Sound the sirens - our top-flight teams are rubbish
It's so exciting. The Premier League, it can only happen here - that's what the Prem is all about. The most envied league in the world, the most watched, the most open, with the best players, who are the best paid . . . Oh, bollocks, I can't keep it up. Because none of it is true. Except, perhaps, that it's the most open.
Open at the bottom, for it is so close that we won't know who will be going down till the very end, and open at the top, because it's going to be tight there, too. The normal reason given is that the standard has increased all round, the so-called lowlier teams having improved and become able to pay Prem-level wages and attract talent from around the world, as everyone wants to play in the Prem, etc.
A team like West Ham can even attract players with degrees, such as that 25-year-old big head from Senegal who runs around with "BA" on the back of his shirt. It may be a big deal in Senegal to be a graduate, but over here it's meaningless. It won't even get you a job stacking shelves.
I think the reason it is an open season is very simple - our top teams are rubbish. They're inconsistent and liable to get beaten by anyone, at any time.
And why are they rubbish? Three reasons. First, the lack of half-decent British talent coming through. Second, the drying up of top foreign talent - we only get the second-best these days, such as Torres and Fàbregas, who are considered top-class over here but can't make Spain's first team. And can you see Messi ever wanting to play here this side of his old-age pension, or Ronaldo returning, unless he decides to buy Man United with his loose change?
Third, there are our top managers, such as Fergie and Wenger, whom we adore, who have been so successful, kept in their posts for ages, unlike the ones with those flighty foreign outfits that change their gaffers on the hour. They've lost it and peaked - they're over the top, not much use, you know.
Fergie is failing to renew Man United. They have no dynamic midfield driving force to lead or urge them on when things are not going well - a Roy Keane or a Bryan Robson - or a talisman such as Cantona, whom the whole team can look up to. Yes, hard to find, but when Scholes and Giggs retire, who will have the creative skills to fill their places? Not Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea or Darron Gibson, and certainly not Gabriel Obertan. Poor old Owen Hargreaves is a crock.
At the back, when Rio and Vidic are out, that's it. Rio is well past his best anyway. The back-up players, such as Chris Smalling, are raw and naive. At the front, something is still wrong with Rooney, while Berbatov is still Berbatov, driving his manager mad. Hernández looks promising but Fergie appears not quite convinced. Only Nani gives hope.
Man United will probably still win the League and FA Cup, and they have progressed in Europe with a win against Marseille, but it will only disguise their problems. Arsenal, alas, have already collapsed before our eyes, deflated and decaying, mainly because Wenger has refused to sign a fully formed star player, preferring to shape his own. Fàbregas is supposedly his best player, but I can't remember the last time he dominated a game. A fit van Persie is vital - but he's always injured. Nasri is good, but he fades from games. Wilshere is not strong enough, yet. The Barcelona manager was right: Wilshere would only make their reserve team. The rest, such as Bendtner and Chamakh, would be lucky to make their third.
At Chelsea, the last of our modern-day top three, Lampard has had it, Drogba is getting old, Torres is a flop. Who have they got coming through, internally or from a big purchase, to make the heart leap?
Liverpool offer a bit of hope that gaps are being plugged when Andy Carroll and Luis Suárez bed down together, though Gerrard is fading fast. Spurs, on their day, do raise a smile.
I don't think it's watching Barça that makes English football depressing, but that Man United and Arsenal are falling below their own high standards. It's a national crisis. The coalition government has to act fast. Come on, Dave, get a grip.