The best or worst Premier League in history

Records have been both set and smashed, nets have been bulging, and we had to wait until the second week of November for the first managerial casualty.

Is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City too good?

Photo  by Богдан Заяц / CC BY 3.0

New managers have come in and taken to the so-called hardest league in the world as if they had been managing in it all their lives. The usual pantomime villains (yes, you two, Jose Mourinho and Neil Warnock) have been doing what they do best – which, unfortunately, for the fans of their respective clubs is not always coaching.

We also saw the resurgence of once mercurial talents from the edge of obscurity (stand up, Ross Barkley). So, is the 2018/19 EPL season shaping up to be the best? Well, likely no, and truth told, it could be far from it.

Relatively speaking

Before going into the merits of this season, it is worth asking how we judge or rate one nation’s league against any other. If a worldwide appeal is the goal, and the amount of cash television companies willingly throw around to own its rights, then the EPL continues to reign supreme.

If we take performances on the pitch, especially in the Champions League, then it is not clear-cut. And with mixed performances so far, the Spurs have their work cut out to qualify for the next stage. That said, Manchester City is still the narrow favourite – 7/2 at BetStars – to lift the trophy in May.

The English clubs are also looking good in the Europa League. We will see what, if any success the clubs achieve in Europe, but the first of those points is the more relevant one here, and one we will come back to in a little while.

Record-breakers

If you are a fan of statistics, love to see records broken or support one of Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea, then you could forgive you for thinking this season could be the best one on record.

Here are some stats to back this up. It is the first time in English top-flight history (that’s top-flight history, not Premier League history) that after 12 games, three teams remain unbeaten. Two of those sides – Liverpool and Chelsea – enjoyed their best starts to a season ever. Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has had the most successful start to any EPL managerial career.

However, it is open to debate whether he and his West London side can maintain that form through the tough winter schedule, but Chelsea turned what everyone predicted to be a two-horse race into a three-horse one.

Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic paid the ultimate price for his side’s abysmal start.

Photo by Don McDougall / CC BY 2.0

There are more stats at the other end of the table, but these don’t make for such good reading. Fulham’s five points are the third-lowest after 12 games in EPL history.

Their game against Huddersfield on a cold Tuesday evening in November was possibly the earliest into a season where a real six-pointer took place.

In that game at the Kirklees Stadium, the Terriers’ centre-back Christopher Schindler scored what appeared as the first goal at home by a Huddersfield player since the previous April.

Unfortunately, for the German, that goal was an own goal, so it fell to Pritchard to take that honor in the 1-1 draw against West Ham four days later.

The cnd of competition

Going back to the comments regarding the EPL being the best league in worldwide appeal, the reason for that is not merely because the league has the best players in the world.

The same can be said for La Liga and to a lesser extent Serie A, The Bundesliga and even Ligue 1. It is the competition, the fact that on their day, any team can beat any other team. Can anyone, hand on heart, say that is the case this year?

When Cardiff – experiencing an upturn in form but always going up against it – Fulham, Huddersfield, even a poor Southampton go to the top-four, five or six, does anyone expect anything other than a comfortable home win?

The magnificence of the top three – and I do not want to take anything away from those teams as they have been good, most of the time this season – is now so far removed from those at the bottom that the competition that previously defined the top-tier in English football is in danger of becoming a myth.

True, the way the likes of Watford, the Wolves and Bournemouth have been playing, and the points they picked up made for a fascinating opening to the season, but that alone is not enough to keep the world’s fickle interest piqued, especially if too many games are far too easy to predict before someone kicks a ball.

For me, you can have all the records you want. But sitting down to a game and knowing that the underdog, the unfancied side filled with players having to give it all of that fabled 110 percent to hold their heads above water, still has a real chance of upsetting the odds is the appeal.

That is why I love football. That is why the EPL is the best in the world. If that goes, then so too does a lot of its mystique and allure – and probably a lot of its viewers.

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