The media against the future: why do they insist on saying the Premier League is best?


By Tony Attwood

There was an article recently which appeared in the Telegraph,  in which it states “The Premier League is under fire from both European rivals and its own government. Yet it has at least managed to maintain a kind of competitive balance lacking in Spain, France, Germany, and – until recently – Italy too. That balance has kept Premier League rights values rising. It is the wealth that has flowed from that which clubs, like Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona, who have diminished their own league’s competitiveness through their own domination, seek to annex.”

For context we should note that in the past decade three teams have won the Spanish League, the most wins being by Barcelona with five titles. Which is curious for this argument, because in the past ten years Manchester City has won the Premier League five times.

So I wondered, why is the Spanish league to be despised, while the Premier League is held up as an example of such virtue that we should all dismiss the Super League as something that will change the nature of football?

It is true that the Premier League has six teams that are considered traditionally “big”  (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur).  So how many teams in recent years have pushed them aside and grabbed a place in the top six of the Premier League?

  • 2021/22 – none
  • 2020/21 – Leicester City and West Ham United
  • 2019/20 – Leicester City
  • 2016/17 – none
  • 2017/18 – none
  • 2015/16 – Leicester City, Southampton
  • 2014/15 – none
  • 2013/14 – Everton
  • 2012/13 – Everton
  • 2011/12 – Newcastle United

So we have there ten seasons with 60 places available in the top six and eight out of those 60 places have been grabbed by a club other than one of the top six.  That means 87% of the top six places across these years have been taken by the traditional big six.

But let’s look further.   Leicester City, West Ham, Southampton and Everton all have something in common: their current league position.   In fact, four of the bottom seven places in the league are now occupied by the teams that have flirted with the top six positions in the last ten years…  The only exception is Newcastle who are now on an upward trajectory having been financed by Saudi Arabia.  Although we should also remember that before that, money flowed in they did spend a season in the Championship in 2016/17.

Here’s the foot of the table at present…


Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
14 Leicester City 24 7 3 14 36 42 -6 24
15 Wolverhampton Wanderers 25 6 6 13 18 35 -17 24
16 West Ham United 24 6 5 13 23 29 -6 23
17 Leeds United 24 5 7 12 29 39 -10 22
18 Everton 25 5 6 14 17 36 -19 21
19 AFC Bournemouth 24 5 6 13 22 48 -26 21
20 Southampton 24 5 3 16 19 41 -22 18


Only one of these clubs has a previous top-six heritage and that is Everton, but their four league titles since the second world war are distant memories.

Meanwhile clubs from the Championship come up and then generally go down again, largely because they don’t have the money to compete with the top ranking clubs. 

Then after relegation, relegated teams have two broad strategies that they adopt.  One is the Norwich model which is to spend just enough of the PL solidarity money to get out of the Championship again, but then not worry about a subsequent relegation.

The other is to spend like mad to try and stay up.  Nottingham Forest are a prime example at the moment, and generally, when this is tried, it ultimately leads to failure as the need arises to spend more and more each year just to stay up.  

Ultimately these clubs slip back to where they have come from – or below.  But then some other upstart team will be pushing for a place in the big six and everyone will say it shows how competitive the Premier League is.

In reality, all we have is a group of six or seven teams fighting for European places.  Below that, we have a group of comfortably mid-table teams, and then those near the foot, quite a few of whom will have been in lower leagues of late.

And there we find that of the 30 promotion places across the last ten seasons, 40% were taken up by repeat promoters.

Indeed of the 23 teams promoted from the Championship the only ones that could be said to have made themselves look like permanent members of the Premier League are Crystal Palace (promoted in 2013), Leicester City (promoted 2014), Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion (promoted 2017), and Wolverhampton Wanderers (promoted 2018).  Possibly we might include Aston Villa (promoted 2019) because of their history.

So at a stretch we might say that 30% of the Premier League is made up of teams that have forced their way up from the Championship and managed to stay up,    But we have only one example, in Crystal Palace, or a team that could be said to have forced its way up and stayed more than a few seasons in the top league. 

In the last ten years only Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester United have won the league.  Half of the titles have gone to Manchester City, and the last three listed clubs have just won it once each.  Maybe it is time to yes the PL is more competitive than Ligue 1 or the Bundesliga, or the Serie-A but really that is not saying much. 


4 Replies to “The media against the future: why do they insist on saying the Premier League is best?”

  1. Stats….again

    After yesterday’s game, Arsenal have only 2 goal scorers in double digits.


    Well,I’m ‘lawrencing’ you all here…

    What is missing is that Arsenal are the only club in the PL with 2 goal scorers in double digits.

    And the best goals per game record since Mr Wenger took over almost a quarter century ago….

  2. It’s what I’ve been saying for years.

    Everything, League titles, FA Cups, League Cups, all dominated by the big 3 money clubs, Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd. Then the majority of what’s left for the scavengers has been gobbled up by the 2 other traditionally big and rich clubs, namely Liverpool and Arsenal.

    Yes all of those clubs, bar Man City, the biggest spenders, have had poor seasons, but they usually recover, and quickly.

    If Newcastle are allowed to join the oil money clubs, (but that’s another story. IF?) and do go at it full throttle, it will be very difficult for anyone outside of those 4 mega wealthy clubs, Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and now Newcastle, to win the premier league. Yes, as we have seen, they can get it wrong (except Man City, but their blip may come if and when Pep moves on, because as both Arsenal and Man Utd found to their cost, losing a long serving successful manager can bite, and bite hard) but it’s unlikely more than one, two at most, will mess up at the same time.

    We are doing exceptionally well, and it could be that in Arteta we have landed ourselves a superstar manager. Early days but we can at least dream. The problem we will have is, if he is that good others will come knocking, including his beloved Barcelona, possibly back to Man City? So despite obviously loving Arsenal, this may be his apprenticeship for a move back home or up North?

    The bottom line is, and assuming the state funding of clubs is allowed to continue, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and and anyone else will find it very difficult to compete in the long term, using the self sustaining model.

    Which is why certain clubs will at least consider something outside the Status Quo, because I believe in the long term the prospects of the non state funded clubs is precarious to say the least.

  3. I’ve been wondering about the top of the table and how come our young Gunners are 5 points clear of City.
    Their manager is considered the best in the galaxy. They have the est players in the world. And the biggest moneypit in the PL.
    So why are Arsenal 5 points clear ?
    Is it because now that City have won it all in England, the team was tailored and is being played at full throttle only in the CL and as long as they finish top 4, the CL has priority ?
    Is the competition (both financial and on the pitch) in the PL a notch harder then in Spain or Germany, thus making it more difficult for Guardiola to just dominate with tiki-taka ?
    Have PL coaches figured out where, when, how to do what to derail City ?
    I just wonder….

  4. Chris

    It is a tricky one. Whatever the reason they are slightly below Peps average points at this stage of the season.

    Since Peps first season in 16/17, after 25 matches they have averaged 58 points per season, so they are not that far off of the average, but the 2 times they have been they’ve finished 3rd, from 52 points and 2nd from 51 points. The 4 times they’ve won the title they’ve been on 59 twice, 63 and 68 points.

    So they are a long way from their imperious best but they have been worse as well. Because of that I’m not sure we can say with any certainty they aren’t ‘trying’ as hard in the PL as usual simply because they are focused on the CL? Personally I suspect they are just not as good a team (yet?) with Harlaand? I also think that, by and large, teams are not as afraid of them as they perhaps were, possibly on the back of my first reason?

    I think it’s as simple as they aren’t as good as Peps peak, but not as bad as his worst, and obviously we are the best we have been for quite a while.

    All that adds up to a 5 point gap.

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