How the Welsh Are Influencing (And Improving) the English Premier League
One of the prevailing theories about the evolution of the English language is that major grammatical quirks—which set it apart from other Indo-European/Proto-Germanic tongues—came not just from invading Vikings and Normans but from the indigenous Celts, i.e. the modern Cornish and Welsh. Only the Celts, for example, carried on with the meaningless “do” (“Did he go to the store? – No, but he does go to the store often”), which only English also uses to this day.
Modern English, via Old and Middle English, can be thought of, the theory holds, as what happened when Welsh adults learned (poorly) and then regurgitated (even more poorly) the “English” of the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. Our version of English is thus the result of non-native speakers making the best out of a foreign language they were in a certain sense forced to learn.
Similarly, the Welsh continue to learn and spit back out another English product: football. Slowly but surely, Welsh clubs seem to be soaking up tactics, tricks, and techniques from their English counterparts, testing these acquired traits, and then molding them into successful systems—systems which are allowing Welsh clubs to climb the ranks and make headway into England’s elite circles. The up-and-coming Welsh teams are, in turn, acting like hammers on the chiseled sculpture that is the English Premier League; through solid and shrewd football, teams like Swansea City and Cardiff City are irrevocably changing the landscape in England—for the better.
Take Swansea City. They steadily climbed the table last season, doing nothing more than aping, perfecting, and then unleashing a system that many great teams in the Prem used to employ: pretty, passing football relying on solid defense and patience. Even with the tumult of Brendan Rodgers moving to Liverpool, Swansea look to be on the up this coming season. They have a new coach, a new training ground, and have won their first friendly 5-0.
Swansea’s influence is already being felt in clubs like Chelsea. How did Chelsea, of all teams, come from out of nowhere to make a run at the Premier League crown, win the FA Cup, and snatch the Champions League title? They did it with passing football, based on defense and patience (and, okay, luck).
It might be a stretch to argue that Chelsea took a page from Swansea’s playbook, and not the other way around, but either way the trend shows a cycle in which teams from outside the Prem adopt and then improve systems once used inside it, and then finally influence the Prem with “bastardized” versions of English football (it also helps that many players on big-name Welsh sides are actually English).
This trend can only be good for the league, as the new forms of football that result from a spin in the Welsh meat grinder will be stripped down versions, without unnecessary frills—much like the new form of English, stripped of complex cases, that resulted from its many Celtic filters.