Sunday, 1 November 2015

Why this season's Premier League is the most refreshing in years

The self-styled best league in the world has had its issues of late. The top four in particular was seen as a closed shop, with only the rich elite having any hope of inhabiting the money positions. Rightly or wrongly, the ever-more financially bloated top league has extended its money share a touch, to the extent that the newly-promoted Bournemouth were able to drop a cool £8 million on Tyrone Mings from Ipswich. Let's not forget the £12 million the still-Championship Fulham spent on Luke McCormack.

While this money bubble will surely burst at some stage, and the likes of Newcastle and Villa in their frugal ways will rise to the top and laugh from their ivory towers, it's made for a thrillingly open season thus far, as more of the mid-ranking have a bit of dough to outspend their European counterparts with. Mahrez at Leicester, Cabaye at Crystal Palace - these are clubs who are in their second and third seasons after promotions respectively. When you add the fact that they both have managers who are delighting in rubbing the noses of their critics, it's an undeniably nice thing to see.

In addition to this, McClaren at Newcastle attempting to rebuild his reputation, and succeeding on the basis of performances, if not yet results, plus Slavan Billic at West Ham finally attempting to prove that he isn't merely an England national side bogeyman eight long years after that wet Wembley night.

Then you have Southampton and Everton - the Saints riding on the back of a tremendous season last time out, and threatening at least a repeat this time, Martinez living up to his so far somewhat inconsistent reign with an extremely mixed bag of results.

Liverpool are one of the standout cases for me of a bit of dare-I-say-it fun returning to the fray. Rodgers did make a valuable contribution to Anfield's recent history, and will surely always be welcomed back by supporters should he ever return to watch his former side, but towards the end of his reign he seemed lost in his own bubble of motivational-schtick, tossing out cliches that even he didn't seem to believe any longer. Jurgen Klopp's claim of his love of rock and roll football seemed alive and well at Stamford Bridge in their 3-1 win. The odd bum note and leftover feedback was definitely audible, but more than made up for by the theatrics of their goals.

Speaking of which, Jose Mourinho is one man in danger of being left behind by this new element of fun. His sides have rarely been thrilling ones to watch, and when they are, it always seems to have been a temporary phase en route to his idealistic vision of a ruthless cyborg of a team. Even his solid-as-a-rock defensive plans have been ripped to pieces by this more adventurous than normal Premier League, and he must surely recognise this, fight fire with fire, and simply allow his most creative players and supposedly deadliest finishers the room to dovetail and combine as they please.

Hazard, Oscar, Costa, Remy, Falcao - that is by no means the only attacking talent he has, yet he refuses to play to their strengths, and his continuing strangulation of their talents cannot last. He claimed to want to help Falcao back to his best, yet the longer he rots away on the bench, supposedly having to dislodge Costa, the more like a vanity project it seems. Solution - play them both up front together. If this reads like an anti-Jose rant, it isn't, merely a suggestion that he should allow him to be swept up in this newly attacking league, him being the supposedly Happy One this time around.

Louis van Gaal can also stand to loosen up on the pitch if he wants to get anywhere near the league this season. Off the field, his attitude formation seems to be a constant 2-3-5, so a bit more cavalier on the pitch would be nice. As long as one of those five strikers isn't Rooney. Seriously, the man needs a rest. The endless bashing he gets will not do him any good. He needs to remind himself why he loves the game, see how he can move forward a stalled career, and he needs a bit of time out to do that.

Manchester City and Arsenal are definitely doing it right. Could this be the first season in living memory where they occupy the top two spots? I need to employ a fact checker to see when that last happened. Hmm...alright, I'll do it. WHOA - OK, this would be the first time it ever happened. Now, that would be refreshing.

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