Is a goal crazy Premier League a good thing?

by Steve

GoalpostAfter the madness of the transfer window, came the madness of the game itself, as the Premier League yielded a hatful of goals this weekend. On Saturday 41 goals were scored in eight games, which if my rudimentary calculations are correct, works out at over five goals a game. Goaltastic indeed.

Newcastle United improbably came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Arsenal. Bottom-placed Wolves beat top-placed Manchester United. Everton beat Blackpool 5-3, while the likes of Wigan and Blackburn’s 4-3 game and Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat of West Brom pretty much got lost in the shuffle, when any other week they might have been the ‘Game of the Week’.

The hyped game of the weekend, Sunday’s Chelsea vs Liverpool, failed to live up to its billing in comparison to the previous day’s games, but certainly had its own form of drama as Fernando Torres made his debut for Chelsea against the club he has just left in acrimonious circumstances.

To the delight of Liverpool supporters (including your correspondent), Torres was largely ineffective, while Liverpool eked out a valuable 1-0 win. Torres had moved to the club he felt had the most options and best chance of success. He may already be rueing that decision.

So, this weekend seemed to present a pretty strong argument for the English Premier League being the “best league in the world”. But is it?

Well, on the evidence of the weekend, it could well be the most entertaining. Such open football will attract the casual fan and the obsessive alike. What it might lack in finesse, it makes up with drama and sheer visceral thrills.

However, the glut of goals also showed the real weakness in English football. Gung-ho tactics and going all out for the win are certainly fun to watch, but are they really the best approach?

Take any Premier League team’s performance this weekend and put them against a well-organised, disciplined side, and they would have struggled. There is being attacking, and there is being just plain reckless.

Arsenal are second in the table. Should any side, let alone one that far up the table, really throw away a four goal lead? Should a top-of-the-table team like Manchester United look so vulnerable against one of the worst sides in the division? While it makes for a competitive division, and underpredictable games, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well on the overall quality of the top sides.

In every major international tournament the England national team look tactically exposed. This is because the Premier League ‘style’ fails to translate. In the heat of the summer, or against a side that are comfortable in possession, the high-octane English style comes unstuck. Running around madly and pumping balls upfield just doesn’t work.

Of course, English clubs have had success in Europe, yet they have had to adapt to achieve that.

While English football can be so enjoyable to watch, I do wonder if that is at the expense of the broader development of the English game. Or maybe I should stop worrying and just enjoy the goals?

Image by Scott Wills via Flickr