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Poor value and low quality Premier League exposed in stark European reality check

Eamonn Sweeney


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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: PA

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: PA

PA

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: PA

Premier League supporters adopt a very specific line of defence when you point out the advantages of the Bundesliga.

So what if the Germans possess the best supported league in Europe? Who cares if the average Bundesliga season ticket costs 70 per cent less than its Premier League counterpart? Does it really matter that the average Spurs season ticket holder pays £1,395 a pop while a standing season ticket for Bayern Munich will set you back the equivalent of £145? Are we supposed to be impressed that most German clubs dropped their prices at the start of this season?

Those things don't matter because the Premier League is just better. The Bundesliga won a paltry one Champions League in the last decade whereas the Premier League won a massive two (thanks to Chelsea beating Bayern on penalties in the 2012 final). The Premier League provided both finalists last year, something the Bundesliga would never be able to manage, although by some fluke there was that Bayern-Borussia Dortmund decider in 2013.

The Premier League is much more competitive. It's had four different champions in the past decade while the Bundesliga has had just two. Bayern Munich have won seven titles in a row, some by the kind of runaway margin you'd never see in the Premier League. Their title race is usually over long before the final weeks.

These arguments are not actually all that persuasive. European success for a handful of elite clubs hardly compensates for the fact that ticket prices are far too high in the Premier League, most of whose teams never get within an ass's roar of the title. Especially when you consider that the average wage in Germany is higher than in the UK.

And the 'higher standard' argument has just been demolished after the two Champions League first-leg matches which saw Bayern Munich demolish Chelsea and RB Leipzig outclass Spurs away from home. It looks like both leagues will have two teams in the last eight though there's a possibility that Borussia Dortmund might make it three for the Bundesliga or even that Atletico Madrid might reduce the Premier League to one representative.

The poverty of the performances by both Chelsea and Spurs gave the lie to the notion of superior Premier League strength in depth. The number three and four sides from England looked a class below their German opposition and confirmed that this has been a really weak Premier League season.

Liverpool's form has been remarkable but no team should be dominating to an extent so great the league was virtually decided at the half-way point. It's the kind of thing Bayern used to do in the Bundesliga. Used to do because after their two-point victory over Dortmund last term they're in a dogfight this season with not just Dortmund, but Leipzig as well.

In fairness, this is not your typical Premier League season. The weakness of the big clubs owes a great deal to poor managerial appointments. The treatment of Mauricio Pochettino has been crucial in this respect. Spurs weakened themselves by sacking him and Manchester United by not appointing him. Unai Emery's failure at Arsenal has doomed the Gunners to another season in transition.

The limits of populism were brutally exposed by the proof that Frank Lampard's Chelsea honeymoon has ended. The Blues' thirst to get rid of Maurizio Sarri last season was so great they almost seemed embarrassed when he steered them to a Europa League triumph and third place in the Premier League.

Lampard's elevation, after two moderate seasons with Derby County, was justified on the strange grounds that it would be popular with the fans. It seemed a decision in keeping with the Britain First mood sweeping England (though not London) in the wake of the Brexit vote. And when young English players were to the forefront as Chelsea got off to a good start, it seemed that the dreams of those who insist that not enough home managers get gigs at the top clubs were about to come true.

But a run of four wins in their 12 league games before the bashing by Bayern brought Chelsea back to reality with a thump. That they remain in a Champions League place and that United and Spurs are in contention is an indictment of a competition which this season has been poor value for money. For you Frank, the Champions League is over.

Sunday Indo Sport