by Tony Attwood
Bayern Munich have won the German league five times in a row.
In fact they have won it 27 times, which is a record. And they are currently eight points above their nearest rival at the top of the league, so that might well be six times in a row, come next April. That’s what those in the know call “the Greek Game”. Olympiakos and all that. Ask Paul Merson.
It means that the German League is even less competitive than the Spanish League where three different teams have won that competition in the last four years, and looked at over a larger period of time, is dominated by two teams.
Does any of this matter? After all, in the Premier League era Manchester United twice won the title three times running and in one nine year period (in the late 20th, early 21st century) only Man U and Arsenal won the title (they won it six times and we won it three times).
Eras such as the Man U/Arsenal duopoly raised eyebrows and caused teeth to gnash, and people spoke darkly of the end of competitiveness, but then in the famous phrase, Chelsea came along and “parked their tank on our pitch and started firing £50 notes at us”.
Dominance of various Leagues is thus not uncommon, and indeed before the Premier League we had Liverpool in England winning the old First Division ten times in 15 seasons.
So why should we think that Bayern’s current run is any different from what happened in the past? Why might we worry that the Premier League will move to the German or Spanish model of one or two teams dominating continuously will come to pass?
The answer is simple: because the gap between the income of the top clubs and the rest is getting bigger and bigger – and it is happening not just in Spain, Germany and England, but elsewhere as well.
In Germany, as I have suggested, total dominance by one team is already in place – brought about by the way Bayern Munich is financed. In Spain the possibility of Atletico Madrid winning the League is still there, but only once in the past 13 seasons has a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid won the League. Two teams dominate.
But dominance can of course be broken. Lyon won the league in France for seven successive seasons between 2002 and 2008, but since then have not won the title. PSG won the league four times running but then suddenly were tripped up by Monaco last year.
But… it is not quite all like that, as the French League’s experience shows. Monaco’s title winning side was pulled apart after they had the audacity to win the title instead of PSG (they currently sit third, nine points behind PSG) because they could not refuse the bids made.
We know that the richest clubs have always had the best chance of winning the league, but in the past hiccups could happen, as when Manchester United were relegated in 1974. But that sort of event now looks to be a thing only of the past, for it is now unthinkable for such a heavily financed team could sink that low in Germany, Spain, England, France, or of course Italy. Indeed let us not forget Italy where Juventus, those past masters of match fixing, have not only won the league six times running, they have won the League and Cup Double, for the past three seasons.
Yet, in order to keep up interest, the notion lingers that clubs that rise can also fall. But I would argue this is happening less and less – to the extent that it has almost stopped. The fact is, if you want to bet on who will win the League in each of the major European Leagues, much of the time the answer is going to be “same as last year”.
Of course this hasn’t quite happened like that in the Premier League, although in the past 13 seasons we have had four champions, of whom one was, I think many would agree, rather quirky and is unlikely to win it again. Thus aside from Leicester, we have had Chelsea (5), Manchester United (5) and Manchester City (2) as league winners.
What I am leading to in all this is that the tendency in all the larger leagues in Europe initially for a small number of teams to dominate. And then for one team to dominate. So much so that before we have even got half way through this season I think I can predict that the winners of these leagues will be
- Italy: Juventus
- Germany: Bayern Munich
- France: PSG
- Spain: ?
- England: Manchester City
So in four of these five leagues I would be willing to place a solid bet on who will win the league before we are even half way through, although I doubt that the odds I would get would even make it worth getting on the bus to go to the bookies.
So is this good for the game? Some argue that it has been like this for years, and that Arsenal dominated like this in the 1930s. Well, yes they did but not quite so much – we won the League five times in the 1930s, not year after year.
We were helped by having a very, very good manager and a big stadium that charged the highest prices in the league. Now that is not enough – not when one club is financed by a whole country and is part of a football franchise (the City group) that stretches across the world.
I will continue with this theme anon….
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying
- Where there is power, money and greed there is corruption