THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

26 April ~ Radio Five Live commentator Alan Green rarely misses an opportunity to have a moan. Sure enough, after James Milner converted a controversial late penalty to give Aston Villa victory over city rivals Birmingham City, Green seized the moment to describe yesterday's derby as a "poor quality game in a poor quality season".

Green's justification for his comments would likely surround the relative lack of strength of the Big Four compared to previous seasons. Manchester United are brilliant with Wayne Rooney, but one-dimensional and toothless without him. Arsenal's lack of bottle and a goalkeeper who can catch has been painfully exposed in recent weeks, while Rafa Benítez has been unable to cover up the overall mediocrity in Liverpool's squad as well as in previous seasons. Chelsea, meanwhile, have lurched from being brilliant one week to awful the next.

However, to describe a season as poor based on four teams is short-sighted to say the least. The weaknesses of the top-four clubs, coupled with the improvement of Spurs, Villa and Manchester City, means we are in for one of the most exciting conclusions to a Premier League season in recent years. The title race between Man Utd and Chelsea is set to go the last day, while the Big Four party is likely to be gatecrashed for the first time since 2004-05, when Everton beat their Merseyside rivals to fourth, a position they may well have achieved again this season had they performed as well in the first half of the season as they have in the second half.

The Premier League now has eight excellent teams, all of whom are capable of beating the other, and this increased competition can only be good for the game. Clearly Green would prefer a similar situation to the one in Scotland, where Rangers and Celtic have once again finished as the top two sides and remain desperate to be invited to move to England.

Many pundits pointed to the demise of Man Utd and Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals as a sign of the Premier League's decline, conveniently forgetting that there is still the possibility of an all-English Europa League final. The depth of quality in the Premier League is greater than ever before. This is likely to improve next year with Man City poised to spend big money in a bid to challenge for the title and many other clubs set to strengthen in order to keep pace at the top. If the old Big Four's sense of entitlement continues to be undermined that can only be a good thing. Neal Widdows

Comments (10)
Comment by Leon Tricker 2010-04-26 14:34:12

If I put aside club loyalty (to Pompey) this has been the most enjoyable Premier League season of the 'noughties' for me, for all the reasons you mention.

I do laugh when Alan Green makes comments like this, beacuse in my view the majority of PL games are like that Villa/Birmingham match. In the hundreds of games that make up a season, how many truly stick out in the memory? How many games have really lived up to their over-hyped billing?

However, I disagree with your few lines. The strength of 'the big four' has been undermined, but at what cost? I'd argue that Man City spending even more cash, and other clubs feeling the need to keep pace, is not necessarily a good thing.

Comment by robw 2010-04-26 14:49:34

I assume he thinks it's a 'poor quality season' because his beloved Liverpool have been so absoutely wretched for most of it.

Comment by George: Hofmeister bear 2010-04-26 16:45:08

It goes without saying that the man is a complete berk.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-04-26 17:59:51

The Premier League now has 8 excellent teams at the top,all of whom are indeed capable of beating one another,and this is great for the English game.
Then there is a middle 4 or so teams,and then we get to the bottom 8,who are all undeniably as bad as each other.
Hull,Burnley and Portsmouth have all been poor for varying reasons,and will need the step down in order to recuperate.
In any other season,surely the likes of West Ham,Wigan and Wolves would have taken the drop,and it is only the desperate lack of quality in the 3 relegated teams that saved the 3 "W" clubs.
Having said that,poor teams at the bottom doesnt nessesarily make for a poor quality season overall.

Comment by Red Jaff 2010-04-26 23:22:42

I know it isn't fashionable to agree with Green but tbh, I think the author is misinterpreting what he was getting at. Yes the season has been more exciting but excitement doesn't necessarily reflect quality.

Chelsea, United and Liverpool have all gone backwards. Arsenal's same old squad weaknesses have left them short yet again. City have spent buck loads of money and the improvement in their standard of play has not been equal to the monetary injection (though they are indeed a better team). Villa have improved somewhat but a poor March shows familiar flaws, not to mention that the bottom seven are all perhaps slightly better or equal to Championship level.

Im gonna stick my neck out and say, 'Alan Green, I agree with you'.

Comment by Nescaff 2010-04-27 00:11:57

Every week I download his 606 show and make it about 10 minutes before I just give up - How can He suck the life out of football - whereas danny Bakers show is life affirming stuff......

Comment by sve791 2010-04-27 04:55:03

I think to call the bottom seven teams Championship calibre is bollocks. We've seen the kind of trouble teams like Wigan, Blackburn, Burnley etc. can give the Big Four. Fulham is a 12th place side currently and they've beaten some quality sides both domestically and in Europe. They may not be able to compete for the title but they can play some football at times.

Comment by tratorello 2010-04-27 09:32:21

If Alan Green hates football as much as he often makes out and commentating on it is a chore for him why doesn't he do us all a favour and retire?

In the early days of the Premier League his moaning and "saying it as it is" was an interesting counterpoint to the hype and bluster of everyone else but now he's become a pantomime curmudgeon, I think he's actually incapable of enjoying anything to do with football.

Comment by darkblueturbo 2010-04-27 14:05:24

So if Red Jaff is right, and I think he is, when he says excitment doesn't necessarily mean quality then do we want quality from one or two or do we want excitment throughout the league?
The most intruiging title race in years.
A fantastic chase for 4th.
An exciting relegation battle, although that's fizzled out.

Is Spain a league of more quality because Barca are better than Arsenal (and everyone else)?
I doubt it. Even if Atletico do beat Liverpool.

And surely the 2 semi finalists in the UEFA Cup is the sign of a strong league.
UEFA Cup was always the sign of strength in depth (granted I'm talking about when only the top 1 qualified for the European Champions Cup) just look at Italy's domination in that competition when they were the big league.

Comment by Leon Tricker 2010-04-27 14:54:50

'Quality' is not linked to 'excitement'.

The Championship has generally been a more exciting division in recent seasons than the Premier League.

I was at Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday and saw them fightback from 0-2 down to win 5-2, and still narrowly miss out making the play-offs. Fans phoning round other grounds to find out the results in other games was far more exciting to witness than, say, the recent Manchester derby.

Statements like "poor quality game in a poor quality season" have no merit becuase that Villa/Birmingham game was typical of the Premier League. Arguably, typical of all football: the majority of games at all levels are pretty standard kick-abouts. So-called 'stars' have more off days than they have world-class performances. That wont change no matter how much money is thrown at the game, and how much the media hype matches.

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