The lovely thing about writing a Premier League preview is that nothing changes from year to year. Manchester City and Chelsea are good. Arsenal and Liverpool are pretend good. Tottenham is not good, but keeps luring you into thinking they might be good, which is an annual crime of the heart.
Everyone else is somewhere between pleasingly mediocre, with odd flashes of excellence (Everton), and so completely out of their depth they would be just as well off bringing baseball bats onto the field, and beating their opponents the old-fashioned way (Burnley).
There you go. Finished.
Oh, there’s more space? Okay, fine. But you may have already guessed most of this.
Chelsea will win the league
This is, in part, a function of transfer market cunning. They did their business early, cutting bait with the man who would later ruin Brazilian soccer, David Luiz, for a mind-boggling $90-million (U.S.). They hoovered up top players in all their weak spots – forward (Diego Costa), central mid (Cesc Fabregas) and fullback (Filipe Luis). No Premiership team has so much quality and depth.
But mostly they will win because this would be the most annoying possible result for everyone else.
Manager Jose Mourinho will spend the entire season moaning about how his squad has absolutely no chance at a title, then have the gall to seem surprised when it happens. If he plans on recycling the equine analogy he used last year – (“This title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump …Maybe next season we can race.”) – I encourage him to do it while actually sitting on a horse. Then I’d like him to charge out onto the field and chop someone’s head off.
Speaking of cutting off heads …
Yes, that’s right. Roy Keane is back in the league, as an assistant at Aston Villa. That was a smart hire, if you meant for all the players to barricade themselves inside their lockers after every loss. Keane’s entire purpose as a coach is to stand there, arms folded, giving lesser men a withering look that says, “You’re no Roy Keane.”
Who’s the anti-Roy Keane?
That would be Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger. His life-affirming belief in players who have no business playing at a club the size of Arsenal continues to encourage all the world’s mediocrities. This ethos has been given human form in the person of Olivier Giroud – great hair, terrible striker and, as per the usual for Wenger, distressingly French. In keeping with history, Arsenal will be a lot of fun to watch (in particular, new addition Alexis Sanchez looks like a fantasy league monster). They’ll probably be leading the table at Christmas. Then there will be the familiar folding up under pressure, capped by Wenger sitting there on the touchline, his body posture getting tighter and tighter until he spends all of May in the fetal position.
But what if Yaya Touré decides he wants to be good again?
That could have bearing on the results. Touré may be the best box-to-box player in the world. Last year, he was better than he’s ever been. And then the strange business of a possibly delivered birthday cake that Touré claimed he’d never received. He’s spent the summer trying to use that flimsy pretext to get gone from Manchester City. Yet here he is, still at Manchester City. One presumes the competitive fire that burns inside him is not exactly raging at the moment.
Does that mean Manchester City is doomed?
No. But, more likely, yes. And only if by “doomed,” you mean “finishing in second place.”
When will Liverpool begin missing Luis Suarez?
They made $135-million selling the human mandible to Barcelona. That money’s already gone, spent on a series of players who, were they stood one on top of one another, would not reach Suarez’s knee. If you believe time is circular – as we at The Globe believe as a matter of editorial policy – Liverpool was already beginning to miss Suarez last year.
Will Alan Pardew attack anyone on the field this year?
Sadly, no. Newcastle have some exciting new additions. This would be a poor time for managerial head-butts. Also, that’s more Keane’s sort of thing now. Pardew’s better off saving the aggro for when he’s fired, around January.
Will an English team win the Champions League?
Ha ha, yes, I … oh, you’re serious? No. There’s no chance of that. Chelsea is the only likely contender, and Mourinho will have them focused on the league … through the judicious use of rousing horse metaphors. However, an English team will win the FA Cup. I can guarantee you that much. (Having said that, I’ve ensured that Swansea will win the FA Cup.)
Will Manchester United disappoint?
Yes. And by that, I mean they will win a bunch of games. Whether or not you really cared, watching the smuggest club in all of Christendom light up like a barge fire at the beginning of last season and then spend 10 months sinking was a lot of fun. It put a great many things into perspective. Like supporting Tottenham. Those days are over now, thanks to new manager Louis van Gaal and his killjoy insistence on playing soccer that makes sense. I’m not sure van Gaal is quite as smart as advertised, but he is pretty smart. Just ask him.
So how good is United?
Still not that good. Maybe fourth- or fifth-place good. That three-man defence looks distressingly thin. Plus, Phil Jones is in it. That would keep me up at night if I cared. So I’ll sleep just fine. Van Gaal keeps telling people that he has a lot of money to spend on new players, but refuses to spend it. Either he’s extremely thrifty or he’s a thief. I suppose it could be also be that no one he wants – like Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels – is interested. That’s a very slight possibility.