La Liga and the Premier League are, in most quarters, rightly recognised as the two strongest leagues in the world. Perhaps this is tough on Serie A, but it is no secret that most of the world’s stars occupy the two leagues in question.
It would be fair to say that, at this moment, the two best players in the world are Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Spain may have the best national squad in the world and the best players, but that doesn’t assure them a top spot in their domestic league. Most, if not all football fanatics, have similar comparisons, La Liga or the Premier League?
Now, for the most part, the majority of EPL lovers would argue that the Liga lacks any sense of competitiveness, and also accuse it of being a “2 team league,” regarding the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid have quite often won the league and rarely ever given room for any other Spanish teams to even compete.
This topic being a never-ending discussion point between all football fans, and it should be an interesting and somewhat obligation issue for me to try to distinguish between the two. The two leagues are both a big 20-team story in their own rights. Like any other good story though, football always throws up fascinating sub-plots, and it is within these that I believe the true competitive nature of round-robin football can be found. ‘The Race for 4th’ and ‘The Race for 40 Points’ can be equally as enthralling, but both have the potential to be just as equally predictable.
Given that the two leagues are almost identical in format and structure, sharing similar European qualification standards and the same rules regarding relegation (albeit the Premier League uses goal-difference to separate sides on level points whereas La Liga uses the head-to-head results). I have decided that the best measure of this is to look at how close teams finish to one another on points throughout the league. A smaller gap between teams suggests a higher level of competitiveness. I guess the logical place to start is at the top.
Having examined the final top-four from the two respective leagues since 2005, I have constructed the table below to show the points difference between each position. This includes the gaps between 1st through to 4th and an overall gap covering the section, as well as an average points difference over the last seven seasons.
As expected, the gap between 1st and 2nd is a lot smaller than the gap between 2nd and 3rd in both leagues. As a season goes on, more and more teams tend to fall away from the title-chase and there are often only two teams left who go into the final few games with a chance of winning the title. The average gap between 2nd and 3rd in Spain, however, is staggering. Whilst between 2005 and 2009, the two leagues were both relatively competitive in terms of the number of teams challenging for top-spot, since 2010, La Liga’s top-two have broken away to such an extent, that the average points difference between 2nd and 3rd is more than double the gap between the champions and the runners-up themselves. There is, however, a smaller gap between 3rd and 4th in Spain. But in terms of overall competitiveness at the summit, the Premier League wins hands down thanks also to a much smaller gap between the top and bottom of the section overall.
For all the Liga fans just inches away from closing the link, recommend you wait and continue reading. At the time being, La Liga is a zoo of talent with both the world’s best Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi taking their place in this promiscuous jungle. I have also recognized that by a landslide, the Premier League delivers more goals on a weekly and seasonal basis than La Liga. Could this be because the Premier League posses the best strikers? Is it that the likes of Falcao, Ronaldo, Benzema, or even the great Lionel Messi are just not good enough for teams like Levante and Osasuna?
The answer to this question has to be seen through a different eye. The tactical one. Now I’m no Jose Mourinho, but its been shown and quoted by many players who have transferred from the Premeir League to La Liga and visa-versa, that in the Premier League, you simply do not have to wait for the second half for an open game. Unlike La Liga, which in majority, always kicks off games with a nervy and tight back-line and forwards that are as shy as a pre-pubicent girl. Contrary to popular belief, La Liga has shown itself to be tactically superior to the Premier League in the sense that even teams that counter attack, always have a time and place, in addition to adding a lot of pressure and closing their spaces to make it harder for the opposition, and unfortunately, that tends to be a rarity in England.
Recent games like the 8-0 hammering that Chelsea handed Aston Villa a couple of weeks back, or the 7-3 gunner goal-marathon. These scorelines, in the eye of an average football fan, would be enjoyable and entertaining, but as many other conceded goals, they happen because of a fault, and oh are those faults many.
Teams in the Premier League continually show us that they fail at shifting positions. Center backs frequently caught off-guard and there’s no sense of connection between the back-line and the midfield Not to mention the seas of space between each player, that usually makes it easy for both teams to get space without even trying. Modern day football is all about space-making, and without that, there’s no tactical brilliance to any goal, even if it was shot in a beautiful way, it still would be looked at as a fault.
That pretty much sums up the whole La Liga-EPL dilemma and gives my perspective of the issue. It’s hard to say which is better, and honestly, it’s better not to. Both leagues are considered the best in the world, and it wouldn’t be right ruling one off as boring or the other as tactically insuperior. Both enjoyed in their own way, and cherished by many.
Written by Hasan Al