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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Premier League Is Finally As "Bad" As La Liga

Illustration for article titled The Premier League Is Finally As "Bad" As La Liga
Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty)

It’s more than a little ironic that the definitive proof that the Premier League truly is as comprehensively and inarguably supreme as its fanboys have long contended it to be has come in the exact form many of those same fanboys shitted on Spain for back when La Liga was top dog.


Manchester City and Liverpool are simply in another world when compared to their EPL competition. It’s been true for a couple years now, we knew it coming into the season, and it’s taken but a few weeks to solidify that once again, the Premier League title race consists of City, Liverpool, and no one else.

This weekend’s games made the chasm between England’s Big Two and the rest especially stark, thanks most notably to Man City. On Saturday, City hosted Watford, and administered one of the most complete ass-whoopings you’ll ever see. The score was 8–0, one goal shy of an EPL record. It was one of the rare blowouts that really could’ve been much worse; the Citizens created 10 big chances but only converted half of them, and hit the woodwork three times. If Sergio Agüero had been only a teensy bit sharper, we would’ve been looking at the worst battering in Premier League history.

Liverpool’s weekend went much differently. The Reds went to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea on Sunday, and though Liverpool extended their perfect start to the season with a 2–1 victory, their performance was far from their best. After jumping out to an early two-goal lead by the 30th minute, Liverpool looked content to concede the initiative to Chelsea. The Blues scrapped valiantly to get themselves back into the match, but ultimately failed to come away with anything.

As unremarkable as Liverpool played, the simple fact that they could withstand their star forward line never really getting going and still wrap up a deserved victory in an away game against a club like Chelsea demonstrates that even Liverpool’s C+ game is enough to dispatch their ostensible peers.

That Liverpool and Man City—still Nos. 1 and 2 in the table with goal differences (+12 and +18, respectively) at least three-times better than the third-best figure (Spurs’ +4)—are so far and away the best teams in the Premier League is no problem. In part because of City’s and Liverpool’s greatness, this is the best the league has ever been, with the world’s two best teams at the very top, a handful of really good squads below them, a fantastic mid-table that houses more than a few legitimate Champions League–quality players, a basement full of quietly competent clubs, outstanding coaches from top to bottom, and a raging river of money coming in to ensure the continuation of it all. Still, it is a little funny to watch Liverpool and City treat the Premier League the same way so many of the league’s most provincial followers claimed was proof of La Liga’s inferiority when Barcelona and Real Madrid did it in Spain.

For the greater part of the past decade-and-a-half, the dominant narrative in the Anglophone world with respect to the comparative merits of England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga has been that the former was better than the latter. One of the core concepts used to support this belief—and maybe the most important one, as it sought to preempt the strongest point of evidence for the contrary position: the inarguable supremacy of Barcelona and Real Madrid—was the idea that, unlike in Spain where the Big Two effortlessly piled mountains of goals and points onto their wildly overmatched opponents, England was too competitive, too proud, too fierce, too good to allow any one or two teams to so thoroughly dominate the league.

The best version of this argument was always misguided; the worst version—the notion that Lionel Messi would be exposed should he ever find himself forced to try his foofy crap on a cold, rainy night in Stoke—was stupid. All of it felt borne of a typically British sense of exceptionalism and an envy-induced insecurity that perhaps The Best League In The World™ wasn’t actually home to the finest teams, players, and competition.


Regardless of why that notion came about, it was wrong. Barcelona and Real Madrid of the Guardiola-Mourinho-Luis Enrique-Zidane eras systematically crushed all foes both domestic and continental en route to historic point totals and trophy hauls not because Getafe and Osasuna were significantly worse than Wigan and Fulham, but because those Barça and Real squads were some of the greatest teams of all time. Messi and Ronaldo’s stats dwarfing the yearly goal tallies of their counterparts on the Prem’s top scorers list wasn’t because Rayo Vallecano roll over and concede hat tricks in a way Aston Villa are too cussed to ever allow, but instead because those two were miles better than anyone else on the planet. Barça’s and Real’s exploits in La Liga—a league whose secondary teams consistently go far in competitions like the Champions and Europa Leagues, and whose best players on even lower level squads are regularly plucked up by bigger clubs around Europe and emerge as stars—were proof of rather than detractions from those clubs’ greatness.

The Premier League has long been the most compelling league to follow because of its top-to-bottom depth, the considerable number of very good teams at the top, and its ability to tell new, captivating stories about itself and its teams every year. Now, Liverpool and City have shown that there is even a level beyond that, one that England’s best teams had previously only rarely breached and almost never sustained. Hopefully the dum-dums who were all “Hurr, La Liga sucks because Barça and Real know they’re gonna win by four every weekend, the Prem would never,” back when the Spanish clubs were the ones trading 100-point league titles have seen the error of their ways, and are reveling in the league finally having teams good enough to be way better than everyone else.