(Yet again Ronald Koeman has donned his Claudio Ranieri mask in order to slip under the radar!)

If you believe everything that you read, then yes, the Premier League is very open this season. The fact of the matter is though, that it isn’t really.

What do we mean by “open” anyway? There are twenty teams in the division. For the title race to be wide open, (as in “that result has blown the title race wide open“, a frequently heard phrase), then every one of the twenty needs to be in with a chance of winning it.

On that basis, do we really have an open title race? In some ways we do. Certainly more so than in Spain or Germany where we have a better than fair idea of which teams will be in contention.

In other ways, no we don’t. The winner will still come from one of the current top seven. It is unlikely to be either Everton or Tottenham due to squad depth and inconsistency over the course of a season. That leaves five, any of which could be crowned champions by the end of the season.

So, although the title race in England is more open than in other countries, it is certainly not the lottery that some of the sporting press would have us believe.

When Leicester City, to everybody’s amazement, won the trophy last year, why was it such a big surprise? If, as we are led to believe, the Premier League is so open it should not come as a surprise whoever wins it!

The fact is that the Leicester fairytale is unlikely to be repeated in the next couple of seasons as the bigger clubs with the most money look to regain their grip on the top places.

We have an “open” title race simply because, thanks to TV money, we have more of the richest teams in one league who can attract some of the best players in the world. Teams such as Stoke City and West Ham, without wishing to be disrespectful, are now in a position where they can spend many millions on new players.

The money then has a knock-on effect. Players, such as Zlatan Ibrahimović who, while unlikely to offer his services for free no longer plays for the highest bidder, come to the Premier League for the challenge of winning the “toughest league in Europe“.

There would be nothing stopping these top players going to clubs in Spain where they could easily make the same money, but the challenge is different. Whilst Spain can boast some of the best talent in the world, (in fact probably the top four), these are Latin American players who feel more at home in Iberia than they would in England. The general concensus however, among the majority of players, is still that England is the place to be.

Sometimes it is about where you feel the most comfortable and sometimes it is about taking the easy way out. For the likes of Lionel Messi of Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Luis Suarez of Uruguay and Neymar of Brazil, Spain is much more of a home from home for these players but, then again, it is also an easier way out, you be the judge on which particular cap fits which particular player. (Here is an article from July of last year on that very subject).

The other debatable point is why, with so much wealth and so many good players, do English clubs not fare better in the Champion’s League? For me the answer is relatively straightforward.

In Spain two or three clubs attract the best players, in Germany it is one and in France it is one. This means that, when the best players become available, the other European clubs face very little competition from their compatriots. If a player expresses a desire to play in Germany there is a very good chance he will, if good enough, end up at Bayern Munich. In France it would be PSG and in Spain one of the Madrid clubs or Barcelona.

A player who wants to ply his trade in England will immediately have the choice of five or six clubs, all of whom can afford to pay him very well. So in England the top players are more spread out amongst the top clubs which dilutes the overall quality of any particular team. This would explain why the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich usually prevail when facing English opposition.

In conclusion, yes the Premier League is more open now than it has been in years but being “more open” does not mean that it is open to everyone, not yet anyway.

And when the rest of the European teams work out how to increase their revenues so as to be able to compete for players then countries like Spain, with a winter break, less games and a sunny climate, will be more of an attraction than England. That will be the acid test.


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