The 2014-15 Premier League Quarterly Report – The Quagmire Edition

quagmire header

Quagmire; noun

1. an area of miry or boggy ground whose surface yields under the tread; a bog.

2. a situation from which extrication is very difficult:

a quagmire of financial indebtedness.

3. anything soft or flabby.

As Jim Bowen would put it the English language is ‘super smashing great’ for variety, nuance, complexity and intrigue, but not so good when an enticing word doesn’t quite mean what you believe it should. You can try, through popular culture’s ubiquitous mediums, to change the zeitgeist – see ‘Gay’ as example – but you’re more likely to fail than succeed. Which brings us to ‘Quagmire’, it should definitively mean ‘a mess, without rhyme or reason, or reason for existing at all, one that seems unlikely to find a resolution, either through internal or external means’, just like the character from Family Guy.

That sums up the state of the Premier League right now; it’s a morass of mediocrity. But hey, it’s still early days, right?

It certainly makes writing this column tougher. It isn’t a labour of love, it’s just labour, and that’s at the best of times. Now its quagmire state has made these updates completely pointless, an exercise in complete futility, like tautology (thinks…) as well as retaining its purpose a vehicle for me to royally embarrass myself, or are they the same thing?

And look, I’ll freely admit that I forgot it was time to write another Premier League update, so this one comes a) a week late, b) just as I’m recovering from the fucking flu (a euphemism for phlegm, that’s mean and fluorescent green. #exorcism) and c) during an upcoming international break, which are usually good for absolutely nothing but dreadful football that nobody cares about, apart from Roy Keane when he’s in a hotel lobby. The difference with this break is that this column won’t go off quicker than peeled bananas sitting in the summer sun (only seven months to go…groan).

Moving on to more practical concerns, even at this point of the season we now have a good idea who’ll realistically compete for the league title (sadly, only two, and that’s a huge maybe) and who’ll be relegated (about half a dozen-ish of the usual suspects), practically everyone else belongs to the quagmire…sort of.

Anyway without further ado let’s figure this ‘shit’ out, from worst to first. As per usual I’ve divided all the teams into sections, with my pre-season predictions, current league predictions and my revised predictions included. After all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, don’t laugh at anyone else.

The Riff Raff (The Relegation Candidates)

Sub Division – The Festering Dog Turd:

BURNLEY

Current position: 20th

Pre-season prediction: 20th

Revised prediction: 20th

Well now, they’ve been worse than anyone could’ve anticipated.

Still, let’s be positive about this, their first win last weekend ensures that they won’t be worse than the Derby County side who, in the 2007/08 Premier League season, amassed only eleven points.

Burnley will go down. No promoted team that had garnered four points from their first ten games in the top flight has ever recovered, and Burnley won’t change that. They simply aren’t equipped for this level.

It encourages a wider debate about the many faces and modes of ambition in football. Burnley will be accused of eschewing any due to their lack of spending this summer – their biggest signing this summer was George Boyd, from Hull City’s bench (!), for £3.5m. However, being a contrarian cynic with my heart in it, I’m always resolute in viewing pre-conceptions as unfounded notions, until proven otherwise.

Burnley, for being relegated with little change to their Championship budget and wage structure, stand to earn up to £130m (estimated) over the next five years for just one season in the Premier League.

To the top clubs, especially those with some combination of Champions League football, sugar daddy owners and vast commercial revenue streams built through perennial contention, it’s a decent sum of money, but to small clubs like Burnley it’s a fortune that, if utilised correctly, can change the club’s whole infrastructure. Just by reaching the top flight they’ve won. It’s sad that the huge financial disparities that exist in football have created an external cultural context that pressurises and incentivises clubs to think short term, to ‘go for it’, as it were.

We’ve seen other promoted sides be frugal, or ‘realistic’ if you want to be euphemistic about it, but those examples are obsolete now. The new Premier League TV deal has shifted the goalposts, to put it lazily and crudely. In practical terms Cardiff City, who finished bottom of the Premier League last season, earned more TV revenue than Manchester United did the previous season, under the old TV deal, for winning the league. Madness tends to encourage mad thinking.

So I commend Burnley for resisting the temptation. Invariably building a club slowly, when the prevailing societal zeitgeist is slanted towards instant validation, or results if you prefer, is fraught with difficulties, and to some, like me, watching football isn’t about money. However, in the ultimate of ironies, right now it also probably isn’t to most Burnley fans, but as a legacy of this season, it might ultimately become so if the club’s long term approach works, and expectations of sustained Premier League involvement becomes the norm.

And yes I realise this admission and recognition for more long term thinking in football flies in the face of my proposal to contract the Premier League to fourteen teams and therefore concentrate its wealth even further. In relation to football finance and fairness, and only football, if that makes me a Thatcherite ideologue, then so be it, after all, as I keep getting told by a patronising right-wing cult of pseudo political expert talking heads, I’m one of her children. :rolleyesemoticon:

One thing all bastards, scumbags, Labour politicians, Nigella Lawson, Abola survivors, John Terry, Catalans, No voters, McDonalds employees, hippies, binmen and UKIP voters can agree on is that watching Burnley suffer through this season won’t bring any joy to anyone.

Sub Division – The Usual Suspects At The Deepest End Of The Quagmire:

CRYSTAL PALACE

Current position: 17th

Pre-season prediction: 12th

Revised prediction: 19th

Hahahaha. Tony Pulis, his chavvy baseball hat and wearing a tracksuit gimp routine he shamelessly stole from Martin O’Neill is out of football, and while this makes me happy, it’s now bringing trepidation to Palace fans. It’s a sad indictment on the state of football that Pulisball ‘gets results’. This ‘fact’ is a defeat for the aesthetes.

And spare a thought for me. Until ‘Tone’ returns, somewhere, and he will, my scorn for him must remain on hiatus.

But wait, his replacement is Neil Warnock! Or, as I prefer to call him by his best anagram name: ‘Colin Wanker’. The man’s a blagger to end all blaggers.

It also gives me an excuse to post this:

Credit to the brilliant @vonstrenginho, who is well worth a follow on Twitter.

Speaking of keeping him up there – did you know that Mile Jedinak misplaced more passes in his own half last season than any outfield player? He’s also their top scorer this season. Neither of these things are a good sign. It‘s amusing as Colin Wanker, rightly it has to be conceded, believes in having plenty of striking options. Sadly for him and Palace after the deadline passed his main attacking options are Frazier Campbell, Dwight Gayle, Marouane ‘that barnet’ Chamakh, Kevin ‘Championship’ Doyle and Andy Johnson, who was last good five years ago. Wanker will be active in January, and he’d better hope the league’s still in its quagmire state by then.

I don’t think it will be, Palace are about to be fucked by a Wanker – the ultimate in oxymoronic statements.

And here’s a more emphatic statement, or fact really, no team Premier League team managed by Neil Warnock has escaped relegation. You know that saying, that opposites attract? It’s a fib, always has been.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

Current position: 19th

Pre-season prediction: 17th

Revised prediction: 18th

When’s the last time Independent Trader ‘Arry came up short on deadline day? I thought it was a law of the universe that he got wot he wanted and dat? I mean, are agents not up for a bung anymore? Has ‘Arry gone through all of Tony’s money?

Despite all the injuries and kamikaze last minute defending they’re actually playing better. The defeat to Liverpool was unfortunate and undeserved, but they rebounded with a decent display at Stamford Bridge, narrowly losing before a home win against Aston Villa and then a home draw against Man City, where again, they should’ve won. Who knew that actually playing two up front could work in this day and age?

This team will score goals, Zamora’s no more than average technically, but he’s strong and awkward for defenders to cope with, especially when he can position himself back to goal and provided he’s given the ball in the right place, at the right time. Charlie Austin isn’t much better, but he’s mobile, relentless with it and his shot packs a punch. Vargas is an infuriating sort, who thinks he’s better than he is. At times you see why Napoli paid £12m for him and others you see why he’s now at QPR. Then again, I’d always take a player who’s prepared to attempt the audacious over one who never would. Leroy Fer is the homeless man’s Yaya Toure – which means he’s not bad. For many newly promoted sides scoring goals and having genuine sources of them is the most difficult thing to attain. QPR have a better attack than all the other sides around them.

What will doom Rangers is Arry’s cavalier streak combined with a central defence populated by a combination of Caulker, who is average, Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand. Regarding the latter two, QPR would be in pretty good shape if this was 2004, but it’s 2014 and Ferdinand is completely done now.

I’d quite like them to stay up, Joey Barton’s still involved and Abel Taarabt’s still stealing a living and driving up ‘Arry’s blood pressure as a result. More importantly ‘Arry and his teams are generally more interesting, and interesting to watch than many of the other also-rans who populate the Premier League. Sadly being interesting isn’t synonymous was survival, in fact it’s the opposite. When you’re terrible, the more dull and anachronistic your methods are, the more likely you are to stick around.

LEICESTER CITY

Current position: 18th

Pre-season prediction: 19th

Revised prediction: 17th

Of the promoted sides, they’ve looked the best so far.

Of course when I say best, what I really mean is they’ve not looked completely inept as the three sides I’ve listed before them have at certain points, and the reward for that? They’re still in the bottom three. I must confess that looking at their squad page still leaves me at a loss. Seeing Esteban Cambiasso (52 caps for Argentina, spent ten years at Inter Milan and also played for Real Madrid) on there among their Premier League water carrying retreads and big club cast offs makes me want to ponder the bigger scarier questions of life, as you tend to when writing a column at 2:30 in the morning while bunged up and gunged up with the flu. In reality all it tells us is that the Premier League is the richest league in the world, not the best, as many top players, like Cambiasso, see it as a vainglorious entity. It gives them one last chance to earn a wedge while playing at a decent level before they head to the true football retirement homes of the Qatari league, Dubai league or MLS. Nobody likes to admit they’re finished before they truly are.

Their nature of their win against Manchester United was absolutely hilarious to most, but it showed cojones. Most newly promoted sides become cowed when they go behind to a bigger side. For showing that attitude alone they deserve and have earned some confidence from me that they’ll stay up, which means absolutely nothing of course. Better reasons: Leonardo Ulloa’s goals have translated from the Championship. Nick Powell is on loan from Man United, but hasn’t played much so far, which seems odd as Leicester paid £3m to take him for a year. Many United youth products are overrated, see any of those who have come through the system in the last five years as evidence (Paul Pogba excepted, who they decided to let go for nothing, somehow), but surely he’s more gifted than grafters like Drinkwater (can you be good with a name like this?) and Matty James? In the Premier League quality is the most decisive element of any side’s ceiling. The Championship truly is the quagmire to end all quagmires, you can ascend to the Premier League with a side mainly predicated on graft and organisation, but you can’t survive at the higher level with a side

Which brings us to the real reasons to pick them to go down; Paul Konchesky, Kasper Schmeichel, David Nugent and Wes Morgan all regularly appear. None of these players belong in the Premier League, thankfully for Leicester City, many of their bottom feeding rivals don’t either.

SUNDERLAND

Current position: 14th

Pre-season prediction: 13th

Revised prediction: 16th

I was worried for Gus Poyet after that thrashing they suffered at St. Mary’s against Southampton. Sure, Sunderland are still woeful, and Southampton are looking pretty good, but when your players start quitting and not putting in the required effort and application not to concede a cricket score, it usually spells trouble for the gaffer.

Thankfully this was only one game, and this season we have the quagmire. Poyet earned the right to keep his job with their impressive survival run in last season, but why on earth didn’t they improve their strike force from last season? Why did I have them finishing 13th? Am I mad? Madness was spending £10m on the laughably injury prone and just laughably English Jack Rodwell, to replace Sung-Yong Ki no less, meanwhile Fabio Borini, their best striker from last season (he only scored seven goals) didn’t return. While Conor Wickham returned from loan and helped them stay up, relying upon him to repeat that over a longer stretch of time is, emm, ambitious, which doesn’t carry any logical correlation as their transfer business was anything but.

They’ll struggle again because they’ll struggle to score goals all season, just like this mob…

Shite, But Staying Up:

ASTON VILLA

Current position: 16th

Pre-season prediction: 18th

Revised prediction: 15th

Of course that start was a mirage, and now they’re back to playing their usual hit it aimlessly into the channels counter attacking dirge, that’s when they aren’t hoofing it, also aimlessly – of course, and the ghastly results have resumed, this, despite Christian Benteke’s return.

I see Fabian Delph is talking about leaving as he’s too good for Villa, at least that’s what I gleaned from it. Laughable really, it’s probably true, he is too good for them, but he’s no more than average, he can dribble and has stamina, but he doesn’t use either of these attributes to score or create and too often he’s slow to release the ball…Roy Hodgson ladies and gentlemen, emboldening mediocrity since, well, someone mediocre emboldened him.

Villa are like a photo negative of Arsenal, they tantalise us (and by ‘us’, I mean everyone who supports other clubs and dislikes their fans immensely) by flirting with relegation every year, only to be just not quite bad enough to go down. They’re yet another club perpetually trapped in the Premier League’s annual micro quagmire vortex, meandering through a futile existence.

The medium is the message and thus, this is both them and their avatar:

It’ll be the same again, and I’m not wasting any more time on them, so…

Sub Division – We Enter The Darkest Heart Of The Quagmire:

HULL CITY

Current position: 15th

Pre-season prediction: 15th

Revised prediction: 14th

I could continue to take the piss out of Steve Bruce, but the truth is he’s a decent manager and Hull will survive without any problems, they’ll bore you into submission while doing so. The solution is simple, do as I do, just don’t watch them.

I liked all their deadline day signings – Mohamed Diame, Hatem Ben Arfa and Abel Hernandez. Not only that but ‘the thing’ managed to convince another club, high flying Southampton no less, to buy Shane (1 goal every 4 games over his career) Long for £12m – and yes I’m still in shock, and yes I need to stop bashing Shane Long, but watching the Irish defend him with their unique brand of patriotic infused myopia is hilarious.

Bruce then used that money to get Hernandez, a far superior player, for less. Hernandez has three goals already while Long scored seven in thirty games for Hull last season. Credit where credit’s due on that one, and Hull will get more than double what they paid for Hernandez when Spurs inevitabvly sign him next summer. They’re the worst club for going for what appears to be the most immediately obvious solution; whoever/whatever’s trending on Twitter and or whoever is having, or had, the best run of recent form, and they’ll even have the best justification of the lot; ‘he’s now Premier League proven and dat’. Hull will be waiting with glee, they got Jake Livermore (£6m) and Tom Huddlestone (£5m) from them, and they’re better than anything Spurs have just now in midfield, which, needless to say, cost a lot more.

Signing Ben Arfa is less impressive when you remember how completely feckless he can be. I’m not one of these people who goes fucking mental if a player doesn’t appear to be trying. I hate it when the term ‘lazy’ gets thrown at a player. It is of course a completely lazy and generic accusation. It doesn’t matter how much you get paid, if you’re in an environment that’s miserable it invariably doesn’t encourage motivation. He’s only on loan though, so he can be bombed out at any time, and remember – he’s playing for a move away from Newcastle (or in this case, Alan Pardew) this summer. As for Diame, he’s overrated by many, as West Ham (where, to be fair, he was miscast as a box to box midfielder) have shown in his absence, as he scores and creates far less than people imagine he does. He is effective when detailed with obstructing the opposition’s biggest attacking threat by patrolling their area of the pitch, which has been his primary function at Hull.

And that mirrors Hull City in a way. I thought they were far better defensively until I looked up their stats. When they lose, they concede a few, they draw most of their games and eek out enough wins every season. Call it the ‘Stoke City formula’, it works and sadly Brucie knows it, as does the 3-5-2 formation, why don’t more of the smaller clubs use it? It flummoxes so many managers and players.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Current position: 13th

Pre-season prediction: 16th

Revised prediction: 13th

Just waiting for the Saido Berahino hype to get out of control, it’ll be confirmed when he receives a call up from the Owl (oh wait, it just happened) and for one of the top clubs, I reckon City, as they need another forward and English players full stop, to bite, hard (pending).

I really don’t have energy to write anything else about them. Well, did you know that this is their fifth straight season since returning to the top flight? Ask yourself, other than when your club played them, can you remember a single game, goal or incident relating to this club in that time? I’m not saying they don’t have a right to exist or anything, but all I’d ask is that they’d do something…interesting, exotic, provocative, different, etc. Perhaps hand out whistles to all the fans, so they can fuck with the ref and the players, causing chaos? Or, how about installing a guillotine next to the manager’s dug out? Then goading a cheque-book manager like Mourinho to manage them by calling him out for being too chickenshit to manage a smaller club. Beheading as a means of sacking the manager would generate interest, as would putting the guillotine on wheels, wheeling it out to the centre circle and executing life-size paper mache replicas of Adrian Chiles at halftime. It would certainly be popular, of this I’m sure.

Meanwhile in the realm of the believable, Benfica have this wonderful piece of theatre, and just listen to the crowd reaction to it:

Not sure what West Brom can do with Song Thrushes, but they could think of something. Sadly their board only thinks of survival, and that’s what Alan Irvine, from the David Moyes managerial family (there’s no other word, thanks to my brain’s pitiful accretion of the English language) tree of boilerplate insipidness, will probably provide them. Always, always remember to paraphrase the scene from that movie – mundanity is good, mundanity works, and West Brom know it.

STOKE CITY

Current position: 9th

Pre-season prediction: 9th

Revised prediction: 12th

Here’s a lucid line from Corps de Blah by Scott Walker, from his incomprehensible, bizarre, random, meandering and utterly memorable recent album Bish Bosch:

Nothing clears a room like removing a brain.

Take it as a metaphorical paraphrase, that’s applicable to Stoke City’s place in some of the most popular settings in British culture:

Nothing clears a boozer, a bookies or a couch quicker than when Stoke City are playing.

And while we’re on the subject of deliverance country, here’s an epic vine:

Credit to @vonstrenginho again.

Midtable Mediocrity:

Sub Division – Proceeding Up The Nung River:

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Current position: 8th

Pre-season prediction: 10th

Revised prediction: 11th

The worst case scenario – just six years left of Pardew platitudes and Mike Ashley looking smug.

The best case scenario – just six years left of Pardew platitudes and Mike Ashley looking smug.

Wait, what’s that? What if he gets an extension? After all, they’ve just won five games in a row.

This is almost as depressing as shopping for underwear at M&S, let’s just move on.

WEST HAM UNITED

Current position: 4th

Pre-season prediction: 11th

Revised prediction: 10th

No club had a better summer transfer window than Russell Brand United.

Where did Diafra Sakho come from? I’m not sure, well I am, as I’ve just checked, but how did Sam Allardyce a) find out about him, and b) decide to scout him, effectively no less? Once again he deserves credit for assessing his own team’s weakness and rectifying it. West Ham’s issues last season were largely due to a lack of quality, and not scoring enough. The root cause of these issues was having little mobility up front, which often led to them conceding ground and getting hemmed in, especially against better sides.

Replace a visibly declining Kevin Nolan and visibly fucking useless Andy Carroll with Enner Valencia, supported by a combination of Stewart Downing, Sakho, Matt Jarvis and Morgan Amalfitano running from deep, which he’s far more effective at that than Mohamed Diame (who he replaced), and you’re onto something. Getting Alex Song on loan from Barcelona was a staggering coup. No disrespect to West Ham but Song’s agent should get sacked for not finding him a better club. Winston Reid’s return has helped too, he’s a bit clunky looking, but he defends well and they should offer him an improved deal.

Back to Sakho, is he a striker? Is he a winger, or an attacking midfielder? I don’t know and that’s a good thing as he’s been all of these things for the Hammers thus far. Essentially he’s replaced Mohamed Diame’s role (in which he was oddly miscast as a Yaya Toure lite floating midfielder) and he’s done so while offering more penetrative dribbling and most crucially goals.

Now the crucial question, what happens when Andy Carroll returns from injury? Remember now, he cost £17m. That’s a sizeable outlay for West Ham. He’s an England international (okay, that means little now), and Allardyce has nearly always used a target man. But West Ham are clearly better off without him, as is any side. Enner Valencia (fast and unpredictable) and Sakho won’t be dropped and Stewart Downing has been playing quite well too. Can Carroll be added to all of this without upsetting it?

How Carlton Cole’s been used; as a sub, particularly if West Ham is chasing the game, is how Carroll should be used when he returns. If it’s so, then, well, it means something quietly astounding has happened, that Allardyce has adapted his ethos, and even better, as a result, there’s no reason why West Ham shouldn’t finish in the right half of the table.

And you know what, when you’re flying high, you deserve the fruits of your labour:

The Europa League Contenders:

EVERTON

Current position: 10th

Pre-season prediction: 7th

Revised prediction: 9th

Yes they overachieved last season, but even so this team is entering a decline, if it hasn’t already. The squad is the second oldest in the league, so that’s why I thought the signing of Romelu Lukaku was a sage investment by Everton, at worst they’re likely to get their money back when they sell him, which they will, as that, and by pawning Ross Barkley for oligarch money (it’ll be City), is how they’ll financially sustain themselves in the short to medium term.

That they’re still in this position, competitive, is a testament to their transfer manoeuvring and youth development. They’ve developed a habit of turning unwanted castoffs from bigger clubs, predatory signings from clubs with financial problems and discarded and disregarded older players into assets. This isn’t easy, you’re never gonna win them all, but get even fifty percent of these signings right and that’s a good result. I’d say Everton have done better than fifty percent.

As for this season, with Ross Barkley’s injury they’ve, well, looked about as ordinary as everyone else.

It’ll be interesting to see how they sustain themselves in European contention with this defence. It’s porous, and not likely to get better. They’ve conceded the most goals of any of the top half teams, thankfully they’ve scored more, but averaging two goals scored a game is generally unsustainable for a team that features Steven Naismith as one of its main attacking cogs.

Also follow this man: @johnmerro1. Whether this is a parody, or pure delusion, it’s funny all that same.

SWANSEA CITY

Current position: 5th

Pre-season prediction: 10th

Revised prediction: 8th

Last season was a mess, and a self inflicted one at that.

The club’s best move was to employ someone who would either have the cache, or perhaps even the skill, to attempt to change the club’s tactical or philosophical footprint. They still move the ball around neatly. Jonjo Shelvey’s still roaming around doing Jonjo things like creating and scoring and not tracking runners defensively. Ashley Williams is still a club footed snide, the kind that the refs infuriatingly indulge.

Even better Swansea’s transfer dealings were canny, up there with West Ham’s, buying players to supplement the squad and style of play. Sigurdsson isn’t a better player than Michu, but as Michu wasn’t staying it’s a pretty good replacement. Getting Federico Fernandez, who started in the World Cup Final, was a coup and indicative of the Premier League’s financial superiority in Europe. Needless to say that Jefferson Montero is better than Wayne Routledge, who is now twenty-nine years old, and yes, this terrifies me.

While transfer fees have arseholed (escalated, I mean) getting £8m for Ben Davies was a staggering piece of business. Yes, we have to take into account that it was Spurs doing the buying, but still. It gets even better when you remember Swansea already have Neil Taylor, a better player in my opinion, at the club to take over.

I don’t think much of Bafetimbi Gomis and I don’t trust Lukasz Fabianski, but the results can’t be argued with so far. They’ve already beaten Manchester United and Arsenal this season, and the rest of the league won’t fancy playing them.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Current position: 12th

Pre-season prediction: 6th

Revised prediction: 7th

They’ve suffered a series of awful home defeats already, including one to a supposed rival, who has also been poor – Liverpool, as well as other quagmire dwelling dirge; Newcastle, Stoke and WBA.

And yet, they’re level on points with Liverpool, and only two behind United and three behind Arsenal, so things could be a lot worse, they probably should’ve been.

I like Mauricio Pochettino, but he’s not going to get time here, because nobody does under Daniel Levy. Levy’s like those moronic fans ridden with a sense of entitlement that have annexed Twitter, much to my chagrin, overreacting to every little thing that goes for or against them and who get riled up by trolled opinions from rival fans. Right now Levy’s probably dreaming of how to get Jurgen Klopp to White Hart Lane, which brings us to his biggest problem; delusions of grandeur. When was the last time Spurs challenged for the league? Thirty years ago? Forty years ago? They certainly fucking haven’t in the decade he owned the club, yet he’s sacked two managers for finishing fifth. And round and round they go…

Truth is Levy has no right to complain given Spurs did so little in this summer’s window. They decided to roll things over (I can see the logic, to an extent), falling prey to the awful symbiotic delusion that squad continuity, a new manager and his ideas will reinvigorate fortunes. It’s unlikely that any manager will turn Emmanuel Adebayor into someone you can reply upon. You could make a case that a good coach and tactician like Pochettino could revive Roberto Soldado’s confidence, and that’s fine, but to not sign a contingency plan up front was daft.

I can also understand the logic in believing that Erik Lamela would give them more than he did last season, which was virtually nothing due to injuries. He started this season reasonably well, but still looks well short of the player he was in his final season at Roma. The price tag and the unrealistic expectations that stemmed from it, have skewed the reality of his abilities somewhat. He’s good, and was very good at Roma for a spell, but not great.

As shown in that video he’s also at his best when utilised behind the front man, where he hasn’t played for Spurs, for the most part, as Christian Eriksen has been one of the few positives from last summer’s binge.

Spurs prioritised the defence during this summer, signing Fazio, Deandre Yedlin (set to arrive in January) and Ben Davies from Swansea (for too much in my opinion). These players are all upgrades, especially Yedlin over the laughably stupid Kyle Walker.

At any other club this approach taken by Pochettino would make complete sense. It’s a process; build from the back, be hard to beat, and work forwards, but Spurs are a basketcase. A big club who were once, a long time ago, and haven’t been since and weren’t before it, living on the delusional notions that history and tradition count for anything more than an acknowledgement of their existence. In football nobody has any right or claim to a status that isn’t immediate. It’s funny because Spurs have found themselves in the same place season after season. How does Einstein’s definition of insanity go again?

Escaping The Depths Of The Quagmire And Onto The Top Four Contenders:

Sub Division – I Still Don’t Know Where To Put Them:

SOUTHAMPTON

Current position: 2nd!?!

Pre-season prediction: 14th (err…)

Revised prediction: 6th

I feel bad about putting them in the mire of the quagmire section last time. I even suggested they could be relegation fodder, only for them to stop selling players, actually buy a few, and for most of those signings to immediately pay dividends. So yes, they deserved better …but I’m going to wait until the half way point before I commit and say they’re legit. Okay, they’re legit, but this legit?

Let’s hope so, it’s about time the assumed order of the Premier League was shaken up.

But the doubts start when you recognise that this squad is quite small, Graziano Pelle would need to continue to score at this rate, Jay Rodriguez returning to full fitness and form, and more than that as a result of all these things going right Shane Long would be playing in the Champions League next season. My impoverished mind just can’t envisage that one.

Sub Division – Perennial Top Four Contenders Who Look Totally And Utterly Mediocre:

LIVERPOOL

Current position: 11th

Pre-season prediction: 3rd

Revised prediction: 5th

Why not put them above United? Well, to put it simply, United will probably score more goals. Neither of these sides convince in defence. Perhaps neither of them will finish in the top four? Right now it’s a possibility.

Given how hysterical and insufferably stupid media coverage is these days, (why is it his way?) most opinions are formed with a lack of critical thinking, imbued by a petulant sense of entitlement. Most Liverpool fans were expecting another good season after last, and now that it isn’t happening, a scornful self loathing is being unleashed. It won’t be long now before calls for Rodgers to go become widespread. Oh wait, they already have? Sad times. Yes, that’s right, sack the manager, because that always resolves everything.

Suarez is gone to be wasted water carrying on Barcelona’s right wing and the impoverished technique of the club’s central defenders and goalkeeper have ruined this side’s confidence. Even Gerrard looks jittery, and it could be argued that Rodgers’ confidence has been shaken too, as he’s reverted to conservative selections without much success. Rodgers should stick to what got him the job in the first place and brought Liverpool so close to success last season. If you’re gonna fail, at least do it your way, by attacking.

As for the criticism Rodgers certainly hasn’t helped himself. He’s probably rotated a little too much, has made questionable subs, and the continued selection of Jordan Henderson, with barge like turns and shoddy under-hit passing, is of particular frustration to me.

While they didn’t do a Spurs, the summer trading, at this point, looks questionable as an overall mass. Rickie Lambert looks woefully out of his depth. Allowing Daniel Agger (Liverpool have always conceded far fewer goals when he played) to leave cheaply and replacing him with Dejan Lovren, whose distribution and decision making is comical, is proving costly. So is the continued presence of Martin Skrtel, still somehow at Anfield, after years of incessant mediocrity.

This side will improve when Sturridge returns, as it’s difficult for them to be any more insipid and drab than they have been thus far. Surely Liverpool and Mario Balotelli would’ve been better off had Rodgers played Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling behind the Italian? We haven’t seen it, nor have we seen Lallana (who can replicate some of Suarez’s sharp turns) and elusive Coutinho on the pitch together at all, and as such we haven’t seen anything resembling last season’s form.

Raheem Sterling has been the one bright light, he’s fantastic. I’m confident Balotelli will score goals, Lallana will perform, Moreno already looks like a good purchase, and Markovic and Emre Can have shown flashes, but Liverpool need them and many of last season’s stalwarts to perform now and the gaffer needs to let them.

What is for certain is there’ll be no league title challenge this season.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Current position: 7th

Pre-season prediction: 5th

Revised prediction: 4th

If you read this column, yeah, I know I’m the only one, but still, you’ll know I’m wrong about many things. Add this to the list:

All of Ed Woodward’s bravado now looks a bit silly. No club without Champions League football spends £150m on players, and I don’t care how big their new kit sponsorship is. It would be fucking irresponsible, and the Glazers are cheapskate cunts of the highest order, so it was never happening.

Yeah.

In most cases clubs who are desperate and in a rush as the window closes, tend to end up making mistakes. Serious mistakes. It’s unlikely, given his considerable qualities, that procuring Angel Di Maria is a mistake, even if he’s costing them (wages and transfer fee combined) an eye watering £120m over five years.

But United were kinda desperate, they could afford it (I think?) and in a complete mess after the David Moyes Experience (which he’s over by the way, and he’s gotten a job as manager of Real Sociedad, fair enough, and it will be hilarious). Just how smart was it to bring in Radamel Falcao (albeit on loan) on silly wages, and for a sizeable loan fee, when you already have Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Perise and no European football? Indeed United almost have too many attacking players on the books now, so that Adnan Januzaj (I still can’t spell his surname without checking), one of few positives from last season’s mess, has by and large, been on the bench.

Last season’s panic buy, Juan Mata, seems to be the odd one out now. He was misused by Moyes and seems unappreciated by Van Gaal regardless of what formation he has opted for. Thankfully for Mata and United Van Gaal’s ditched the back three, at least for now, when you lack quality central defenders it’s probably a good idea not to use a formation that requires three instead of two. Daley Blind was a solid signing, but he alone cannot mask the fact that United need an overhaul in that position. Fellaini is still around to kill United’s ability to attack with pace, and Van Gaal’s been daft enough to use him recently, it won’t last though and January is fast approaching, though whether United will be able to purchase the quality they require in that window is open to question.

Bottom line, I think they’ll score more goals than Liverpool and finish above them, as both sides are woeful defensively, don’t forget United have their own version of the Chuckle Brothers – Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. Of course that assumes that this scrap will actually be for fourth. Seeing United and Liverpool scrapping for the fourth placed trophy doesn’t seem right. Neither club should be in this position.

Last but by no means least I can’t resist posting an Andy Tate vine.

Credit to @vonstrenginho yet again.

Top Four Contenders, Title Pretenders:

ARSENAL

Current position: 6th

Pre-season prediction: 4th

Revised prediction: 3rd

The plural is disingenuous in more ways than one. Of course they won’t win the league. They’re built to finish third or fourth, make the knock-out stages of the Champions league and then collapse just when their fans start to believe this year could be different. Rinse and repeat.

Yet I’m still a Wenger advocate, though it’s gets harder to defend him when he turns his nose up at quality like Cesc Fabregas. It’s borderline lunacy when your other central midfielders are Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini (both well past their primes now), Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, who no matter how good they can be, and Ramsey often is, are brittle, to put it mildly.

They’re short of defenders too, with only Calum Chambers (albeit impressive) around to back up Koscielny and Mertesacker, which given Arsenal’s awful injury record, in recent seasons, seems like dicing with a disastrous death. Indeed, against Swansea last weekend, they started Monreal, a five foot eight left back at centre back, because Chambers had to play right back as Mathieu Debuchy is currently out injured (quelle surprise) and Bafetimbi Gomis (the real French Heskey) overpowered Monreal for the winner. Signings are needed in January, both a central defender and the inevitable move for Morgan Schneiderlin to anchor the midfield, get them and I might change my mind.

The reasons? This side, at its best, oozes creativity. Alexis Sanchez has been a real pest, ubiquitously buzzing around defences like a house fly in a small room, Danny Welbeck, the occasional homage to Emile Heskey’s brainfarts and footwork aside, has been better than expected and Theo Walcott is now back. There’s an abundance of pace and skill in that frontline, and as we saw for Liverpool last season, it can cover a multitude of sins. I take no joy in saying it, but Olivier Giroud’s injury has been addition by subtraction, they’re better off without him leading the line. Mind you, that means their main backup striker is Yaya Sanogo, so Arsenal fans (and Arsene Wenger, secretly) will be counting the minutes until Giroud returns.

Who knows? Perhaps having their inevitable glut of injuries earlier this year will be beneficial to…, nah, will it fuck. I’ll hav’ the usual guvnor – a pint of sour Champions League qualification milk, and little else, again.

Speaking of milk, I can’t resist:

Credit to @georgebaII

MANCHESTER CITY

Current position: 3rd

Pre-season prediction: 1st

Revised prediction: 2nd

To put it in the simplest terms possible, Chelsea has just been better in the transfer market, not just this summer, but over the last few windows, and so here we are, with a one horse race. How dull.

This isn’t a young squad either, the squad’s average age is a cunthair under twenty-nine, nor do they have much ‘home grown’ talent. How they navigate FFP (only applicable in Europe, the ‘Greed Is Good’ Premier League don’t care) with their behemoth wage bill subsidized by a piddling (by top club standards) turnover, while reinvigorating this squad with younger talent, and adhering to home grown quota rules (Frank Lampard, aged thirty-six, on loan/free for this season, anyone?), will be fascinating, and quite a task. In this regard last summer’s signings of Navas and Negredo now look costly. As does spending £30m (and that estimate, when you consider the nebulous nature of third party ownership, may be conservative) on Eliaquim Mangala, when Martin Demichelis, now thirty-three and signed for a tenth of the price, looks the far more accomplished player. Once again the chances of them doing anything worthwhile in the Champions League look distant, they may finish bottom of their group and not even qualify for the Europa League.

But let’s not be too Chicken Little about their fortunes. They’re owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world and unlike the Champions League, the Premier League is far more forgiving of their squad’s flaws. They also have Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva, so they’ll continue to be one of the top sides for the foreseeable future, but they won’t be top dog this season.

The Title Contenders:

CHELSEA

Current position: 1st

Pre-season prediction: 2nd

Revised prediction: 1st

Should’ve known better, as per usual.

Clearly they’re a much better defensive team than their likeliest rival for the league. They have a better goalkeeper, actually, in fact, they have two who are better, at least three better centre backs who are better, better full backs, a midfield that’s better at retaining possession, and a team/squad that’s actually been fitted together with some thought put into it. An amazing concept, I know.

With Suarez now in Spain Eden Hazard has every right to lay claim to being the league’s best player now, and they have depth at just about every position, except central midfield, where there’s a bit of a drop off after the Fabregas & Matic pairing. But hey, even if you have money, you’ll never have everything.

And here’s a revelation for the Manchester City brain trust to chew on – this summer Chelsea actually bought players that they a) needed, to, b) improve the team. Fancy that.

On that point, Chelsea’s main deficiency last season was up front. Lest we forget, actually I did, three months ago, obviously, they challenged for the league last season with a well past-his-prime Samuel Eto’o (now warming Everton’s bench), the laughable Fernando Torres (now not scoring for AC Milan), and, err, Demba Ba, whose main contribution I really would like to forget. While I expected him to be good, Diego Costa has exceeded expectations. If there’s any sanity left in mass decadence of humanity’s psyche, his immediate integration and success – he’s got ten goals in nine starts in the league – will finally put an end to the ‘he’s premier league proven’ misnomer I hate so much.

Not so sane was Arsene Wenger not even bothering an attempt to bring back Cesc Fabregas, because Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere are better, or something. He’s just what Chelsea lacked last season, a midfield dictator. Frank Lampard was many things for Chelsea, but he didn’t knit play together like Fabregas was bred to. Predictably Fabregas has been superb, then again, he was premier league proven, innit.

Also proven is Jose Mourinho, who, no matter what you think of his childish petulance, the tragic exaggeration of his bespoke and clearly choreographed touchline mannerisms, sociopathic myopia (there are fascist ties within his immediate genealogy) and his predisposition to adopting tactics that could best be described as cynical, or negative and or defensive, tends to win stuff. And barring a Roman Abramovich flaky, an unfathomable collapse of form or catastrophic run of injuries you can add another league title to that.

Fair play to them, but as this is my blog I have no reason to be reasonable, they’re a bunch of fucking fascist Thatcherite rentboy cunts. Why can’t John Terry and Jose Mourinho catch Ebola? And on that sentiment of resentment I’ll signoff by saying fuck off the lot of you and get a life, as I have none, until January, peace out, bitch.

About Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard

Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard. 'Mediocre blogger and a piously boring and unfunny writer'. Enthusiastic purveyor of the KLF sheep.
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One Response to The 2014-15 Premier League Quarterly Report – The Quagmire Edition

  1. Pingback: The 2014/15 Premier League Quarterly Report – The Final Furlong | Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard

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