Today, as I'm sure you know, we face Liverpool in what is, as Aaron reminds us, looking like a critical match for both teams. But it also gives me the chance to talk about Liverpool a bit. One of the most storied franchises in all of sports, The Reds have won more than 40 titles since their beginnings in 1892.
And yet this year sees the side struggling like they rarely have before. The ship seems to be righting itself a bit, as of late, but the potential for relegation raises an interesting question. Is it important for the EPL and the FA to have one of their marquee teams in their highest level?
It's an argument that is bandied about in sports every now and again. "College football is just better if Notre Dame can field a strong team." Or, "basketball is really missing something if there aren't good Lakers and Celtics teams so we can have that rivalry." And I have to say, I think these lines of reasoning are a lot of bunk.
Sports offer one of the easiest ways to escape from the everyday. If your work sucks, your relationship is going to shards, or something has got you down, you can turn to sports to forget it all for awhile. Sure, it may not be totally rewarding. How many times have you watched Villa lose when you most wanted them to win? How many times this season? But despite the potential for heartbreak, usually we can lose ourselves in the game for a little while. And the ability exists at any level. Just look at the joy that Non-league day brought to people. So sports don't need certain franchises to be good. It's sometimes nice, but it's not necessary.
Now to bring this back to Liverpool, and in a roundabout way, to Villa. Liverpool really are a huge deal. When I was looking for EPL clubs, they were on the shortlist. Think about it: if you don't live nearby, you want a team that's easy to follow, which Liverpool certainly is. And Liverpool had the Beatles! Now that I'm a Villa fan, I'm repulsed by these ideas, but they're just as good, and just as arbitrary as "I like the blog that writes about them."
But if Liverpool spend a season or two in the Championship, soccer won't be ruined. For supporters of The Reds, they'll still be there. I doubt that any fan worth anything would leave just due to relegation that wouldn't last too long. And they'd be able to cheer for promotion. From what I've read, promotion battles are some of the most thrilling in soccer.
And what of other teams? Would Aston Villa be worse off for not getting to play Liverpool twice a year? Would fans not want to show up for games if they were against QPR instead of the Anfield side? I highly doubt it. As a Villa fan, my number one goal is to see the Claret and Blue win. If that win comes against West Brom, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, of QPR, I don't care. If it means 3 points on the table, or a chance to advance in a tournament, I'm happy. Sure, a win over a Big 4 side feels a little better, but I promise you I wouldn't notice if Villa won every game in the season except those against the Big 4. That's 90 points. Do you know what 90 points gets you? The EPL title. Who cares if we didn't beat ______, we'd still have won it all.
So Liverpool's problems aren't anything for English soccer to be too worried about. They're a team that will eventually turn it around, and may have already this season. And if they drop, they will still have supporters, and other teams will go on playing. Liverpool isn't too bit to fail, it just seems that way.