Friday, August 12, 2011

This is What Will Happen in The Premiership this Year. Trust Me, I'm a Blogger.

I had this history professor in college who must have been 237 years old. His suit hung on him like he was a coat rack and he smoked like a chimney (Is there anything that smokes more than a chimney? Because that would be a more suitable comparison.). Seriously. The majority of the history classrooms were on the second floor of this building and Dr. Smokesalot had to take the elevator because his lungs simply could not make it happen. A flight of stairs might as well have been Everest. His exams were memorable in that they were so ridiculous and tended to award trivial knowledge and rote memorization over actual substance. For instance, after having read a 400 page biography of Harry Truman, one would not have been asked to write a cogent essay on something like, "Discuss Truman's policy toward an ascendant post World War II Soviet Union and its effects on the Cold War." No. Instead, one might expect a question like, "What was the name of Truman and Jacobson's Haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri?" Needless to say, I did not do well in this class. Incidentally, the name of the haberdashery was Truman and Jacobson Haberdashery. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

On another exam, one was asked to list Abraham Lincoln's civil war generals in order of Lincoln's personal preference. Seriously? We're talking double digits of generals here and although I can be one bastard of a know-it-all, I cannot presume to know the personal feelings of a long dead American President toward a bunch of guys who prosecuted a war 150 years ago. I could probably get "most favorite" and "I fucking hate that guy," but is there really much of a difference between numbers five and six? Which, in a very roundabout way, brings me to my predictions for the 2011-2012 Premier League campaign. You didn't think I'd get there, did you? Shame on you.

Let's be honest, the Premier League is about the top four and the bottom three. Places five through seventeen are largely indistinguishable despite some European spots up for grabs and a fairly meaningless pat on the back for finishing in the top half. I say this as a supporter of a club that falls in the middle ground, so don't get all up in arms, Stoke fans. The two main goals of any Premier League side are to push for a top four sport and the Champions League and, barring that - and if you're not Manchester United, Manchester city, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, or Tottenham I hope you are barring that - to not get relegated. Everything else is gravy.

Let's start with the top four. I pick them to finish like this:

1. Liverpool - I know, I know. What the H? Liverpool?! Yup, Liverpool. I've thought about this quite a bit and I cannot convince myself that Liverpool aren't legitimate challengers for the Premier League title. There's a lot of quality in this side from back to front. Luis Suarez and his ridiculous overbite were a revelation in the second half of last season. Andy Carroll and his ridiculous hair should be healthy and provide a nice foil to Suarez. The midfield is stacked with Raul Meireles and his ridiculous full sleeve tattoos, Dirk Kuyt and his ridiculously hideous bad looks, Jordan Henderson and his ridiculously boyish good looks, Charlie Adam and his ridiculous front tooth gap, Stuart Downing and his ridiculous ability to serve a ball (alas, there's really not that much ridiculous about Downing), and Steven Gerrard and his ridiculous newly acquired honor of being named the most attractive footballer in England...according to Gay men. Seriously. That happened. Additionally, the back four, although not endowed with quite as much ridiculousness, is experienced and solid and although Pepe Reina is prone to the odd howler, he's no Heurelho Gomes.

With Adam, Downing, and Henderson, Kenny Dalglish made quite the stir in the transfer market and can now probably field an entire team of midfielders, but those signings give Liverpool incredible strength in depth, a good mixture of experience and youth, and the option to play Gerrard, Mireles, and Kuyt in any formation at any time. I predict many a drunken celebration for the KOP...hide your wife, hide your kids.

2. Manchester United - I struggled with this one more than any other prediction. On the one hand, it's Manchester Freaking United. No matter who gets a run out, they always seem to play for the shirt, believe in the their ability, and find a way to score one more goal. As a non United fan, it's disgusting. Having said that, you've got to respect the club and Sir Alex. Simply put, they're winners.

On the other hand, you don't win championships with young goalkeepers. I think David de Gea is a great young player and will be a good goalkeeper for a very long time, but it's Manchester Freaking United and he's following a legend. No one wants to be the guy after the legend. You want to be the guy after the guy after the legend...and sometimes not even that guy. Ask Fabian Barthez.

Still, United have plenty of firepower in Rooney, Chicharito, Berbatov, and Nani and Vidic, Ferdinand, and Evra are rocks in the back. If there's a question mark for me, it's central midfield. Anderson is going to be asked to step up and contribute more than he's done so far for the club and Sir no longer has the safety net of bringing Paul Scholes on for twenty or thirty minutes to say, "Seriously guys, calm the fuck down. Now watch me while I ping this sixty yard ball directly to Rooney's feet while he's in full a downpour...blindfolded."

3. Chelsea - What can you say about Chelsea? Well, they're old, or at least getting older. Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Petr Cech have been the spine of this team for years and that spine has a lot of miles on it. Still, all three of those players are world class and it shouldn't be that big of a deal if, and this is a big if, the young guys can step up and everyone buys into what Andre Villas-Boas is selling. Actually, that's two ifs, but who's counting? Oh, and if Fernando Torres can finally, you know, put the ball in the back of the net. Damn! Three ifs! Side note: How did Torres not get the Hottest Player in the Premier League Among Gay Men award? Seriously, look at the guy! If I'm gay I hit that every day of the week. Twice on Sundays...but only if Chelsea have a Saturday or midweek match...and I'm a Chelsea fan...otherwise, I hit it on Sunday and then brag to all my gay buddies that Torres didn't score that day because he "scored" that day. I finish my comments with a "Hey-O!". I digress.

Another big question mark (four ifs?!?) is whether or not Michael Essien can ever get healthy. Lampard needs freedom in midfield to create and if he doesn't have someone like Essien putting out fires for him he has to play deeper on the pitch. Mikel is a decent second option for that role, but he's no Essien and is always just one insane challenge away from a ban. Still, Chelsea did some good business in the transfer market and young guys like Gael Kakuta and especially Daniel Sturridge could find themselves finally getting quality minutes in the first team under a new coach. If I'm honest, and I try to be, I could easily see United and Chelsea trading spots here. Maybe I'll switch them. It was the Fernando Torres talk that caused me to second guess my initial decision. And by "initial decision" I mean putting United at two and Chelsea at three, not my sexual preference.

4. Manchester City - I hate putting City here. I'd love to see Tottenham or Arsenal in this fourth spot, but let's be honest, Tottenham need to score goals and Crouch, Defoe, Keane, Pavlyuchenko, and Dos Santos don't exactly set the world on fire. As for Arsenal...where do I start? Frankly, I think they're screwed, especially if Fabregas and Nasri leave. I could see an epic collapse that has Arsene Wenger throwing one season long hissy fit, pointing fingers at bad challenges and referees, and sinking into a Colonel Kurtz like void of insanity. God, that would be fun to watch!

Back to City. If there's one word to describe my feelings toward City, it's schadenfreude. There's no team in the Premier League I like to see lose more than City. I wholeheartedly believe they're everything that's wrong with world football at the moment and a complete implosion would just tickle me to death. If Dante were alive today, he'd put Wal-Mart and Manchester City together in a special ring of hell.

On paper, this squad is ridiculous. There's literally a world class player...or every single position. In practice, they're two losses away from complete dysfunction. Mario Balotelli is the Terrell Owens of big time club football, Carlos Tevez wants away from everywhere, Craig Bellamy HATES Roberto Mancini, Roberto Mancini HATES Craig Bellamy, and some seasoned international stars and young, exciting players can't get anywhere near the first team. Add to that a wage bill that prevents anyone from going anywhere in the transfer market and I see the potential for City to go up like a poorly fried turkey at Thanksgiving.

Regardless of what happens, I think Mancini is done after this season. The only way he stays, as far as I can see, is by either winning the Premiership or going really far in the Champions League. I don't see either happening. I can, however, see Sheik Mansour FC...I mean Manchester City, limping to an underwhelming fourth spot in the table, losing their manager along the way, having periodic public displays of infighting, and teetering on financial collapse. I can't wait.

Now that the top of the table is set in stone and all of my predictions are well on their way to becoming true, let's take a look at those three unfortunate sides who will spend next summer preparing for life in the League Championship, shall we?

It would be too easy to predict Swansea, Norwich, and QPR as the clubs to be relegated this year. Plus, history dictates that at least one of those clubs will shock enough of the Premier League's returning clubs to get a few results and hang on for dear life.

My bottom three, in no particular order, are:

Queens Park Rangers - As spendthrift as Manchester City are, QPR are equally cheap. You get the sense that the owners are all about cashing in a Premier League paycheck and then slinking back to the Championship without feeling particularly bad about it. Their ticket prices are though the roof and Adel Taarabt, their best player last year, was immediately put in the shop window once they were promoted. Add to that the fact that Kieron Dyer and Daniel Gabbidon were brought in as marquee signings and that their last four matches of the season promise to be pretty brutal and I feel reasonably confident that QPR's days in the top flight are numbered.

Norwich - I want Norwich to stay up. I really do. Mostly this is because Zak Whitbread plays for them and it's always nice to see another American player with a top flight side. Again though, not a lot of action in the transfer market and a brutal run in to the final day. Plus, they're the Canaries. Canaries die in mines.

Blackburn - You barely survived last year. One of the players who helped you stay up was called back from his loan spell. Your squad is aging. Your best young player was sold for boatloads of cash that you haven't reinvested in new players. You bought a guy named Goodwillie, seemingly because it's a fun name to say. Your manager believes he's managing a top four side. You're owned by an Indian company that seems wholly disinterested in opening its checkbook. What's that spell? Relegated.

Other contenders for the drop:

Wigan - No N'Zogbia. This is a problem. I could be talked into them going down, but I find Roberto Martinez just so damned likable.

Wolves - I mean, it's Wolves.

Swansea - A Welsh club in the Premiership? I'll be a monkey's uncle.


  1. Can't see Liverpool in top 3. Too many midfielders, not a lot of creativity, weak defense. Yes, they won't have to play in Europe, but I can't see them finishing above Man U, City or Chelsea (which is how I think it'll finish). I can see Arsenal and Liverpool battling for 4th and Spurs as 6th.

    -Ryan T

  2. Not bad. Disagree with Liverpool, but you know. United loses the obvious top spot now that they pulled the plug on the Sneijder deal. As for City, they can't win the Premiership until they at least become the best team in their city.

    Clark is going to kill you for not even mentioning Arsenal.

    The only sad thing about all of this is that we're still really talking about the same 5-6 squads each year. Time for an NFL salary cap.

  3. My gut reaction about Liverpool was similar, but then as I thought about it I couldn't shake the idea that they have a ton of quality in the side and not much expectation other than to challenge for the top 4. That's a recipe for success. And I have to disagree with the creativity knock. Suarez, Adam, Meireles, and Gerrard can all provide a little magic.

    Look, I'm not saying it's for sure gonna happen, but when it does, remember who called it. This guy.

  4. Agreed Arsenal will probably end up living up to every misspelling of their name possible. Liverpool to win? I like the balls on that. Speaking of balls, some would argue being gay is not a choice, Pancho. Just like some might argue that getting old is not a choice, Chelsea. And Im sort of upset that you didnt mention Giggsy in the ManU anal-ysis; the guy is like 83 and still balling like theres no tomorrow. Also, you said it would be all too easy to pick QPR, Norwich, and Swansea for relegation, then picked 2 of those 3 for relegation. Shame on you for getting my hopes up about a Fulham appearance in the Rela-gay-tion zone.


  5. Haldor...Sweet, sweet Haldor. I never argued being gay was a choice for people who are actually gay. I mean, baby, they were born that way. I was saying for me, at this point, I'd have to actually choose to be gay. Lawyered. As for Giggs, yes, he is still balling...mostly models and his brother's wife, but who's counting?

    And if I reconsider my relegation candidates, I slot Wigan into Norwich's spot.

    Lastly, bite your tongue for suggesting my Cottagers will flirt with relegation this season. I'm not sure my wrong-side-of-thirty-heart could take it.

  6. 'Pool just aren't deep enough. Their first 11 can play with anyone, but Carragher will pick up more and more cards and show the lack of depth behind him. And Skrtel the Turtle has looked shaky. I just can't see them mounting a full season challenge. Otherwise, pretty spot on. I don't think De Gea is quite ready. I'd be fine with Lindegaard in goal... except every time I hear his name I envision Margie from Fargo saying it. --AG

  7. Oh yah. Geez. And Skrtel is "kinda funny lookin'."

    Imagine Liverpool is in contention at the January window though...In spite of his propensity to sign every available midfielder, Dalglish does seem to have a pretty firm grasp of his team's capabilities and weaknesses and the ownership has been more than willing to invest. If central defense becomes and issue, don't you think they'd spring for one of the available center backs? Samba? Cahill? Hangeland? Just saying.

    And yes, I feel badly for de Gea. The kid is a serious talent, but playing for United, especially for a goalkeeper, is not like playing anywhere else. It's not the sort of club where you can quietly build confidence as you get a few matches under your belt. I think both Foster and Howard are good examples of what can happen to a young guy who is seriously talented but just not yet ready for The Theater of Dreams. Side note: Does that not sound like a Vegas strip club to anyone else?