Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Big four & Big draw

So as we draw closer to the supposed crunch time of Christmas in the Premier League (yup, after four months I’ll finally call it that) the basic fact of the matter is that the big four have done it again. There, like the most obvious thing in the world, they once again take up the top four spaces in the division. Deep down we all knew it would happen but it’s sort of soul destroying that it’s actually come to pass with such sickening inevitability.

Okay Sven City did a decent job holding out for a while, but their less than adequate away form finally cost them a place in the Champions League positions. It happened to Portsmouth last year around this time, and of course the year before it didn’t happen to Spurs until the last day. But it did happen.

The top four however have always been a curious animal... although when exactly the term became common is up for debate. 2003? 2004? Maybe, but I’m not sure it was until after Istanbul that Liverpool could even conceive of being in any elite group in this league. Chelsea certainly weren’t in there until the stubbly Russian mute took over.

Each year one of their number suffer from tales of their demise; there was Man United being predicted for fifth at last season’s outset and Arsenal were seen by many commentators (okay, idiots like us at ODF) as only a top six side at the start of this season. Liverpool also had some doom merchants at the outset of the 07/08 campaign who predicted pain and plenty of it.

But despite millions paid out by other sides, there they sit. What kind of pain can a club really suffer when it still canters to a slot in the league that guarantees them millions to spend on the best players (and Dirk Kuyt) every summer?

While it’s inevitable in the short term I still hope Spurs sort themselves out, Everton (though I’ll never get sick of that ‘Two Nights in August’ joke) get some decent cash and Man City and Pompey (and to a lesser extent Blackburn and Villa) continue their upward trajectory to challenge the hegemony. I know that sentence sounds like something you should say at the start of a new season rather than approaching the midway point but the ease with which these four have come to this position shows the disgraceful lack of real challengers out there.

Liverpool and especially Chelsea have even had to survive off-field drama and on-field tedium to mount possibly serious title challenges too. Here’s hoping Man City stick with the big boys for a little while longer to keep them honest, but is this it for the next 20 years ala Scotland or what? Well, I suppose a big four is better than a big two at least.


Anyway, aside from that, the draw for Euro 2008 was an absolute cracker and fair play to Uefa suits for hiring Swiss actress Melanie Winiger (above with eh... two blokes I don't care about) to host the gig as her picture made for far nicer images in the Monday papers than viewing Michel Platini’s hobo-chic look once again.

The bizarre system whereby group opponents can now meet in the semi finals aside, there’s already some great games to put in the diary… that wonderfully England-free diary. Germany can make some annexing gags towards the Poles on June 8th while Holland face Italy the night after. Then the next day it’s Spain and Russia followed the day after by the Czechs against Portugal and that’s only the start of things.

Okay, so Greece will play terrible stuff and the hosts will both lack quality but this is three weeks of generally quality football. Get the cans; get the takeaway leaflets; phone off the hook… life as it is meant to be lived.

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