Farmer’s League: pejorative term designating a football league that lacks quality or competitiveness.
It’s a sneer that has gained popularity among England fans who despise countries where the title winners are seemingly known even before the start of the season.
While the Premier League usually starts with four or five teams believing they can fight for the top spot, some believe that in the top flights in Germany, France and Italy, champions can be easily predicted.
For example, anyone who tipped Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus to win their respective leagues in the past nine years would have been right 90% of the time.
The Premier League, on the other hand, have had five different winners during this period.
However, with Manchester City currently 11 points clear at the top of the table in mid-January, there are growing fears that English football is heading in the same direction.
Pep Guardiola’s side are heading for what would be a fourth title in five years, with their dominance and game control seeing the possibility of a three-horse title race slip away.
City extended their winning streak to 12 matches on Saturday with a 1-0 win over second-placed Chelsea who could manufacture just one shot on target.
Thomas Tuchel had complained that the European champions struggled to stay in the title race and now it looks like only Liverpool – 11 points behind with a game less – have any hope of toppling the runaway leaders.
So, is the Premier League becoming a procession? Is it, in reality, no more competitive than the Bundesliga or Ligue 1?
Before attempting to answer these questions, it’s worth pointing out that football fans in Germany, France and Italy might take issue with the jibe, believing that the teams had to fight harder for title glory than they do. think the English fans.
Bayern have won the last nine Bundesliga titles but the 2019 season was only settled on the last day, while neither PSG nor Juve are currently defending champions of France or Italy respectively.
It should also be remembered that dominance is cyclical and not a new phenomenon, even in England.
Aston Villa in the 1890s, Arsenal in the 1930s, Liverpool in the late 70s and early 80s, and Manchester United three times between 1992 and 2011, all won four titles in the space of five years .
City have been superb since Guardiola’s difficult first season at Manchester, but they are barely so far ahead of their rivals that the title race was taken for granted in August.
Champions League winners Chelsea faced a serious challenge after adding £98m ($136m) striker Romelu Lukaku to a squad that beat City three times at the end of the season. last campaign. Liverpool were expected to challenge again with Virgil van Dijk back from long-term injury to take charge of defence, while even Manchester United were seen as a challenger after adding Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane to a team that had finished second.
As United imploded dramatically and quickly, Chelsea and Liverpool looked well placed to support the title contenders. Indeed, on December 11, only two points separated the Blues, the Reds and City.
However, Chelsea have won just four of their last 13 Premier League games, while Sunday’s victory over Brentford was Liverpool’s first in four matches.
Liverpool are currently on course for a total of 81 points, which would only be enough to guarantee two titles this decade, Chelsea’s projected total of 74 points would not be enough to win a Premier League in their history.
But the title race is far from over.
Liverpool have a game in hand and a trip to the Etihad Stadium which, if won, would close the gap to just five points and Jurgen Klopp’s side are more than capable of mounting a winning streak to put City under pressure.
The form of champions can be intimidating but they are certainly not unbeatable.
Just ask Crystal Palace, who deservedly won at the Etihad Stadium, or Southampton or Wolves, who can point to controversial refereeing decisions for not doing the same.
And what about Arsenal, who were the better team in a self-inflicted 2-1 defeat on New Year’s Day, or Leicester, Tottenham and West Ham, who all beat City in different competitions this season?
Of course, Guardiola’s side have started to push the bar in terms of what’s required at the top.
Should they reach 97 points, it would only be the fifth time in Premier League history. But all five cases happened in the last five years (City twice and Liverpool twice).
Guardiola will receive plenty of credit from his club’s fans for their brutal and relentless dominance, but there will always be naysayers ready to shoot City’s achievements.
When it comes to their success, sooner or later the subject of money will come up. The wealthiest clubs have generally always been the most decorated.
City are certainly no different, having spent more than anyone since Sheikh Mansour took over the club in 2008, with huge sums lavished on star players to give Guardiola the quality to turn his team into a machine.
Against Chelsea, with the exception of academy graduate Phil Foden, each player cost more than £35m ($47m).
However, Tuchel’s team was hardly compiled with few means and while he complained that City coped better with Covid-19 and injuries, eight of his nine replacement options were full internationals, while four from Guardiola’s bench had played three Premier League minutes between them.
So, as strong as the City team is undeniably, there are plenty of holes.
After all, they are going through an entire season without a natural striker or an orthodox left-back, although Joao Cancelo has been outstanding since being thrust into the role.
City wanted Harry Kane this summer but when it became clear he would not be leaving Tottenham the decision was made to carry on with what they had rather than buy a misfit in the hopes they could be a success.
Ronaldo’s desire to leave Juve saw him emerge as an option, but City’s interest ended when United were scared off into panic buying. City have decided to regroup, to wait until the summer of 2022 before making a much wiser purchase.
United are an example of a club that have made several costly mistakes in the transfer market in recent years, including paying crazy fees or huge salaries for players such as Alexis Sanchez, Harry Maguire and Fred – all wanted by City but abandoned. when the numbers involved in the proposed deals exploded.
Seventh in the Premier League, with an interim manager and players wanting to leave, United are the counter-argument to the old adage that money buys success. They are proof that financial might is only a factor if you are able to spend wisely.
City are certainly in the midst of a golden period, but history suggests they are highly unlikely to stay there forever, particularly given the quality of rivals such as Liverpool and Chelsea, who have won two of the last three Champions League between them.
Guardiola has had incredible success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but is under no illusions about what it takes to keep his team motivated to keep them at the top.
“Winning and winning, in this country, in this league, is my best title I have and the best I will have when I leave,” he concluded after beating Chelsea on Saturday.
As far as Guardiola is concerned, the Premier League is definitely not a Farmers League. City are currently only a cut above some high-quality rivals.