Go to contents

Rob Wightman`s Premier League Story

Posted September. 28, 2005 07:35,   


The weekend`s results did little to quell fears that the Premiership is a foregone conclusion.

Chelsea`s seventh straight victory opened up a massive 10-point gap on Manchester United, their nearest genuine title rival.

But the Blues` style of play, with its focus on rock-solid defence, has won them few friends.

Some even believe the Premier League has become boring, blaming negative tactics for a drop in the number of goals - an obvious benchmark of entertainment value.

Chelsea are unfairly viewed as the main exponents of this negativity.

It is astounding that anyone should criticise a side that boasts a 100% record from 630 minutes of football - even if both Frank Lampard`s goals against Aston Villa came from set-pieces.

The trend in the Premier League is to employ a lone striker, supported by two quick offensive midfielders in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation.

This game-plan helps teams control proceedings and concede fewer goals, but runs counter to the English tradition of attack-mindedness through a 4-4-2 system.Still, it works brilliantly for Chelsea.

The change of emphasis partly explains why Michael Owen, Newcastle`s match-winner against Manchester City, ended up at St James`s Park rather than joining a more successful club, like Manchester United.

Owen lacks the physique to operate alone up front so would not have fitted into the Red Devils` current way of playing.

However, rumours emanating from Old Trafford suggest United`s players are unhappy working in a system they view as unproductive, especially given the club`s traditional attacking prowess.

The problem United have found with the current approach is that the better side often fails to deliver the killer blow.

Sir Alex Ferguson`s team have taken just two points from their last three fixtures despite dominating Manchester City, Liverpool and Blackburn.

It must be frustrating for Park Ji-Sung, substituted after making a rare start on Saturday, since the Korean would be more likely to prosper in a 4-4-2 set-up.

Arsene Wenger, a champion of attacking football at Arsenal, insists Premiership teams must entertain fans.

"When somebody buys a ticket and spends £50, £60 or £70, it is not because he wants to be bored," the Highbury boss said.

Wenger`s players clearly didn`t heed their manager`s plea as they played out a goalless stalemate at West Ham.

But even Wenger will acknowledge that Chelsea`s strength in depth and flying start means others can no longer afford to be gung-ho.

Love them or loathe them, Jose Mourinho`s champions have raised the standard, even if it is because they have a sugar daddy and employ ruthlessly efficient tactics. The task for their rivals is to catch up.