I’ve been doing my Premier League pre-season prediction and update columns for three years now, though it seems much longer than that. Anyway, it’s the sort of thing that seemed like a good idea at the time, as the first season I covered – the 2013/14 season – featured two genuinely skilful, high scoring teams, some exciting games and the league, particularly at the top, seemed more competitive, or to put it more accurately, was of a higher competitive standard.
That was then, and this is now, and now I’ve run out of things to say. There are only so many times you can lambast Tony Pulis for example, or bemoan how destructive the Premier League’s greed is good attitude has been. More than anything else it’s watching Premier League football that’s so draining. Undoubtedly the wealthiest and highest salaried league in the world, this ubiquitous wealth has imbued a cultish decadence, despite the state of its product simultaneously undercutting a belief so intrinsic to Thatcherism’s ideal, that money inevitably equates to class. Eventually, if enough money is thrown at players, agents, coaches, dieticians, sabremetricians and superstar managers, the league will improve, right?
There’s little class to be found in the Premier League these days. And nothing was more classless than the recent brazen attempt at hiking season ticket prices for next season by most clubs. This disgraceful inflation, while we’re still in an economic period of stagnant wages, may have already driven some lifer fans away for good. Why pay more when most games are dull and the football is poor? Ingenuity, intelligence and uniqueness continue to be eschewed by scepticism as the archaic mores of mediocrity have succeeded, to use a historical analogy, think of this period as the Premier League’s Bourbon Restoration. Now we have a league that’s overwhelmed with a slew of middle managers, overrated big money castoffs from smarter foreign clubs who have taken advantage of the Premier League’s stupidity, and its teams are filled with carthorse centre backs, powerful brute athletes and runners with stamina. These second raters have always been more abundant, and always will be (logic tells us it’s easier to be mediocre than exceptional) but now the sheer number of them overwhelms whatever quality or intrigue remains with a ratio similar to the Sun dwarfing Mercury.
And I’ve had enough of it. I haven’t watched enough football this season to give any kind of informed analysis or worthwhile commentary on the subject. I think from now on I’ll just do a preview column, make my predictions and just live with them. The last three years have taught me that I’m not very good at predictions anyway, even with a body of in-season evidence accrued to help me. To emphasise the point I recently put a bet, albeit just a small one, on Aston Villa to beat Liverpool 2-1, the game finished 6-0 to Liverpool. And, as you’re about to find out, if you’re daft enough to read all of this drivel, my track record of ineptitude should make Leicester City fans feel very fucking nervous.
The Riff Raff (The Relegation Candidates):
Sub Division – Dead And Truly Buried:
Pre-season Prediction: 17th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 18th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 20th
Final Prediction: 20th
People choose to be angry, right? Even if your Zen-like self sanctimoniously believes that it’s unnecessary, in certain instances it’s very hard to be philosophical or measured without first assuaging anger; say when you first find out that your husband has cheated on you, that the reason you get unfairly dismissed from work is utter trivial bullshit, or some pissed-up tit writes off your car. Point being, there are varying degrees and types of anger and controlling it into a proportionate response is always easier in the abstract.
It’s hard to characterise the anger of Villa fans because, in the main, it now manifests itself as a resigned apathy. Relegation for Villa was and has been inevitable for years now, it’s the same reaction you have to a family member or friend reaching the end of a terminal illness, or, to put it metaphorically, they’ve circled the drain of relegation too often, often managing to just get stuck in an un-siliconed gap between the ceramic and the metal plug surround at the last second, but eventually the disused and abused piece of stubble or skin will get sucked down the drain, as we know that time and erosion are undefeated. With Villa now heading down the drain, weighed down by years of mismanagement, the anger at this has, understandably, been subdued, transcended and exhausted by years of investing in hope that the slow, agonising method of the club’s decline could be arrested.
While most Villa fans have accepted their fate for months now, what their relegation didn’t have to be was embarrassing. The manner of their defeat to Liverpool at home last month, and what happened afterwards was just one callous poke in the eye too many. Suppressing anger in lieu of hope can take its toll, and so, once the dam breaks, we get to this, pulsating temples, flying snot and all:
Who let this lad away from his carer?
And, if the performance on the pitch wasn’t pitiful enough, worse was to follow, we had the grim spectacle of total and complete contempt being shown from a Villa player towards the fans. I don’t know what’s worse, that he did this after his performance in a 6-0 defeat, or that it came from a player who the Premier League has enriched for years of mediocre service:
And now the context:
Finally the denial, though usually that comes before bargaining (doesn’t it?):
Sickeningly it wouldn’t surprise me to see Joleon Lescott remain in the Premier League next season at the arse end of another riff-raffer’s squad. The league is that mediocre and Premier League experience is still a valued commodity among its legion of middle managers.
The good news for Villa fans is that relegation could see a purge of the club’s defeatist behaviour of forlornly holding out hope for some unforeseen impetuous of change to arrive. Relegation forces clubs to adapt. The financial reality of relegation alone assures it. So while some sort of change is guaranteed there is no guarantee it will work for the better, just ask Nottingham Forest and Leeds United fans.
Sub Division – Only One Can Survive:
Pre-season Prediction: 20th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 20th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 17th
Final Prediction: 19th
As I said here:
Well, nineteenth isn’t a bad effort. And nobody could’ve accounted for Aston Villa being as pathetic as they’ve been.
Norwich City are a microcosm of the recent stylistic changes in Premier League and the deterioration of its quality. Since 2013-14 teams in all echelons of the division have been scoring less goals, but conceding more, leading to a greater sense of parity. Sadly for Norwich, they neither score enough and they concede far too many. Their home game against Liverpool was a case in point – they scored four but conceded five. It was lauded as an exciting game, but in reality it was a poorly played match, strewn with errors, between a mediocre side and a poor one.
It used to be the case that if you couldn’t score goals you were toast, now if you can’t keep ‘em out you’re fucked.
Norwich City are fucked.
Pre-season Prediction: 16th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 17th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 18th
Final Prediction: 18th
Now to the most shocking Premier League development of the season (other than Adam Johnson stroking his johnson whilst grooming a schoolgirl) is that somehow Steve McLaren was still in situ until this week. It just doesn’t make sense, but then nothing about Newcastle United under the grim Mike Ashley regime does.
As Aston Villa and Sunderland have already changed managers this season, but crucially and sensibly, well before January, the stage was set for Newcastle to succumb to the final cliché so beloved by desperate imbeciles. What’s more we’ve seen this occur at Newcastle before, with the same owner scrambling to save his ticket to the all you can eat buffet (an apt metaphor given Ashley’s girth) of the Premier League’s riches, only for the replacement to flounder spectacularly. Is it too much to ask for Alan Shear-rah to return to the dugout? If you’re going to be this inept, you might as well go all in, and double down on snake-eyes with your last chip.
The good news for Newcastle United is they finally hired someone competent in Rafa Benitez, but he only has ten games left. If they were truly smart they would’ve hired him in January, he was available then.
You know what’s really fucking funny? They’ve spent significant money for the first time in years, not only last summer, in January too, and yet they’re still useless. Perhaps there is justice in the universe after all? Mike Ashley loves to staff his businesses with low paying zero hour contracts, and now he’s spent a significant amount of money, largely due to a belief that’s widespread among Premier League chairmen, and the media, that spending money is synonymous with results, or in this instance, safety and access to that new £8B TV deal that starts next season. The steadily declining standard of the league has ensured parity, and spending Premier League sums of money is no longer a guarantee of anything, foreign clubs have English clubs sussed, English clubs are targeting the wrong type of player, and they’re overpaying for Premier League proven players when the league’s standard is poor. The result? Never mind Newcastle United, just look at Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United this season.
It does feel as if Ashley has gambled on Snake Eyes by entrusting Steve McLaren to purchase players and manage and train the squad and prepare for matches. Their January signings reeked of little the English myopia that ‘to get out of this’ they needed some Englishness, year after year they’ve floundered with ‘all them bloody French man’, so they took a different tack. Andros ‘one trick pony, I can’t go to my right’ Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey, very much an impetuous midfielder when a cerebral presence is required in the middle of the park, were signed to the tune of £20m plus in January. Unsurprisingly, they’ve offered very little thus far.
But even if we can enjoy the schadenfreude of the present and the likely future, we must also remember that Mike Ashley’s a good businessman, and he survived relegation before. This time he’s further insulated himself and immolated himself from accruing anymore blame by deferring responsibility for managerial hirings and firings to Lee Charnley, who apparently had a phone conversation with McLaren this week. We can glean from this that he a) isn’t based in Newcastle and b) couldn’t even be bothered to meet the manager in person to assess whether he should continue, nor ultimately be in person to sack him. And just who is Lee Charnley anyway? Exactly. Jobs for the boys.
I have only one hesitation about picking them to go down, well, two if you include Benitez, Newcastle still have to play both Sunderland and Norwich. If they can win both of those matches and beat Aston Villa…
Oh, and just for all the ladies and other fans of the male form, here’s the exquisite specimen and all round (rotund?) sexy beast that is Mike Ashley stripping off:
Pre-season Prediction: 15th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 19th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 19th
Final Prediction: 17th
It would be ironic if Sam Allardyce saved Sunderland at the expense of Newcastle, a club who sacked him for, well, not being exciting, or something. Mind you, this was before the days of the Big Sam twitter account.
We’re now essentially in a relegation mini-league involving the three teams in this sub division. Swansea and Crystal Palace are eight points ahead of Sunderland with nine games remaining. It’s entirely possible that one of these three could catch them, Palace are in the midst of a dire run of form, and Swansea’s run in, on paper at least, looks tough given they’re rubbish, but two of these teams going on a run, a run that would, in most seasons, be considered top four form? Not likely.
I’m picking Sunderland to stay up, they’ve picked up a point per game since the Big Man took over, and they’re conceding fewer goals than the other two. There’s simply no other choice.
Shite, But Staying Up:
Pre-season Prediction: 9th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 10th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 14th
Final Prediction: 16th
Quietly, without anyone really noticing, or caring for that matter, they’ve had a miserable season, and no wonder. They’ve been very frugal in the market in recent seasons, selling the likes of Wilfried Bony for big money and then trawling the Bosman bin for signings. It’s a sound economic model but it leaves you with minimal margin for error on the pitch.
Maybe Francesco Guidolin is the Italian Sam Allardyce? A fungible middle manager with a huge number of stops throughout his career, all of them attracted by his penchant for keeping smaller clubs in the top flight, only he’s not able to sustain it like the Big Man, and again he comes without the Twitter parody account. Either way Guidolin has served his purpose already, Swansea have been considerably better since he arrived, but then, if you’re so bad, you can only get better, well, unless you’re Aston Villa.
And that’s a good thing, because their run in looks quite difficult, but this probably doesn’t matter. It is one thing to be shite, and go on a winless run, but to be relegated requires two of Norwich, Newcastle or Sunderland to be nine points better than them over a nine game stretch. Not happening.
Pre-season Prediction: 11th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 11th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 8th
Final Prediction: 15th
This is why I won’t be doing any update columns from now on. In the previous halfway point column I said the following, without a hint of irony:
On the bright side – being so wrong never felt so right.
Pre-season Prediction: 18th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 15th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 16th
Final Prediction: 14th
They’ve lost four of their last seventeen games. The only reason they’re not completely safe, though they pretty much are, is due to their awful start – eight defeats in their first twelve games.
Point being, they’re trending in the right direction, and all this without their best player and source of goals – Callum Wilson.
Being cynical, as I can’t help myself, they have had the good luck to be promoted into one of the worst editions of the Premier League since its inception twenty-five years ago. Bournemouth’s past seventeen games is evidence that in 2015/16 just being competent is enough.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Pre-season Prediction: 14th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 14th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 15th
Final Prediction: 13th
Sigh. They’ll survive comfortably. It’s just a miserable, depressing package. Let’s just move on.
Pre-season Prediction: 19th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 16th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 12th
Final Prediction: 12th
Like West Brom, only not quite as miserable. Quique Sanchez Flores at least dresses like an adult and is self-aware enough to adopt an inoffensive hypsteresque sense of style. He certainly hasn’t given up, willingly dressing like a fifty something dogger or a crap Jimmy Saville. Note to Tone Pulis, it wasn’t fashionable in the mid-90’s mate.
Talking of giving up, I want to, right now.
Pre-season Prediction: 12th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 9th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 11th
Final Prediction: 11th
Joint third with most goals scored and only five sides have conceded more goals. Basically they’re Norwich City with an above average attack. They should be in the top eight, but they’ve contrived to lose a game when leading 2-0 at home to West Ham United, two 2-0 leads against Chelsea and Bournemouth only to draw both games and they lost at home to Stoke City having lead 3-2. That’s ten points dropped because they’re a defensive disaster.
Perhaps the messiah David Moyes can return and get them back to winning ways?
And by winning, I mean in the Charlie Sheen sense – winning without winning.
Pre-season Prediction: 6th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 7th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 13th
Final Prediction: 10th
They’re an excellent example of the continuous disparity between perception and reality. They’ve got the third best defensive record in the league. Quite frankly, it’s the only astonishing thing about them and their season.
The Europa League Contenders:
Pre-season Prediction: 8th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 12th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 10th
Final Prediction: 9th
Thankfully I’m as consistent as Stoke are inconsistent, even though they’ve overachieved this season. It makes no sense, but neither did my musing at the half-way point that they’re (and we’re) a twenty goal striker away from finally finding out whether Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s collection of midgets could do it on a cold, windy, rainy night at the Britannia Stadium in late November, or perhaps it did, considering the state of the Premier League, make sense?
Pre-season Prediction: 1st
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 4th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 7th
Final Prediction: 8th
This pretty much sums up my reaction to their season:
With their Champions League exit confirmed there’ll probably be no Champions League football for Chelsea for the first time in over a decade. So how will Roman Abramovich react? Perhaps he’ll use this as a cloak to cut costs with a rebuild, and save some of his stolen billions. They could start by properly developing their litany of young players instead of sending them out on loan to European minnows in third rate leagues.
There’ll be changes, there always is with a managerial change and they’re needed. Chelsea fans could blindly believe that their season may have panned out differently had Diego Costa and Eden Hazard been fit and firing all season. However, I’m not sure it would’ve made more than a material difference. Too many of Chelsea’s players are satisfied with their lot or feel they have nothing left to prove. Cesc Fabregas being the prime example, his lack of effort has been apparent all season. But it’s more than just the players downing tools or not giving a shit, there’s been a lack of foresight in squad building. They started the season without a reliable backup striker, and still don’t have one as Alexandre Pato is nowhere to be seen, there’s little guile among the central midfield options unless Fabregas is invested, and most of their central defenders are now past their peak.
If Abramovich keeps spending they’ll be back, even without Champions League football there are a lot of players out there who’d like to earn big money and live in West London. Still, and provided they hire the right manager, it may take a few transfer windows to re-energise the squad into a contender.
Fourth Place Pretenders:
WEST HAM UNITED
Pre-season Prediction: 10th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 8th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 9th
Final Prediction: 7th
Look, I admit it, I’m pussying out by not picking them to finish above Manchester United and Liverpool.
Credit must go to Bilic and the West Ham’s scouting department. They’ve built a squad of players who accentuate the qualities so desired in the generic Premier League footballer. Add a touch of technical quality (Lanzini and Payet), defend deep on the low block and counter attack quickly, and provided the league is this poor, and filled with teams who are an inferior version of yourselves, and you’ve got every chance of finishing in the top six.
Pre-season Prediction: 7th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 6th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 6th
Final Prediction: 6th
It’s no surprise that given all the injuries to their better players, an inept goalkeeper, and a squad that’s riven with mediocrity, that they’ve been so schizoid.
Will this continue? FSG are on their fourth manager in six years, with a Director of Football thrown in for good measure. The laughable extension given to Simon Mignolet and the loan signing of Steven Caulker suggests that the moronic transfer policy/ethos/model insisted upon by Liverpool’s ownership remains. So we’ll see variant of the holistic approach that can appease Klopp; less overpaying for middle tier players (maybe), perhaps a big name signing, and signing a few of the next big thing youngsters (definitely). Thing is, this formula will still block the prospects who are signed, or who are already at the club because the pressure to win now is too great, and expectations are only going to be skewed further with Klopp’s arrival. Perhaps Klopp has the patience to develop a group of youngsters into a team that could contend, like he did at Dortmund, but the evidence suggests that neither FSG nor the Liverpool fans do, albeit for different reasons. The fans will proclaim that they do, they have to, but let’s see how they react if the club is in a similar position a year from now.
Watching how this plays out over the next two years is going to be interesting, which is just as well, because, for the most part, watching Liverpool this season has been anything but.
Fourth Place Contenders (But I’m Not Convinced):
Pre-season Prediction: 4th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 3rd
Half-Way Point Prediction: 5th
Final Prediction: 5th
First, this (because it’s too good not to):
Perhaps mini Van Gaal and the real Van Gaal could get work as ‘The Blues Brothers’ on the Northern men’s working club circuit after he’s certain to leave United this summer? Perhaps they’ll sack Van Gaal earlier if they fail to progress past an equally woeful Liverpool side in the Europa League?
Shitcoat Mourinho has been linked with the job for months, but that United haven’t made a move for him with the team clearly floundering, that Van Gaal clearly isn’t a long term hiring and is starting to make as much sense as a dementia patient, and, most crucially, while Mourinho is still available, makes me wonder if they really want him.
As for this season they still have laughable delusions of making the top four. At no point during the season have they played consistently well enough to put together a run of results that will take them there. Not only that they’re absolutely mind-numbing to watch, the team attacks with little pace or aggression to their play. The much hyped Memphis Depay is truly a waste of skin. You look at their squad, as you do with Liverpool’s and Chelsea’s, and one or two exceptions aside, there’s just a dearth of top quality or young players with serious potential.
That’s the case with most Premier League squads, only some, take Spurs, are more organised than others, or in the case of Manchester City and Arsenal, they have more quality, but not significantly more. Speaking of depressing…
Title Contenders (Because Someone Has To Win It):
Pre-season Prediction: 2nd
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 2nd
Half-Way Point Prediction: 2nd
Final Prediction: 4th
…it’s happened again, and this time I can’t make excuses for Arsene Wenger. Nobody expected them to get past Barcelona, but well, the rest, yeah, all of it was avoidable. Sure, the injury to Alexis Sanchez didn’t help, but once again they’ve been left woefully short in central midfield due to injuries. You knew going into the season that Jack Wilshire couldn’t be relied upon and Mathieu Flamini is finished, aaaannnnddd, guess what? That’s exactly what happened. Signing someone from the Swiss league (Mohamed Elneny) in January was too little too late. Surely buying him last summer and allowing him time to integrate would’ve been more beneficial, just in case the circumstances that Arsenal have found themselves in for the last two months arose.
Perhaps it’s time for Wenger to exit stage left, not because he’s not a good manager, he is, but for his own good. And, so I can get to say I told you so. Let’s see how Arsenal fans such as the twat below like it when they get stuck with someone massively inferior and with the same budget, a combination that’s far more likely to lead to a decline than any improvement.
Pre-season Prediction: 5th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 5th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 3rd
Final Prediction: 3rd
Champions League qualification is assured, but winning the league? I’m a sceptic, and here’s why – this is their final nine games: Aston Villa (A), Bournemouth (H), Liverpool (A), Manchester United (H), Stoke City (A), West Bromwich Albion (H), Chelsea (A), Southampton (H) and Newcastle United (A).
Of course Spurs could win most of those games, and that might be enough, certainly the first two fixtures on that list are very winnable, and Newcastle are terrible and may be relegated by the time Spurs face them on the final day, but if they need the points? Beware someone or something that’s desperate.
In reality those six games sandwiched in between the riff-raffers will be decisive, and I just see too many dropped points, or, as has been with Spurs this season, draws.
There’s talk of Pochettino going elsewhere. Hardly surprising really. Spurs have been a selling club for years, and clubs (I’m thinking Manchester United and Chelsea here) will be making stupid bids for Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen this summer. So Pochettino’s well within his rights to wait and see if Daniel Levy can restrain himself this time.
Pre-season Prediction: 3rd
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 1st
Half-Way Point Prediction: 1st
Final Prediction: 2nd
So Guardiola’s in the bag for next season, but what about the remainder of this? The League Cup’s a nice consolation, but nothing short of a league title, considering how poor the league has been and all the financial advantages they have over everyone but Chelsea, will be good enough. Sure they’re still in the Champions League, but let’s be honest here, they’re not good enough to beat Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona, and they surely will have to at some stage to win it.
As for Guardiola it’s hard to decide whether he’s taking an easy job or a hard one. Why? Who knows what the landscape of the Premier League will look like next season. Surely, surely the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will perform better? Maybe Leicester City and Spurs will drop off for various reasons?
But that uncertainty, along with the significant financial backing he’ll have at his disposal, is a significant justification for taking over. The overall quality of the Premier league could just as easily get worse next season, it has done for the last few years. But trends do end. There are more palpable reasons for his decision – City’s owners will give him time, it’s the only good thing you can say about them. Guardiola won’t have to work too hard to develop a formidable attack out of Silva, Aguero, Sterling, Yaya Toure (assuming he remains) and De Bruyne, everything he needs is already in place. The only immediate concern is overhauling the central midfield options and strengthening certain areas of the squad, another striker will surely be signed.
Even though they have a game in hand, it’s difficult to see Manchester City making up a ten point gap on Leicester over ten games. They have no margin for error and they’ve had too many erroneous performances littered throughout the season.
Pre-season Prediction: 13th
Quarter-Way Point Prediction: 13th
Half-Way Point Prediction: 4th
Final Prediction: 1st
Gulp. Yep, I’m picking them to do it.
Forget all this talk of it being a good season regardless of whether they ‘only’ finish second or third. Ten years from now nobody will forget that they won the league title, just as we haven’t forgotten about Blackburn winning it in 1995, even if they’re now languishing in the Championship under a regime of clowns. If they do finish second or third, they’ll still be lauded, but only for ten minutes, then the European Championships will start, and by the time next season rolls around, well, sure, they’ll have Champions League football, and those European away trips will be great for the fans, but so what? That isn’t a trophy. Trophies matter more than anything, once won, they cannot be taken away, unless, like Juventus, you cheated to get them.
So, having come this far, they need to get over the line. Even better their fixtures for the rest of March and April look very favourable. It’s a mixture of riff-raffers and mid table mediocrity with little left to play for, and four of their next six matches are at home. In May, they travel to Old Trafford, play Everton at home and finish away at Stamford Bridge. In seasons past, that would be considered a formidable run of fixtures, but this season all of those clubs have exhibited serious physical and mental vulnerabilities throughout, the sort that haven’t afflicted Leicester City, who have only lost three times all season.
It would also be terrific to see Claudio Ranieri, much ridiculed for his stagnant and esoteric English idiom and his tinkering tactics, genuinely succeed, when someone unsophisticated and antiquated like David Moyes is lauded as a winner and the chosen one. Not for a minute do I believe Ranieri finally sticking it to the dullards who follow this game and whose unthinking complicity, in part, facilitates the Premier League’s decline, will change anything. They’ll just say he got lucky, or regurgitate some clichéd rubbish they heard on Soccer Saturday.
So, how have Leicester done it? Well, rising above such rank mediocrity and at times negligence, by doing things simply and competently. All of their players have bought in, they play like their lives are on the line, they follow their manager’s instructions, Ranieri rotates when necessary, makes logical substitutions, their defenders defend, their goalkeeper saves the shots he’s supposed to, their midfielders run and run some more, their wingers have pace and get crosses in, and they have the league’s top scorer in Jamie Vardy and the player of the season in Riyad Mahrez. There’s probably a certain amount of good fortune in the latter two on that list performing as they have done, and this occurring at the right time when the Premier League has reached its modern nadir, but you know what? Fuck any of the denialist groupthink by the bemused self-entitled shites. Leicester City’s rise and likely title win proves that sport, and in particular football, can still transcend the flaws of its own context.