After watching the Europa League last week as a neutral spectator I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Premier League would be improved and enhanced by the ‘away goals’ rule that applies in European cup competitions.
After Chelsea’s dramatic 3-1 victory over Steaua Bucharest, preceded by Tottenham’s 4-1 defeat at the San Siro to Inter Milan, and Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Anzhi Makhachkala, I turned to a friend and said “I wish the Premier League had an away goals rule”.
The main reason I enjoyed those games as neutral was they made for an exciting spectacle. They were more tense and had an edge of ‘anything could happen’ throughout the 90 minutes.
If the league were to introduce the away goals rule, every game would be like a cup game and games would be more open. The away side would have the advantage and therefore impetus to attack and play open rather than playing more conservatively away from home as many sides do.
Fewer dull draws
The secondary reason is that draws are fairly boring. Maybe it’s my need for resolution but I like a definitive outcome – a win or a loss. If all league games were subject to the away goals rule, the only draws would be 0-0 results and I suppose they could still be worth a point each.
No more ‘anti-football’ tactics
There are some anti-football offenders in the Premier League – teams like Stoke whose entire set up and philosophy is designed to prevent the opposition from playing football.
For the spectator that’s far less interesting to watch than expansive attacking football which, if the away goals rule were introduced, would likely become more prevalent across the board. The days when teams dug in and held on for a draw, parked the bus and ground out a result would be long gone.
All teams would actually have to play football and score goals as well as defending. Imagine that.
On that note, it would force teams to play at a higher level – of fitness, concentration, and work-rate.
At home, teams would have to work harder to defend because if they concede they’d have to score two to win the game. It would be the perfect punishment and in the long run remedy for teams who commit professional suicide with lazy farcical defending.
Finally, it would make the English game the most watched league in the world.
Currently, teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have a huge fanbase abroad – all across Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, in every corner of the globe there are fans of Premier League football.
That could, however, be expanded to include more teams and in general the league as a whole as an export could overtake La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and the MLS as the world’s favourite football leagues.
More viewers means more money and more money means more resources to enable the introduction of better technology, infrastructure and facilities which in turn enable the development of better players, officials, managers, teams, and clubs.
It’ll probably never happen but it’s food for thought.
image: © manuel | MC