The Premier League Quarterly Report 2015/16 – The Quarter Way Point

big sam header

And just like that we’re already at the quarter way point of the premier league. The speed with which time passes becomes truly frightening if you dwell on it, so let’s not.

Usually by now we’ve passed the Panagea phase, with the better sides starting to group together at the summit, while the dregs are starting to flounder and sink like sediment to the bottom of the food chain.

Other than the bottom three sides (they only have two wins between them so far) sifting through the rest at this stage is far more difficult than normal. But who said this should be easy? Why should I be easy on myself? Well, I’m actually trying to do both at the same time with this update, because I’m absolutely fucking mental, or something, normally I write between eight and nine thousand words in a nonsensical stream of consciousness mode, but this time I’m aiming for half that amount.

Being concise when writing is a skill I’ve yet to master. Let’s see if I can manage it, so without further ado onto the updated predictions.

As per usual in this symposium of one’s hatred and disdain for the cultural lionisation of mediocrity that habitually occurs in English football we go from worst to first. My pre-season and revised predictions will be on show too:

The Riff-Raff (The Relegation Candidates):

NORWICH CITY

Pre-season Prediction: 20th

Revised Prediction: 20th

I have nothing interesting to say here (yeah, yeah, you thought I was referring to the entire column) – so I’m sticking to my guns here, they’re the weakest of the three promoted sides. They simply can’t defend. Plus, I can’t change my mind about everything, can I?

SUNDERLAND

Pre-season Prediction: 15th

Revised Prediction: 19th

Desperate times call for desperate measures, not that bringing in Big Sam is a desperate measure. It’s actually quite sensible. If there’s one thing he does as well as anyone it’s to keep teams on the Premier League gravy train.

Even so, it’s hard to see how he’s going to manage that with this absolute shower of shite. There’s simply no quality here, no finesse. Despite the perception of him and his preferred style of play, ingenuity and creativity is something Allardyce has always accommodated in his sides. However, still the pragmatist, Allardyce will probably first look to make Sunderland better defensively, but that’s going to be tough, they’ve conceded the most goals so far – averaging over two a game! If John O’Shea was a horse even the glue factory would turn him away. Are Coates and Kaboul an improvement? They’d better be. Wes Brown? Let’s not go there.

Perhaps, perhaps, Sunderland can hunker down, muddle through the next eleven weeks and then buy some reinforcements, but given their terrible start they’ll need to win some games to give themselves a chance, and that means scoring goals. Defoe looks well past his best, Borini is keen but shitty with the ball at his feet and Steven Fletcher has a good beard going. Oh yeah, those three have scored four goals combined so far. That total’s six if we add Jermain Lens. Perhaps a Fletcher, Lens and Defoe frontline is the way to go?

Not that it matters. They’re going down, and while it’ll be ugly they’ll go down working hard. Seeing physical effort will encourage the fans to back them until the bitterest of ends. Thankfully there is a real positive – failure will provide good material for the Big Sam twitter account.

Also, I just want to say, along with every other wanker who had money on Brendan Rodgers to be the first manager to leave his post, a big fuck you to Dick Advocaat. You couldn’t have waited another day? Had you quit a week before Rodgers was sacked it wouldn’t have stung so badly, but to quit on the Sunday morning, only for Rodgers to be sacked on Sunday evening, was downright cruel.

ASTON VILLA

Pre-season Prediction: 17th

Revised Prediction: 18th

In my preview column I prophesized (yeah right, you pretentious tit) that Villa would depart from their usual teasing ways of starting poorly, flirting seriously with relegation, before finding some unexpected form in the Spring and saving themselves, by starting quite well, then collapsing, dropping like an elevator that’s had its cable cut, only to just avoid relegation.

Well, it looks like business as usual. They’re god awful. One win so far and the most defeats in the league says it all. And just what is the plan here? Swing crosses into Rudy Gestede? That’s a good plan if you can play Liverpool every week, but you can’t. Perhaps revolving, or evolving the style of play around Carles Gil and Adama Traore would make some sense, as both are interesting footballers, but that requires some common sense, and while Tactics Tim could be seen as a motivator, disposed to sophistication he is not, and that’s what Villa, like all the riff raff, lack. Actually, wait, common sense and sophistication, that’s two things.

Yet, as per usual, comparing their squad to certain others in this section there is more scope for improvement, though that’s only likely to be initiated by a change of manager…

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Pre-season Prediction: 16th

Revised Prediction: 17th

Speaking of changes, Scchteevvee McClaren is, at this rate, the next manager to go.

The founding member of the Premier League Ponzi Scheme – Mike ‘Fat bastard’ Ashley will do everything is his power to guarantee he doesn’t miss out on the windfall from that new Premier League TV deal due to start from next season. Especially after he just sanctioned a £40m spend in the summer to secure it.

I fancy one of either Villa or Newcastle to go down, and whoever changes manager first might just save themselves. So then, who do you think will blink first? Who’s got a proven track record of making decisions for their own benefit and the sheer Need For GreedTM?

WATFORD

Pre-season Prediction: 19th

Revised Prediction: 16th

They’re your typical well coached promoted side. They look compact and competent against the ball and there doesn’t seem to be many sources of goals in this team.

Still, being organised may be enough, as Newcastle United and Aston Villa aren’t and only three teams can be relegated every season. Why isn’t the argument for contraction gaining traction? If you weren’t a supporter of any of the teams in this section would you want to watch games involving them if they weren’t playing against your team?

BOURNEMOUTH

Pre-season Prediction: 18th

Revised Prediction: 15th

They’re not your typical promoted side. They can score goals, and they’re prepared to assume risk to find them, and of course they concede them, though the five they shipped to City last weekend has skewed their goal difference somewhat.

Bottom line time – they have a more competent coach than many of their riff raff rivals. I reckon Howe’s one of the few who’s gotten to grips with simple mathematical facts, namely that the difference between three points for a win is twice as great as the value of one (a draw) compared to none (a loss), so risking one point to possibly gain two, in most circumstances, is worth it. His players know what they’re doing or should be doing. There’s a plan here, and it’s one with positive intent. Now, I dunno about you, but as a supporter or player the confidence gained from knowing your club is being led by someone with a positive outlook has an intangible effect that no sabermetrician can quantify, delightfully much to their chagrin no doubt.

Midtable Mediocrity:

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Pre-season Prediction: 14th

Revised Prediction: 14th

Give me back my broken night My mirrored room, my secret life It’s lonely here There’s no one left to torture

Give me absolute control Over every living soul And lie beside me, baby That’s an order

Give me crack and anal sex Take the only tree that’s left And stuff it up the hole In your culture

Give me back the Berlin wall Give me Stalin and St. Paul I’ve seen the future, brother It is murder

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions Won’t be nothing Nothing you can measure anymore The blizzard, the blizzard of the world Has crossed the threshold and it has overturned The order of the soul

When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant

You don’t know me from the wind You never will, you never did I’m the little Jew Who wrote the Bible

I’ve seen the nations rise and fall I’ve heard their stories, heard them all But love’s the only engine of survival

Your servant here, he has been told To say it clear, to say it cold It’s over, it ain’t going Any further

And now the wheels of heaven stop You feel the devil’s riding crop Get ready for the future It is murder

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions Won’t be nothing Nothing you can measure anymore The blizzard, the blizzard of the world Has crossed the threshold and it has overturned The order of the soul

When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant

There’ll be the breaking of the ancient western code Your private life will suddenly explode There’ll be phantoms There’ll be fires on the road And the white man dancing

You’ll see a woman hanging upside down Her features covered by her fallen gown And all the lousy little poets coming round Tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson And the white man dancin’

Give me back the Berlin wall Give me Stalin and St. Paul Give me Christ Or give me Hiroshima

Destroy another fetus now We don’t like children anyhow I’ve seen the future, baby It is murder

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions Won’t be nothing Nothing you can measure anymore The blizzard, the blizzard of the world Has crossed the threshold and it has overturned The order of the soul

When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent I wonder what they meant When they said repent repent

LEICESTER CITY

Pre-season Prediction: 13th

Revised Prediction: 13th

You could sense all the complicit xenophobes in the English media quietly seething when Nigel ‘Serial killer Nige’ Pearson was axed for the tinkering rotator with his own queer take on the sacred language.

Look, let’s be real here, English managers don’t get chances because very few have personalities that engender respect among foreign players who are now the largest demographic in the Premier League. They’re all identikit FA drones built on coaching badges formulated by the likes of Howard Wilkinson, and even before then the damage has been done, their minds irreversibly poisoned by anachronistic standards of pride ‘in our football’ and the ends always justifying the means, as embodied by Nigel Pearson.

Look, I was unsure about Ranieri’s hiring for different reasons, I thought he might make Leicester more pragmatic and less adventurous, the two traits that severed them so well late last season.

Nope, they’re still fucking crackers, only two other teams have scored more than them, they’ve only lost once and they’re currently fifth. I don’t think it’ll last; only three teams have conceded more goals thus far, and there are some very pedestrian players in the team and squad. But yes, give me more Leicester’s and Bournemouth’s every week please – it’s like watching La Liga games slightly sped up – the league will still be filled with too much rubbish, but at least there will be goals, and if not that, then the intent to get them.

STOKE CITY

Pre-season Prediction: 8th

Revised Prediction: 12th

As I type there’s a cobweb in the corner of the room linking the ceiling and the wall. What does this have to do with Stoke City? Well, it’s there. It’s been there for a wee while now, it’s not causing me any harm (I’ve never seen the spider) and most times I forget it’s there. That’s Stoke City in a nutshell: they’re just there, day after day, or in this case, season after season.

I could offer a detailed analysis with added incredulity into why you’d assemble a capable squad that includes the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic, only to employ Mark Hughes as the manager. But as somebody once advised me, sometimes it is best not to try to understand the futility of stupidity.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Pre-season Prediction: 11th

Revised Prediction: 11th

It was great to see that little cheating twatcunt Dwight Gayle finally be rumbled for his persistent use of dark artistry last weekend. Diego Costa may grab the headlines, but Gayle’s another bad’un, only without the aggressively vulgar gestures and the dismally prosaic and manufactured persecution complex. The relative lack of attention he receives might be due to the fact that he plays for Palace and that he’s a second rater, rather than his nationality and the laughably myopic and phoney perception that’s still engendered in denial that English players aren’t predisposed to cheating due to nurture (the implied virtuousness of cultural superiority at work is always nauseating), or if they do partake in it it’s because they’ve become corrupted by the foreign influence. These generalisations are all bollocks, the lad’s a fucking cheat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If he plays for you and dives and wins penalties and gets opposition players sent off you’ll love it. If he does it against your team, you’ll hate him.

It’s hard to hate Alan Pardew. The man’s a comedy genius, I think. I’ve always had this theory that brazenness so ludicrous when mixed with random moments of idiocy is prone to succeeding because it’s such an esoteric combination of characteristics that most of us don’t encounter. How do you react to someone so oblivious to the effects of sleeping with one of his player’s wives, using the word rape on national television as the noun of choice to describe a player getting skinned and who attempted to head-but an opposition player? You’d say he’s a moron, most likely, but does that change when you consider the incontrovertible evidence that this man is a good middle manager? Say what you like, but he’s interesting, he’s the Big Sam twitter account brought to life.

SWANSEA CITY

Pre-season Prediction: 9th

Revised Prediction: 10th

Another encroachment onto the great English manager must control everything tradition. This lot are Welsh, they have the temerity to hire an English coach, a former centre back, who’s bought into their ethos of passing football and who’s happy to let Welsh people buy players for him. What a disgrace. Did I mention that they’re really Welsh?

Europa League Contenders:

EVERTON

Pre-season Prediction: 12th

Revised Prediction: 9th

Their style of play is best characterised as desperate, it’s as if they believe they’re 2-1 down and it’s the ninetieth minute throughout the whole game. Sometimes this freneticism works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it works well they swarm the opposition area with bodies and the full backs supply good width. When it doesn’t they relinquish possession cheaply and give away ghastly goals.

Basically they’re a throwback to the mid-eighties, yet they don’t have some poisonous little Englander as their manager, the kind who lovingly reminisces about the good old days of very few foreigners, wrecked pitches, crumbling concrete on the terraces and being able to drink and smoke when you played. Roberto Martinez may be Spanish, but he isn’t really a Spanish manager, he’s only ever managed in England, and by gosh Everton are a very English club. They have an anachronistic style of play to match their dilapidated ground, which is perfect, as both foment the inferiority complex that’s lead them to where they are right now.

WEST HAM UNITED

Pre-season Prediction: 10th

Revised Prediction: 8th

Well, what do we have here, a probable midtable finisher that’s created unpredictability and therefore is interesting to watch? And managed by a foreigner too, what a surprise.

Guess who the second highest scorers in the division are after Manchester City? This lot.

If you dislike immigrants and foreigners you’ll love to hate this lot, as they’ll have busted many an accumulator already. They’ve lost to Bournemouth at home but have managed wins away to Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. They beat Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend too.

There is a logical explanation for this, albeit not at such a frequency given the opponents, this team is set up to counter attack. They do two things well – low block defending when protecting a lead, and penetrating the high defensive line with the pace of Payet, Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate’s long stride breaking from midfield. Lanzini already looks like a canny pickup too.

If the results dry up hopefully Bilic doesn’t do something silly by reverting to Andy Carroll’s leaden footedness and Nikica Jelavic’s aversion to scoring goals. They should remain on the bench, or better yet banished to the relegation strugglers in January where their ‘talents’ belong and might be appreciated.

Fourth Place Trophy Contenders:

SOUTHAMPTON

Pre-season Prediction: 6th

Revised Prediction: 7th

One of the difficulties of this column is deciding who finishes seventh. The other candidates were Swansea and Everton. However, the eye test alone would tell anyone that Southampton are a better team than those two, and would it be such a surprise if they finished fifth? What if Jürgen Klopp (hold ALT with number lock on, then press 0252 to get the umlauts above the ‘ü’) finds that this Liverpool squad struggles to adapt his methods in the short term (feasible) then they only have to finish above Spurs – who, as a result, will probably steal their manager, to replace the manager they’d previously stolen from Southampton. If I hadn’t lost my bet on Rodgers being sacked first in such agonising fashion I may have been tempted into having a flutter on both of these things coming to fruition.

Not to worry, defeat has cowed me, and so I’m picking them to finish seventh and keep hold of Koeman.

Oh and one last thing – spending £11.5m on Virgil Van Dijk was absolutely laughable. Who was the last player to come from the Scottish Premier League to the Premier League and live up to their billing? Stilian Petrov? He joined Aston Villa from Celtic ten years ago. Put it this way, nobody with any sense spends £150 on stuff in a pound shop.

LIVERPOOL

Pre-season Prediction: 7th

Revised Prediction: 6th

Well I was right and I was wrong. Right that Brendan Rodgers was a patsy in situ, there to be sacrificed when needed, wrong at when this would happen.

I fully expected Rodgers to survive until such point that Liverpool had no mathematical chance of finishing fourth, and were knocked out of all the cup competitions. To protect the Ponzi scheme (aka keeping the current turnover to wage expenditure ratio as it is), you have to avoid unnecessary expenditures. Axing Rodgers and hiring someone else is an unnecessary expenditure.

We should also dwell on the lack of common sense of Liverpool’s owners from this perspective; sacking a manager eight games into the season can make sense in some circumstances, but it makes virtually none after you’d given him more control three months earlier to buy a number of players. Will the new manager want them?

Which brings us to Jürgen Klopp. The reaction to his appointment was telling. Relief was the overriding emotion, a relief that the club’s name still carries this level of clout. It was the kind of statement move FSG needed and intended to make after Rodgers departed to appease the growing dissent among the fanbase at the sheer ineptitude or cynicism (depending on your point of view of the owner’s intentions) that was causing the club’s perpetual mediocrity.

In the post announcement delirium the narrative has already been set, restoration of hope will do that – Klopp doesn’t need as much as his rivals to contend, he proved that at Dortmund, the squad isn’t that bad, they all performed under Rodgers, etc, etc. All of it feeds into the kind of expectations of expenditure that the owners can manage and live with. You’ll notice of course that the technical committee FSG hired to find undervalued assets to sell at a profit later remains in situ. Perhaps a series of concessions and or assurances have been made to Klopp, because I think he could’ve landed in a far more favourable situation.

I suspect Liverpool will be improved on the pitch as Klopp has an identity and philosophy, as he is it, and it is he. At the end Rodgers talked of it being a rebuilding job, but he made no attempt to develop an identity that could lead to a successful transition. As coaches in his predicament tend to, feeling the end was nigh, he lurched from one short term experiment to another in the futile hope of finding a solution.

Bottom line it remains to be seen whether the self-loathing desperation of Liverpool fans and Klopp’s enthusiasm, idealism almost, can coexist with the owner’s blatant Ponzi scheme. There are other impediments too; there was only one Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, in the Premier League there are three clubs, four if you count Arsenal, with more resources and the willingness to spend the transfer fees and wages it takes to develop and build a title winning squad. The question isn’t whether Klopp’s a good coach, he is, it’s whether he’ll be given enough money to spend, and be able to keep the club’s best players long enough to build one at Liverpool.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Pre-season Prediction: 5th

Revised Prediction: 5th

They’re awfully like Liverpool, only they spend less and therefore waste less money, they’ve also finished above Liverpool in four out of the last five seasons. Perhaps FSG should pay closer attention to Daniel Levy’s genius?

In all seriousness, Pochettino’s a good coach, they’re defensively solid and they work hard, if their central midfielders weren’t so mediocre (none of them can pass), if Kyle Walker and Danny Rose could grasp what nuance and composure mean in a footballing context, if Erik Lamela could finally live up to his billing, if that Korean lad pans out, if Harry Kane could replicate seventy percent of last season’s tally, then Spurs could finish fourth, but there’s just too many ifs there, isn’t there?

Title Pretenders:

CHELSEA

Pre-season Prediction: 1st

Revised Prediction: 4th

There’s a growing narrative that Jose Mourinho’s incessant narcissism and general cuntishness wears his players down and this means he can’t sustain success beyond a three year cycle.

Look, it would be funny as fuck if this malaise carried on, though it wouldn’t happen under Mourinho because he’d get sacked, but a bad start to the season isn’t empirical evidence that the paragraph above is true. I suspect a lot of those who despise Mourinho for his touchline temperament, his tactical cynicism and his sociopathic myopia want it to be true, rather than believing it to be so.

There is a karmic element to seeing Cesc Fabregas (secretly one of the snidest players going) struggling for form, Diego Costa finally getting punished for his blatant antics, John Terry’s legs starting to go and of course Jose Mourinho finding even more ways to embarrass himself and self-immolate by throwing his physio under a bus, a move that backfired hilariously. Keeping Eden Hazard on the bench won’t work out for you either mate.

Enjoy it while it lasts. There’s still a lot of football to be played, and other than City (though it’s debateable) I’d rather have Chelsea’s squad than anyone else’s. While it’ll be very difficult for them to win the title from here, none of the other title contenders, given their inconsistencies and injuries to key men, are likely to pull far enough away to make it impossible.

Their next five league games will tell us much; away to West Ham, at home to Liverpool, away to Stoke City, at home to Norwich City and away to Spurs. In seasons past they’d win four out of five and draw the other. Mourinho needs something similar now.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Pre-season Prediction: 4th

Revised Prediction: 3rd

It’s just as well Anthony Martial looks the part, because fuck me that was a lot of money for a player of his age and relative inexperience. I’ve gotta be honest, I’d never heard of the lad before United signed him, though that speaks to my ignorance more than anything else.

Keeping David De Gea was a huge and unexpected boost, because, as we’ve all witnessed, Sergio Romero is a bit of a clown.

Despite all the money that’s been spent, United still seem to be at least one player short in defence and attack. How long can they wait for Phil Jones? Should they? Are we sure that Memphis Depay is all that? How looks a bit clunky. Plus the evidence is building that Wayne Rooney’s entered his decline phase. Luckily for United Juan Mata’s been superb so far this season, so has Ander Herrera, and Martial’s shown flashes of serious ability already, so the consequences for what appears to be a scattergunish transfer policy have been diminished.

This is a team that’s in transition and I suspect it will look vastly different eighteen months from now.

And yeah, on principle alone I can’t pick any team to win the league when Marouane Fellaini gets minutes for them.

Title Contenders (But I’m Not Convinced):

ARSENAL

Pre-season Prediction: 2nd

Revised Prediction: 2nd

The way they swept Manchester United aside a few weeks ago made me want to be a believer – the speed and accuracy of the passing, its directness, all first rate. Borderline unstoppable.

At this time they appear to be the best equipped to challenge City – there are plenty sources of goals and creators of chances. I know Aguero’s scored all those goals but Alexis Sanchez has been the league’s best player so far this season. Ozil and Cazorla glue everything together and Aaron Ramsey only got his first goal against Norwich last weekend.

An early exit from Europe, while embarrassing, would help Wenger keep the starters and key men fresh, as the squad is still dangerously weak in some positions. It may see Arsenal avoid the perennially agonising recent tradition of collapsing between late January and early March.

Which brings us to the same questions I had in August, most pressing being is the squad good enough? Sadly no. Beyond Guroud or Walcott, whoever isn’t starting up front, all of the back-ups aren’t convincing. In particular their central midfield options beyond Colquelin and Cazorla look grisly. Will Jack Wilshire reappear? Can Walcott stay fit? Arsenal are certainly be better off with him up front.

Bonus points here for Wenger getting under Mourinho’s skin. Always good news for us aesthetes.

The Favourite:

MANCHESTER CITY

Pre-season Prediction: 3rd

Revised Prediction: 1st

Just as the hype around their victories was overblown, so was the pessimism surrounding both of their losses.

There’s only one good reason not to pick them: the recent injuries to Sergio Aguero and David Silva – the two players they simply can’t do without.

And that’s it. Everything else is looking good. They have so many goalscorers and creators of goals, just look at the way they blew Newcastle away after going a goal down (okay, it was Newcastle, but still), that they’ll score the most goals this season. Bank on it, and that’s usually a good foundation for success. The league’s highest goalscorers tend to win it.

Plus, look at the other contenders, Chelsea look very shaky, and Manchester United and Arsenal have to prove they can sustain a credible challenge over thirty eight games. Liverpool have just changed their manager and Spurs, well, when were they last a relevant force – the eighties?

Perhaps the Premier League really is that mediocre that a very inconsistent side, bordering on mediocre, could win the league. Me? I’ll just stick with City, who are merely good.

I make that four and half thousand words of complete nonsense. I’ll try to get it down to three thousand by January’s update. Catch you on the flip side.

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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