It wasn’t tiki-taka. Geometric precision may have been lacking, but the Premier League’s latest serving beats the rest in spice. As tactical and ideological trends emanating from Catalonia continue to dictate the musings of football’s intelligentsia, the English game remains resolute and stubborn.
Never mind the intricate little noises coming from Spain and the revolutionaries in Italy, here we refuse to conform. Here penalties are better in the stands, strikers when they’re missing and artisans when flat on their faces.
Here the populace care not for immaculate technicians. It is in its parochialism that the Premier League has once again usurped the rest, claimed lost ground in a perpetual battle for perfection. The decline of an overwhelmingly cosmopolitan outpost, coupled with an influx of English talent to the country’s most recent European adventurers has seen the league regain a superiority once considered inherent.
The difference is in the drama. As Tony Evans succinctly put it on Twitter, “football is more poetry than maths.” In search of poetic meaning, hunters had not to look far, the story of Fernando Torres might as well have been penned by Thespis or Aeschylus, such was the distinctness of its tragedy; redemption wiped away by a moment of the utmost horror. Someone high up there clearly owns a Manchester United scarf.
Before even Torres though could become the subject of Twitter’s latest one-lined vendetta, English football had shown exactly why 11/12 will be all about a return. Through bleary eyes in North America, Arsenal were toppled at Ewood – England’s sole exponent of the measured continental approach, beaten by a team that epitomizes traditional British footballing stereotypes. Here, Arteta’s flair counts for nothing in a backdrop of Chris Samba headers.
The poaching too seems to be going both ways. Largely forgotten are the strikers who did score, the ones, more specifically, who used to play in Madrid. For every ex Atletico man missing open nets, there is one in full flight – Sergio Aguero seemingly immune to Sunday’s fluffing disease. Adebayor too, will recall the day fondly, he netted twice though in Spurs’ white, not the royal hue of previous employers.
For Premier League loyalists who snore through ESPN’s Serie A coverage insisting, still, that AC Milan play catenaccio, ears must have been perked at this afternoon’s entertainment. Everything about Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford smelled of England. The over hyped reaction to Phil Jones’ latest foray forward nailed sensationalist reaction, the penalty miss, symptomatic of a malaise which seems to only afflict those taking spot kicks here, just South of Scotland.
This weekend, the Premier League offered a persuasive riposte to footballing thinkers calling for reform. The games transcended numbers, formations and chalkboards – producing a combination of thrills and intensity unmatched by any other European league. At Old Trafford, a match was defined by brilliance and despair, the sort of dichotomy that makes this sport great – a contrast in fortunes, all factors contributing to a wondrous ebb and flow.
Sometimes in evaluating football, commentators are lost in an obsession with change. One success or failure can take on inflated importance – Jones’ actions a microcosm of that particular issue. The structure of footballing philosophy should not necessarily be shattered by one club’s indomitable actions, merely augmented, with room for the old as well as the new. Barcelona are the undoubted kings of the moment, but to insist on total revolution would be hasty in the extreme. Guardiola’s men are craftsmen of the most terrific mold, but here, our footballers practice their own kind of magic.