Sunday, May 24, 2009

Premier bore as D-Day is dull day

Premier bore as D-Day is dull day.
As closing days of the Premier League go, today's was incredibly flat.

There was no to-ing and fro-ing, no nail-biting tension nor edge-of-the-seat excitement. The three teams involved in relegation struggle, the tedious battle for the title having been decided already, ended up losing, leaving the league table unchanged from last week.

Middlesbrough and Newcastle had run out of steam and ideas long before today's 'do or die' showdowns, which in the event never caught fire. The potential relegation of the Toon and their icon Alan Shearer was a good lead story, but the black and white stripes did not keep to the script and turned in a turgid performance with an own goal and no shots on target in the second half.

Hull had a lucky escape in the end, following a real Jekyll and Hyde campaign. Their amazing start, when they won at Arsenal and sat in the Champions League places, became a distant memory as the Tigers went into freefall and missed the drop by a point.

Their curious coach Phil Brown, sporting designer gear and a year-round tan, lives to fight another day. His jaw-dropping half-time roasting of his players on the pitch at Man City in December was probably the most memorable moment of an otherwise fairly uneventful PL season.

There were some stellar performers - Nicolas Anelka, Andriy Arshavin, Cristiano Ronaldo, player of the season Ryan Giggs and in a coaching cameo, Guus Hiddink, while the mini-league at the top became a big three rather than big four, as Arsenal slipped off the pace and finished 11 points behind third-placed Chelsea.

Wenger's empire looked cracked, his masterplan misguided, and for the first time in ages, rumors resurfaced about the length of Arsene's reign at Ashburton Grove. Three high profile ex-players, Tony Adams, Paul Ince and Roy Keane, lost their jobs as managers, adding to the suspicion that the best players don't make the best coaches.

It was cheering to see Liverpool rise again and keep Mr. Abramovich frustrated (go on Roman, head back to Russia with your winnings), but the wider fact remains that no club outside the top four has a cat in hell's chance of breaking into the Champions League, rendering the 18-club competition for the title a de facto farce.

A week ago the UK government finally started talking to the PL about redistribution, but the politicians still show no willingness to take on the international cash cow while England is bidding for the World Cup.

With a year and a half until the 2018 hosts are decided, a spat between the government and the football authorities is the last thing England can expect.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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