We’re bored, it’s August, and Cieslak and I finally have meaning in our lives again with the return of the EPL. So for those of you who are like minded and spend your weekend mornings blisteringly hungover and screaming at various men in shorts that you call “muppets” when you should be in bed, this is for you! Our team-by-team breakdown:
Arsenal: Once again, Arsene Wenger brings back essentially the same team except this time he added a shiny new French striker. I could have written that sentence in 1999, or 2006, or 2010, or 2014. They’ll be really good if they can get Alexis Sanchez to stay, which they should because he can really only go to PSG or Munich. And Munich aren’t going to pony up anytime soon, and I doubt he wants to go wax Neymar’s eyebrows for the rest of his useful career. But you know the drill here. Either they’ll start out on fire, everyone will get hurt in February, and they’ll wheeze to the end. Or everyone will get hurt in September, they’ll wheeze through the middle of the season, and then close with a flourish and probably win the FA Cup again just to provide excitement for next year so we can do this all over again. Either way, they’ll be bitching about Ozil’s effort when it gets cold. At least they can’t give up 17 goals to Munich in the Champions League again.
Likely Finish: Solidly Top Four, but nowhere near title-challenging.
Bournemouth: It’s only a matter of time before someone else hires Eddie Howe right? Or is all his magic contained within the Bournemouth setup? Either way they’ve been impressively resilient since being promoted and added ageless wonder Jermaine Defoe, Nathan Ake, and Amir Begovic replaces the batshit crazy Artur Boruc in goal. The rest of the team is filled with bland Englishmen. They’re the Nashville Predators of the Premier League.
Likely Finish: bottom half, safe from relegation
Brighton: Who? Oh right, the team that Brian Clough coached for seven minutes. I only know them thanks to “The Damned United.” Oh, and I lived over there when Bobby Zamora was banging in 30 goals for them in the CHampionship and everyone wanted him picked for the England team. Instead we got Darius Vassell. Good times.
Anyway, Glenn Murray is here, which means this team isn’t good enough. Chris Hughton looks like the generic character from FIFA ’06 of a manager that just stands there and points at nothing.
Likely Finish: Headed straight back down
Burnley: Ugh. Sam Dyche apparently is taking the mantle from Sam Allardyce as blowhard British manager who attains barely middling success with a team and then can’t wait to proclaim what a genius he is because he’s not foreign and his team cost about eight pence. They’re going to be boring as fuck, and will hope they can hoof enough balls up to Sam Vokes were the opposing defenders all get vertigo for him to score. They lost their best central defender, so Dyche can tell you all about his credentials in the Championship next season.
Likely Finish: Much like the end of When The Levee Breaks… going down now, going down…
Chelsea: The Conte/Kante additions were enough to make a woeful underachiever into instant champion. Kante’s still there but there are questions up front. Diego Costa appears to be sticking around, for now. Still a force to be reckoned with and managed by a total lunatic – they’ll be damn good, again.
Likely Finish: Top 3
Crystal Palace: This has the potential to go very wrong. Palace easily could have been relegated last year before calling on Sam Allardyce to save them, as you do, and now he’s gone. I know from experience Christian Benteke isn’t enough to keep a club from going down. I’m not sure this is gonna end well.
Likely Finish: relegation battle
Huddersfield: There’s no chance they stay up right? They brought in a couple of continental players and David Wagner is a hot name in management, so anything’s possible. That said this has all the makings of a struggle.
Likely Finish: Relegation battle
Everton: Boy you wanna talk about stagnant. As the Premier League has become more and more stratified, Everton have somehow inhabited their own little level. They’re nowhere near bad enough to worry about relegation. They’re actually way too good to even worry about the bottom half. But they’re also nowhere near good enough to challenge for the top four spots, and even the other European spots seem beyond them. Their only hope is one of the cups, because they already know their league season isn’t going to have any stakes.
Except for how big of a disaster Wayne Rooney is going to be. I can’t tell you how hilarious this is going to be. This tub of pudding hasn’t been useful in like four seasons, but he yelled and scowled a lot and Roy Hodgson was so fucking terrified of him he played him in midfield in a World Cup! He pinged one pass to a fullback in acres of space and the entire British press corps stained its shorts. He can’t even move now. If you had a brilliant midfield you could Nuno Gomes him, which is just station him at the penalty spot and let the much more talented teammates ping balls off him into the net. But Everton don’t have that. Ross Barkley could have been that if he wasn’t the singularly dumbest player in the league. Gylfi Siggurdsson would help but his last foray outside of Swansea didn’t go particularly well. Yanick Bolasie looks like he doesn’t know how his legs work but now that the doesn’t have Lukaku to fling in crosses to he’s not as valuable. The defense will be stout with Keane in, and Koeman’s managing. They’ll finish seventh or eighth and you’ll totally forgot they existed by March.
Likely Finish: Exactly where it doesn’t matter at all
Leicester: They were the best story in all of sports a year ago at this time, and then bottomed out when N’Golo Kante wasn’t around to do the running and tackling of five guys. Still, the money in the EPL is so ridiculous this team could shell out 30 million for three players, and Iheanacho feels like it could be a sneaky good signing. Ashley Morgan is like 100 years old though, so defense might not be as solid as it was. Still, with Iheanacho and Vardy up top they can go back to that “kick it real far to the fast guys” that too many teams couldn’t live with. And 10 years from now we’ll still shake our heads at the memory that Leicester City won the fucking league once.
Likely finish: 11th or thereabouts
Liverpool: CAMPEONES! CAMPEONES! OLE OLE OLE!
Ok… clearly I’m getting a little drunk on the Kool-Aid. Here’s what my beloved Reds will be. At times, they’re going to be the most entertaining team on Earth. The frontline of Salah-Firmino-Mane is going to turn some defenses into paste that Ralph Wiggum will eat. There are going to be a few 5-1 and 6-2’s.
The problems are evident. As for right now, the squad isn’t deep enough. If Van Dijk arrives that will help. If Milner is pushed into midfield, that will help. If Barcelona will fuck right off, that will help. But Champions League combined with Jurgen Klopp’s style makes you worry about them getting through a full season healthy or even not dead on their feet in April. And even if Van Dijk comes walking through that door, I’m not going to trust a Liverpool defense ever again (call it “The Agger Curse).
And what worries me is there just isn’t quite enough “world class talent” to run with the big boys over a full season. Coutinho is, and he might not stay. If you squint maybe Mane is too? You’d have to really bend over backwards to call Salah that. Van Dijk hasn’t been around long enough to say that if he even arrives. Compare that with City’s De Bruyne, Aguero, Silva axis of death or Chelsea’s Hazard-Morata-Kante along with Courtois and Rudiger in the back. Or even what SCUM will be rolling out. It feels just short.
Likely Finish: Tussling with Arsenal for fourth it seems.
Manchester City: Did you know Pep Guardiola is so good he can spend hundreds of millions of dollars and challenge for titles? It’s impressive. Anyway, a lot of people claim this is the year Pep gets it right because he’s had the time to adjust. The other factor is City is absolutely loaded with talent. When Kun Aguero might not even be your best forward it’s just stupid.
Likely Finish: Top 3
Manchester United: Because of their fans, I now hate them more than any team. The simps who aren’t saying this is the year Pep figures it out, are saying Mourinho always wins in year 2. Actual analysis need not apply. Obviously this is a good club with a boring but effective set up. I’m not sure they’ll have enough at the back to beat the best of the big guys around them.
Likely Finish: 4-5
Newcastle: If Leafs fans were soccer fans, they’d be Geordies. The most passionate yet lunatic fanbase you can find for a team that’s won exactly dick. And if the NHL had relegation you best believe the Leafs would have had to work their way up from the AHL. Anyway, Newcastle is back. And their season hinges on whether their dipshit owner Mike Ashely chases of yet another manager because you can’t squeeze a nickel out of his snare-drum puckered asshole, or he supports Rafa Benitez before the transfer window closes. If it’s the latter, Rafa himself will keep Newcastle midtable. They’re a touch short on goals, so if Rafa bails and takes his defensive organization with him they’ll head straight back down.
Likely Finish: Either 10th-11th or heading down.
Stoke City: Who gives a shit? Mark Hughes is a moron, they don’t play either really ugly or really attractive football, they’ll finish 12th or 13th whether you need them to or not. They signed Darren Fletcher for fuck’s sake. You’ll see Shaqiri, Bojan, Diouf, and Zouma and wonder how they’re not better. But we’ve said that for like five years. Moving on…
Likely Finish: 14th or something else that won’t matter.
Swansea: They barely escaped the drop last season and might lose their best player as soon as this month. They’ve got the curse of American ownership so they’re being run by rich frat guys who bought a soccer team instead of a yacht. If it’s not this year it’ll be next year. They’re doomed.
Likely Finish: relegation battle
Spurs: I don’t dislike Spurs. They’ve been a great story and highly entertaining the past two years. Their manager rules, and though I thought Harry Kane would be at Leyton Orient by now when I first saw him, he’s now one of Europe’s best strikers while having the dopiest face imaginable. But the EPL does not work like baseball. Young teams don’t grow together and then become a dominant force. The spending power of the competition is just too high. You can’t 90s Indians or Cowboys or even 2010’s Blackhawks into a league power. And Tottenham have done nothing while every one of their competitors has gotten better (save maybe Chelsea, the only team Spurs weren’t better than last season). If Kane goes cold or hurt, same for Alli, this team feels like it’s in real trouble unless something unforeseen happens in the transfer market.
Likely Finish: 5th, but bet they grab one of the domestic cups.
Watford: One sure bet is they’ll end up going through at least two managers. While Troy Deeney is capable of carrying them through stretches, they’re going to have to bumslay to stay up. I don’t think Andre Gray, noted homophobe, is the answer.
Likely Finish: relegation battle
West Brom: Fuck West Brom. Fuck Tony Pulis. They’ll score 25 goals all year. They’ll concede 30. They’ll finish 15th and any time you spent watching them you’ll regret deeply on your deathbed.
Likely Finish: 15th