Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Dugout

When Beauty Beats Brawns

The DugoutLast season was terrible if you’re a follower of the Barclay’s Premier League. Sure, United walked the league and their fans rejoiced by showing the finger to Mancini’s mercenaries, while Chelsea carried on their newfound knack of wrangling trophies out of disaster seasons, but the fact remains that it was a dismal performance by the Englishmen against the Europe’s elites. Not so long ago, on any given day one could spot at least a couple of the English warhorses slogging it out in the semi-finals of the UCL. So, where has it all gone so horribly wrong?
Latest stats show that fouls in the Premier League have dropped by 22 percent since 2006, when the Premier League was in its heyday of European dominance. Purists have rejoiced at this, as they claim it makes the games more “flowing” and aesthetically pleasing. And who am I to argue against the might of Barcelona’s beautiful tiki-taka in high definition? And like a spoiled, rich brat, the Premier League wants everything it sees. The influx of foreign players coupled with the astronomical TV revenues mean that the games at the top-end are slowly losing their “bite” to be replaced by silky skills and deft touches.
Although, thankfully, going down after pushed by a rather violent breeze and clutching faces in mortal agony after a tickle in the ribs is still not common in the BPL, the waning physicality effectively means that the English league is a new entrant into an art already mastered by the Spanish. They were bound to come second best. And now that the Germans have ripped up the script with their efficient, counter-attacking measures, the BPL now risks losing even further ground and might end up in the European wilderness like the Italians.
From my vantage point on Roman Abramovich’s multi-million yacht, I see no quick fix to this problem. Roman wants pretty football, after all. And you can bet your camels so do the Sheikhs (except the Arsenal owners, they just want money). With Fergie’s departure, the old guard’s physical approach might well be tipping its hat. It all comes down to what the league wants. Does it want another decade of financial dominance with trophies galore? Or does it want to adapt to the smoother more aesthetic model of play that has everyone gushing? If it is the latter, then it will have to contend with a few more years playing second fiddle to the other leagues. And as Chelsea have shown time and again, beauty counts for little.
We all love a good tackle, just ask Paul Scholes. In the hunt for beauty, BPL is losing out on its inherent English style bit by bit. And if I’d have to put my neck out there, I’d say that this doesn’t make any of the teams any better — it just makes them a homeless man’s Barcelona.