more than likely be a short-term relationship; one-team players are a thing of the past now.  
 
Players prices will continue to rise, gluttony will continue to filtrate the game and more business tycoons will venture from overseas to purchase a new little toy to play with.  
 
It’s a sad state of affairs and there does not seem to be any feasible way to relent it.
 
Photo: Independent.ie