Friday, August 12, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different...

So seeing as how the previous entry was kind of brief, here's something covering another of my current obsessions - Premier League Football. It was either this or rambling on about homebrewing, but with the season starting tomorrow, I figured why not? Just to be safe, I'll toss in some DC references to keep the Core Audience happy.



My thoughts on the Premier League Teams of the 2011/2012 Season

Arsenal - What. The. Hell. Arsene? When Fabregas and Nasri indicated they wanted out, they should have been shipped out the door ASAP. That’d give the club some cash to spend on replacements plus the time needed to make sure they gel with the team. Of course, given Arsene’s transfer record, he might have blown the entire wad on a rather cheeky seven year old.
Question to be Answered this Season: Is there any Arsenal player whose description of quality is not immediately followed by “when fit”?
Expectations for this Season: Beautiful games, Europa League finish.
Corresponding DC Character: Arsenal's reputation for tactical brilliance but lack of staying power makes Wonder Woman the obvious choice. As a member of the Trinity she's respected, but like Arsenal, can you remember the last time she's actually done anything big?

Aston Villa - Losing Young and Downing on the wings may deprive Bent of the opportunities he needs to score. N’Zogbia is not quite cut from the same cloth - he seems to harry the flanks as a winger more than set up other players. Still, with former crosstown nemesis McLeish in charge (“The manager of my enemy is my friend so long as he’s heart-healthy.”), I’m not sure Villa will even bother to attack. They’ll just park the bus and hope to get the ball up to Bent on counter attacks.
Question: Was Given simply outclassed by Hart at City, or has he really lost it?
Expectation: McLeish locked in his office with a pickaxe, desperately trying to fight off the shambling horde pounding on his door.
DC Character: Defensively minded with a single weapon, Bent, that's used to smash stuff? Steel.

Blackburn Rovers - Say what you want about Venky’s, but I really like their starry-eyed idealism. It will be sad to see their outrageous hopes (“Let’s sign Ronaldo! Messi! Santa Claus!”) beaten down over the course of the season. A good season for Blackburn will be staying in the Premiership. A great season will be avoiding the relegation zone all together.
Question: Do you feel like chicken tonight?
Expectation: More chicken jokes.
DC Character: Hawkman.

Bolton Wanderers - Owen Coyle had a good season last time round and I think he can eek out another one. He’s lost some of his forward power with Elmander departing, but then it seems Johan fell out of favor about halfway through last year. Still, if Bolton keeps up its reputation for being the Finishing School of the Premier League and takes on a few more loans, keeps its own players fit (Davies and Reo-Coker), and doesn’t let the bigger clubs totally loot its back line, they should be fine.
Question: Is a team made up of loaned players really a team?
Expectation: Not as cheeky as Newcastle, but I bet they’ll have a few surprising games.
DC Character: Coyle's Bolton seems to always be tinkering, bolting on new parts here and there to see what works, so Cyborg.

Chelsea - So you know when your mom borrows one of your tops in an effort to show that she’s still young and vibrant? (Shut up. My family was weird.) That’s Chelsea. New manager Andre Villas-Boras is the sexy top. Hopefully between his sequins and billionaire James Bond villain/owner Abramovich’s money (let’s torture the analogy and call his money SPANX), Chelsea can get its act together. Roman should crack into his vault of superweapons and get an exoskeleton for Essien, rocketboots for Torres, and anti-malaria pills for Drogba. He just better be sure and lock up when he’s done. No telling what Ashley Young would do to the grounds staff with a laser rifle.
Question: Luka Modric? Really? Abramovich could afford to clone a soccer playing velociraptor, put it in Nikes, and unleash it on the pitch and he’s going for Luka Modric?
Expectation: Where Chelsea lands in the Top 4 is more up to how hungry their rivals are, not how hungry they are.
DC Character: Deep pockets? Posh Neighborhood? Wonderful toys? Batman all the way.

Everton - Poor Everton. They kept their head down all summer, training hard, saying to themselves “This will be the year we start strong!” and then someone goes and tries to burn down the site of their opening game. The Toffees are not a flashy team. Their strength lies in the grim inevitability of their progress - start weak, end strong. Hopefully this year with the lack of new signings they can simply continue the vector from last season.
Question: Brother, can you spare a dime?
Expectation: Top half of the table. If the top quarter was not so close this year, I’d say they’d almost have a Europa League shot.
DC Character: Someone who has been hanging around since the beginning, is no slouch when it comes to power, but is often forgotten? Aquaman.

Fulham - Maybe this manager will stick? Better yet, maybe Martin Jol has some sort of magical elixir bartered from a talking fish that will keep his players fit. They’ll need it too with Europe beckoning. From watching Liverpool last season, the Europa League is a bit of an albatross, but maybe that’s just sour grapes. Still, they have the talent to give some of the bigger clubs a run for their money.
Question: Why the hell is Landon Donovan the face of American Soccer when Clint Dempsey beckons?
Expectation: Fulham is the Dark Horse of the league this year. Michael Jackson statue will become a sacred totem.
DC Character: Strangely able to pull victories out of nowhere, thinks positive, attractive, tricky-but-not-sneaky? Zatanna.

Liverpool - Dalglish and Comolli (Coming this summer to TNT!) seem to have a similar approach as I do when playing Football Manager - First Thing We Do is Spend, Spend, Spend. Although we should remember that a big part of that cash came from Abramovich’s helicopter, tossed out the window in order to make room for Torres in the overhead storage compartment. Still, new owners FSG has spent big and so big things are expected. I came to Liverpool last season because I sensed a Bad News Bears style storyline developing - early transfer woes, sulking strikers, a bedraggled manager, and corrupt owners. But instead of getting the rag-tag band to work together and triumph despite the odds, FSG has instead opted to buy new rags.
Question: Is the biggest threat to Liverpool internal? It’s not like they can turn Stevie away if he wants to play, but the dude is one more groin explosion away from being the Hindenburg.
Expectation: Champions League or go home. No, seriously, Kenny. The movers are on standby.
DC Character: Given King Kenny hit the ground running when he took over halfway through last season, The Flash feels about right, especially when you consider the long standing race for number of titles with Man United.

Manchester City - City isn’t so much a team as a group of stars temporary rallied around the same flag. Problem is, that flag’s name is Carlos Tevez and he’s on his way out. So can Sergio Aguero fill those boots? On paper, the team should be nigh-unstoppable - Aguero up front with Silva, Toure, and maybe even Nasri lurking not too far behind with Hart and Kompany (Coming this summer to TNT!) protecting the net. But until the team gels, they’re going to continue to get beat by their crosstown rivals.
Question: Where does Super Mario go from here? Full on Rodman?
Expectation: They’ll keep their Champions League spot, but will need to choose which league to focus on if they want to win anything.
DC Character: A huge cast of characters, sometimes with competing, confusing storylines as to who is Numero Uno? Sounds like Green Lantern to me.

Manchester United - The team to beat. They are almost boring in their quality. At least last season we had The Rooney Saga (opening band, The Berba Love Experience) to keep us entertained while we waited for the inevitable. This season, we can look to the back for our drama. A new, young keeper trying to fill the net of a recently retired legend will be the ongoing narrative, provided the twins (and I think it’s hilarious that ManU has a pair of twins - it’s just spot on) don’t have some sort of wacky sex scandal.
Question: Will green and gold overtake the red and white?
Expectation: Blah blah blah top of the table blah blah.
DC Character: For anyone who has ever said "I don't like Superman because he's so good at everything he's boring," Man United is not the team for you.

Newcastle United - Newcastle fans should pitch in the five quid and a hot meal it takes to hire Cuba Gooding Jr. these days to have the actor just show up on owner Mike Ashley’s doorstep and do his ‘Show Me The Money!’ routine. The fans will all laugh and smile, but nobody will give Cuba a lift to the bus stop. Seriously, though, the exodus of Magpies is shocking. Carroll, Nolan, Enrique, and likely Barton too? I could understand shedding the Champions-level squad players, but these guys sort of carried the team last season. At least do something with the, what, 50 million pounds made off of transfers?
Question: Seriously. Where did the money go? Does Ashley just look down his squad list, get to Nile Ranger, say “That’s an awesome name!” and then wander off for a pint every day?
Expectation: Welcome to a few years of bottom half finishes. We’ll keep the 12 slot warm for you.
DC Character: Cheeky, not able to hold onto his toys for long, and just sitting on a pile of wealth, Green Arrow. Like the Magpies, he spent some time dead (out of the Premiership) and when he came back, everything was... different.

Norwich - One of the three promoted clubs. They have a good trajectory, having had successive promotions over the last two seasons, so we’ll see if that was a fluke or not. I know little about them, beyond the fact that one of their majority stake holders is a professional TV chef. Look out for networking opportunities at Blackburn games!
Question: Will you be the next Blackpool?
Expectation: Hanging in there at 17th.
DC Character: Keeping with the team's nickname, we'll go with Black Canary.

Queens Park Rangers - The second of the promoted clubs. I only know two things about them - their manager, Neil Warnock, looks like Dobby the House Elf and their star player, Adel Taarabt, tried to get a transfer away from the team almost immediately after promotion. Neither of these facts bode well for the club.
Question: CAN YOU GET ME HARRY POTTER’S AUTOGRAPH?
Expectation: Just keeping the London seat warm for you, West Ham.
DC Character: Since you'll only be with us a little while before your prowess fades, Hourman seems appropriate.

Stoke City - I am not sure where this mental connection came from, but when ever I think about Stoke City, I start thinking about mullets and the song ‘We Built This City’ by Jefferson Starship starts to play in my head. I’m not sure this is fair to the team, mainly because Stoke players are all huge monsters who prowl the pitch like Uruk-Hai and could pound me into powder with minimal effort. Still, they have Europa League play this year, but I don’t think they’ll get very far. However, the learning experience might teach them something and we’ll see a bit of finesse creep into their game.
Question: Please don’t hurt me?
Expectation: Midtable finish. The sooner they get done with Europe, the higher on the table they’ll reach.
DC Character: Tough and with a tendency to punch first and ask question later. There might be class lurking beneath that exterior, but you'll have to look past the obvious to see it. Power Girl.

Sunderland - The Black Cats are a cagey team. They’re sort of a big fish in the smaller pond of dedicated midtable finishers. Hopefully, this season sees them climbing higher than 10th, but that’ll be largely based on the performances of some of their recent signings (Connor Wickham) and whether or not their more experienced veteran core can stay in one piece. They’re not the flashiest team, but for what they do, they don’t need flash.
Question: So you know when you're out with friends and a bunch of them leave to go fetch another round, leaving you with a friend-of-a-friend who you only sort of know but have little interest in getting to know better and the feeling seems mutual so you both start checking your phones? Yeah. That's happening right now.
Expectation: Midtable. 8th or 9th, tops.
DC Character: Reliable, predictable, powerful when needed? Keeping with Sunderland's home grounds, let's say Dr. Light (non-rapey version, of course).

Swansea City - The last of the promoted teams and the first Welsh team in the Premiership. I’m pinning all my Blackpool hopes on them, so don’t let me down, Swans.
Question: Seriously, are you this season’s Blackpool?
Expectation: Relegation, unfortunately. All Welsh songs are sad songs.
DC Character: Some good times together right before something horrible befalls you? Fare thee well, Elongated Man.

Tottenham Hotspur - Sorry about the riot, Spurs. At least that got the Modric Saga off the front pages? I can understand the desire to keep him - if he goes, other players (Bale) might be sooner out the door than later. Still, Spurs need a striker really bad. The Scarecrow just isn’t doing it and the rest of the lot are so blah that they’ve formed a single unit (Keanelyuchefoe) in my mind. ‘Arry has the reputation for wheeling-dealing, so I bet we’ll see some new faces on the team before the end of August, so in a way, I guess the fires helped the team. Hrm...
Question: Modric, in or out?
Expectation: Ambition bound only by how far Arsenal falls. Man City has usurped your place as the Riser To Watch.
DC Character: Not only is he also threatened by fire, but Martian Manhunter is as powerful as the Big Names, even though people don't always acknowledge that fact.

West Bromwich Albion - So my son’s name is Westley and when I wanted to get him an infant Premier League jersey, the obvious choice came down to West Ham or West Brom. I chose the former based on a reference from The IT Crowd, and look at the good that did him. WBA is looking up - manager Roy Hodgson brought Zoltan Gera in from his old club to help give striker Peter Odemwingie some back-up, Ben Foster in goal, and a shored up back line. There’s a lot of hope here that WBA can repeat its performance from the latter half of the season.
Question: Seriously, Roy? England? You know the Kop was being sarcastic, right?
Expectation: A fight with Sunderland for 8th or 9th.
DC Character: Roy has a reputation of being a big planner. This year, it looks like he has a lot of tools in his belt, so Red Robin it is.

Wigan Athletic - You lucky ducks. I have no idea how you’re still in the League. I sympathize, I do, as it must suck to be stuck smack dab in between the largest concentration of other clubs in the country (Manchester clubs, Liverpool clubs), but I don’t understand how a club that spent most of last season being the Washington Generals can stick around in the Premiership. This year will be harder with the loss of N’Zogbia, so the hopes fall in the lap of youngsters like McCarthy, which is risky at best.
Question: How many goats do you sacrifice at the start of the season to stay up?
Expectation: Somehow hanging in there.
DC Character: Who gets blown up almost annually yet always comes back? Red Tornado.

Wolves - I have not been following the Premier League long enough to hate a team, but I hate the Wolves. I have no idea where this came from - maybe it was their rough, brutal play? Maybe its because they stuck around while Blackpool was relegated. Maybe it’s because their victory over Liverpool was the Reds’ nadir. I dunno why, but I hates dem.
Question: Where do you get off?
Expectation: Comeuppance.
DC Character: Lobo - a reputation for violence and inexplicable staying power.

My final predictions: Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Villa, Fulham, WBA, Everton, Sunderland, Stoke, Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, Wigan, Norwich, Swansea, QPR, Wolves

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