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Wide-Open Relegation Battle Is a Symptom of the Premier League's Weakness

16/10/2015 17:23 BST | Updated 16/10/2016 10:12 BST

Man, the Premier League's a bit rubbish.

Sorry Thierry Henry. Sorry, people in comment sections across the country. The 'Premier League greatness' thing has leaned heavily on the competitiveness more and more in recent seasons, but that's becoming like comparing a drunken 3am brawl in Newport to Mayweather/Pacquiao in Vegas.

People are fighting, they're both trying to win, but the quality isn't there. People are playing football and trying to win, but the quality levels just aren't as high.

Rather than looking at the top of the table, a glance down towards the bottom is pretty telling. For starters, the bottom three look dreadful this season. Sunderland and Newcastle are the headline-grabbers with no wins between them this season, but Aston Villa have actually been even worse than either of them since their opening day win over Bournemouth.

Since that opening weekend, the three teams in the relegation zone have played a combined 21 games. In that time they've put together no wins, six draws and 15 defeats. With that kind of record, each and every one of those teams could match the infamous Derby County side of 2007/08, and that is not a team that is invoked lightly.

But okay, let's say that one of the three has a revival. It's possible: Sam Allardyce could kick Sunderland into something resembling a competent team, Tim Sherwood could be fired and replaced by literally anybody who's ever watched football (Brendan Rodgers is being touted, entertainingly). Once the relegation battle opens up a little bit, there are a massive number of teams in a lot of danger - and still only a few points from the void.

It's not a "well, somebody has to go down, even if they don't really deserve it" situation either. There are an awful lot of mediocre teams in this division right now, and most of them are bordering on outright bad. West Brom and the traditionally relegation-proof Tony Pulis are prime candidates, any other year and they'd be deep in the bottom three at this point.

They've picked up two wins, but don't let that fool you. One of those was against Aston Villa, the equivalent of beating a team of training ground dummies, and the other was against a Stoke side who might've been a challenge before they had two players sent off for what probably got entered into the official records as "chronic stupidity".

Their game against Crystal Palace was one of the best arguments in history against the existence of a benevolent god, setting up to defend and steal a point from the offset. Again, this was against Crystal Palace. Not Arsenal, not Manchester City. Crystal Palace. They lost 2-0, too.

Stoke have got some decent players, but they've been playing like they've never met before. Norwich and Bournemouth both have squads basically made out of tissue paper. Watford have been impressive at the back, but Burnley showed last season that a lack of goals can be the killer over the course of a full season.

It's okay to have a lower tier of teams in your league. It really is. But when you have as many poor teams as the Premier League does, then you don't really get to count 'competitiveness' as a virtue. If your 'big teams' are struggling to beat your vast horde of minnows then that's not a positive, it's a sign that your 'big teams' need to step up their game.

The lines between the traditional top four and the chasing pack are getting more and more blurry, which is exciting and troubling at the same time. It keeps things interesting, with Palace, West Ham and Leicester occupying three of the top six spots in the league, but these are teams with massive flaws. West Ham couldn't even make it into the group stage of the Europa League! Actually, they didn't even get close to making it into the group stage of the Europa League, they got knocked out by a team who finished fourth in the Romanian top flight last season.

Oh, and the current top two in the Premier League have both lost to West Ham already this season. All hail 'competitiveness'.

There are no solutions offered here, just hopefully a dab of perspective. For all the TV money, there are deep-lying problems at the top level of English football. Don't be surprised when that fourth Champions League spot disappears.

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