Games at the beginning and at the end of the season often throw up entertaining encounters and Chelsea versus Watford certainly didn’t disappoint.
It was a 4-3 cracker with the champions showing their ability to come out on top. In a brief moment of respite, the commentator pointed out that if Fulham (now they won’t of course) or Reading (one win away) are promoted alongside Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle to the Premier League, then half of the top-flight next season will be geographically below Watford.
So does that indicate a power shift in this country? On a personal level, I’m delighted to see football on the south coast so strong but it’s only fair to say the southern heavyweights are in the capital.
Chelsea have been the best team and congratulations to them but I do feel they have benefitted significantly by a lack of European action.
The test for Conte will be the ability to juggle more than one ball. The appeal of London as a place must also be a factor for footballers arriving from abroad. Of course that doesn’t guarantee success.
Arguably Manchester United’s global standing gives it the power to compete, Liverpool are back to challenging as they should and Manchester City can only get better with an infrastructure and investment the envy of most clubs.
Is the Premier League really two leagues? Or even three? Leicester proved it is possible to break into the top four but can the likes of Burnley, Bournemouth and Brighton realistically hold their own long term?
Southampton have proved that it can be done and their Europa League campaign was just reward for continually reinvigorating their squad after high-profile departures.
You also have to admire the tenacity of West Brom and Stoke to maintain their robust position in the top-flight.
As Brighton aim for survival, they may not be able to force their way into the elite, but if they can emulate Stoke or Southampton in the coming years then the chairman Tony Bloom will see it as success.
It won’t be easy. It won’t get easier either. Teams coming down like Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull weaken the presence of northern sides in the global circus that is the Premier League, but all three have established support and stadia and will be aiming to return.
The former Premier League clubs such as Derby, Leeds and Forest will be just a few of the teams aiming to emulate the current crop of southern teams enjoying the limelight and the revenue.
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