30 July ~ Not only did England being rubbish at the World Cup cheer me up, it has helped me to feel distinctly positive about a new season for the first time in a while. Like many football supporters, the stratospheric hype surrounding the star players is the biggest single reason for my sense of alienation from the national team. The bombast will be cranked up again for the new season but no one can fail to be aware that it's a sham now. The feted young men being paid up to 20 grand a day are not among the best players in the world.

Meanwhile, the star performers at South Africa 2010 are not beating a path to the Premier League either. Of the winners' squad, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres were here already and were mostly peripheral to Spain's success while Man City new boy David Silva was a reserve. Diego Forlán is still with Atlético Madrid and the various outstanding German players are not leaving the Bundesliga.

With hardly any high-profile arrivals, the top end of the Premier League looks considerably more competitive than it has been for a long while. It still seems inconceivable that Chelsea and Man Utd would fail to at least finish in the Champions League qualifying places again but everything else is up for grabs – including the possibility of a title challenge from one of the clubs who didn't even finish in the top four last season, Man City.

This may not seem like much to celebrate but it is a vast improvement on how things have been for the past decade. We may even be edging towards a return to How Things Used To Be. Of course, there were hierarchies created in every decade – from the mid-1960s to the mid-70s, for example, you could safely bet that two of the top-four places would be taken by Leeds and Liverpool – but there was far more fluidity at the top end of the table than we have seen since the Premier League became part of global corporate culture.

We're not about to see the implosion in top-level football that some have been forecasting for a while – there is no chance of that happening while Sky and the holders of overseas broadcasting rights are still pumping in the cash and a modest democratisation of the league may even suit them. But some of the richest football clubs in the world, who previously felt themselves immune to failure, will be feeling more than usually nervous going into the new season. As will some of the nouveau supporters who have attached themselves to one or other of our football mega-brands in the past few years. Perhaps some of them will even give up and go away – but that may be taking summer optimism a bit too far. Rob Weston

Comments (3)
Comment by ian.64 2010-07-30 13:29:47

"The bombast will be cranked up again for the new season but no one can fail to be aware that it's a sham now. The feted young men being paid up to 20 grand a day are not among the best players in the world."

Oh, that new awareness will fade quicker than you think. They'll be 'the best in the world' in next to no time. Again.

Comment by shadsworth cloud 2010-07-30 14:29:46

indeed now that liverpool have beaten macedonias finest, there can be no doubt that the premier league is the worlds greatest

Comment by James Goyder 2010-08-01 18:40:32

I think the conspicuous lack of transfer activity outside of Eastlands actually favours Chelsea and Arsenal.

Chelsea, because they were the best team last time around and very little has changed and Arsenal because as a young team they are constantly improving and evolving and they haven't lost any of their star players for once.

Manchester City are trying to introduce too many new players at once to be instantly competitive, Liverpool seem to be in danger of stagnating and Tottenham Hotspur's squad looks a little thin to cope with the added strain which would be placed on it by the Champions League.

Meanwhile Manchester United look about as good as they did last time around, which was not quite good enough.

It could all change between now and the end of the transfer window but the state of the Premier League at present is very similar to what it was at the end of last season.

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