This week marked the first week of this year's edition of the English Premier League.
And boy did it make for some interesting discourse. Rather than taking a worm's eye view and dissecting each club's performance I preferred to be a little more pragmatic- after all, this is only the first week of the season and there are bound to be some anomalies which would even out with time. Instead, I cared to adopt the vantage point of a more macro sense - an outsider looking in.
Simultaneously, as I was watching these English fixtures, scores from the rest of the world, Spain especially, came seeping through. Which lead me to a completely parallel chain of thought. What was so different between the English leagues in comparison to that of Spain, Germany and the like?
The first difference that came to mind was positional spacing on the pitch. Teams in England by and large lacked, in numbers and in caliber, certain features fundamental to the German and Spanish games.
English teams by comparison lacked the aspects of a holding midfielder to dictate play as well as a false number 9 who plays off of the team's primary attacking threat. Sure, I might be wrong since this is only the first week of the season but these were glaring observations that caught my eye.
Football abroad is channelised via a holding midfielder that dictates the tempo of possession. Usually associated with technical brilliance and passing vision and acumen, this player has only recently been given its rightful dues.
Xavi, Iniesta, Khediera, Makalele, Diarra, Alonso, Martinez, Schweinsteiger - indeed the list does go on. Sure, the league has players such as Yaya Toure but such players are few and far between.
Admittedly, players more associated with this role were missing from this week's fixtures like Mata and Arteta. Cazorla to an extent even. But, again, England's experimentation with this particular position has failed to pay fine dividends in recent years ,as seen in the cases of Mikel, Joe Allen as well as the needless purchases of elite level talent like Alonso, Modric, Diara, Song and Fabregas.
Granted, this is a very unglamorous position, which is maybe why it has been inadequate in the Premier League, a league predicated on flamboyance and showmanship - vaudeville if I may.
Again, players do exist that play in this position but the reality is that either they are way past their prime - as is the case with Barry and Essien - or they are put on a pedestal by virtue of their youth and untapped potential like Cleverley and Wilshere.
Interestingly enough however, in retrospect, if one rolls back the years an argument can indeed be made to suggest that the Premier League actually had such players before it was a fad. Likely examples that come to mind are Vieira and Scholes, etc. But again I shall keep the analysis to today's day and age.
The other was the lack of a false number 9 in the same veins of what Lavezzi does, Thomas Muller is for Bayern Munich or what Messi and Fabregas alternate as at Barcelona.
My initial assessment of this was that forwards in the English league are pretty one dimensional and barring the cases of Torres, Suarez, Aguero and a few examples are uncomfortable dribbling the ball for long stretches in a game.
Then again, that may just speak volumes about the defensive talent. Nonetheless, their reluctance to dribble threw into relief how they arranged themselves off the ball and barring examples such as Dzeko, they lacked a certain sense of mobility and purpose to essentially embrace that characterise the position.
Also, the English game is slowly losing its sense of tradition. For one, there are a number of new-money franchises in the league that obviously make the league more exciting; however, it has marginalised the usual staples of English football that people were so accustomed to seeing.
On the other hand, recent reports suggest the lowest degree of English player participation in the league in its 21-year history. This lack of homegrown talent is sure to bring up issues of its own especially in a World Cup year. A measly 33% participation is low in comparison in terms of domestic participation as per any other league. Or so it would seem.
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