Arsenal And Liverpool The Top 2: Is The Premier League Getting Worse?


Consider the current top two in Europe's other elite leagues. In Germany, it's Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. France? Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. Italy? Napoli and Juventus at the time of writing. And in Spain Barcelona and Atlético Madrid boast 100% records.

Out of the aforementioned eight sides, only Atlético are an incongruous inclusion, mainly due to Spanish football's duopoly over the last nine years.

In England, the top two berths are occupied by Arsenal and Liverpool, teams whose fans have vociferously questioned their coaches as recently as August and who have won two trophies between them in the last eight years.

Liverpool are second in the table

Even at this early juncture, it is another example of the Premier League's regression. José Mourinho's departure from English football in 2007 was the catalyst and Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid two years later prompted an even greater and more marked slump.

Ronaldo's final season at Manchester United featured a terrific tussle for the title. Liverpool, on the only occasion in the last 23 years, were actual contenders and finished with 86 points in a campaign synonymous with 17-year-old Federico Macheda's rescue act against Aston Villa. United had Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos TĂ©vez and Wayne Rooney, Liverpool boasted Steven Gerrard at his peak, Fernando Torres when he was peaking, as well as Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

Since then, United have won two leagues owed nearly as much to their hapless opponents as their own determination. Their 19th title win in 2011 came with just five away wins and 80 points - the lowest total for a title-winning side in 14 years - and this year's victory by an 11-point margin was not a fair reflection of a flawed yet voracious United squad who ruthlessly capitalised on a combustible Manchester City.

World-class players, that abstract term, came to the forefront over the weekend when David Moyes said United were five or six short of that particular ilk. A "world-class player" is an ambiguous term in football, and suggestions as to how many United boast range from one to five, with the majority of arguments cogent yet also debatable.

Moyes has little confidence in his United squad

What is unquestionable is that Arsenal and Liverpool possess just one each, in Mesut Özil and Luis Suárez. How many world-class players there are in a squad is not a reliable barometer of a team's success (Liverpool had one when they won the 2005 Champions League and United had two when they won the league in 2011) but it does indicate how impoverished England's top flight is.

The Bundesliga's top two alone have a raft of world-class talent. Neuer, Subotic, Lahm, Hummels, Alaba, GĂĽndoÄźan, MĂĽller, Lewandowski, Robben and Reus are just 10 of them, yet you would be hard-pressed to credibly list 10 players who enjoy football's premium unofficial status in the Premier League.

"To win the Champions League, you need five or six world-class players,'' Moyes said.

"Look at Bayern Munich, they have it. Look at Barcelona, who had it in the past and Real Madrid, who have maybe got it now. That's the level you have to be at to win it. We've not got that yet but what we have got is experience."

The quality of players in Germany is significantly higher than in England

For the first time since 1996, an English club failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which isn't a mere coincidence. United and Chelsea's passages to the finals in 2011 and 2012 masked their true quality and the remarkable nature of the latter's win in Munich rivalled Liverpool's 2005 miracle in Istanbul.

Bayern and Borussia's Champions League final was a belated reward for German football, which has boasted Europe's most entertaining the league these last three years.

The upside of for English football supporters is the Premier League, as a spectacle, has become better as a result of getting worse. If set-piece prowess and dismal starts are hallmarks of a David Moyes side, the unpredictability lies elsewhere in Arsenal and Liverpool's clinical runs.

Arsenal have faced four sides who finished in the bottom half of the Premier League last season but it is a moot point. They lost at Norwich and only drew at Stoke, Fulham and Southampton in 2012-13 during another underachieving campaign and are (or were?) an infamously brittle side.

Manchester City's losses at Cardiff and Aston Villa were genuine surprises while Mourinho's curious spending in the transfer window has given Chelsea the unbalanced look of André Villas-Boas' brief tenure at Stamford Bridge. It's flawed but fun at the top.