Monday, 5 September 2016

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s rightly been said that we’re living in a unique time in world history. Donald Trump is winning votes, David Cameron is losing them, Fox is somehow conjuring new Ice Age sequels and a video game is both making people exercise (‘gotta catch ‘em all’!) and revolutionising the way people nearly die in car accidents.

The footballing world has been no exception- recently recuperating from the culmination of the European Championships, where Ronaldo and ten traffic cones overcame the heavily favoured hosts in unbelievable circumstances.

Deschamps must have ordered all the Chardonnay in Saint-Denis when Ronaldo picked up an early injury and was replaced by another traffic cone, but Portugal played to their strengths. By this, I mean they let boredom waft over the French eleven to the point where the French would rather be doing anything at all other than winning the European Championships.

Last season, the Premier League also gave us plenty of results that made the proverbial jaw hit the floor. That proved to be a real inconvenience for bookmakers, pundits and other logic-abiding good Samaritans who would really just like average teams to stay average and the teams that spend the most money to win the league.

But, this season, there seems to be a reversion to normality. Early signs indicate that we could return to those simpler times when there were just seven teams vying for the title and Arsenal vying for the top four.

This return to simplicity has been fuelled by the entry (and in some cases, re-entry) of some extraordinary gentlemen. Let’s take some time and analyse these special men, and the tremendous impact they’ve already had this season.

Mike Phelan (All Hull breaks loose): I start with Phelan because he’s the one man who’s both helped and ruined this reversion to normality. Orchestrating a masterclass against the Champions on day one, ‘Micky’ ensured Leicester’s dream turned quickly and brutally into reality.

However, he subsequently over delivered and stumbled onto another win with a squad plagued by so many injuries that his bench looked like the cast of every Transformers movie- irrelevant. And pretty terrible. As the wise men say, “there’s only so much you can do with Shia Labeouf in a lead role”. Expect usual service to resume from the Tigers.

David Moyes (Tyne sighed): After Leicester won the league, every team started to believe this year could be their year. Liverpool fans were, literally, not walking alone on that path of delusion.

However, new man at the Sunderland helm David Moyes is certainly doing his part to restore normalcy- signings like Donald Love and Paddy McNair are making the Black Cats’ bench look rather like the Hull City bench. Moyes faced a lot of criticism recently for coming out and admitting that his side would face a difficult relegation battle, but we applaud him for his honesty, commitment and dedication in the transfer market to ensuring that will happen.

Claude Puel (The Saints go mildly crawling in): Southampton overachieved last season, by any reasonable person’s expectations. Many thought Ronald Koeman’s men would struggle after star midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin transferred to Manchester United, but the Saints (much like United) looked a lot better without him.

This season, however, Claude seems to have hit the reset button and the Saints’ recent hard-fought draw with Moyes’ Sunderland leaves us optimistic that they will not surprise anyone (at least not in a good way).           

Walter Mazzarri (That team with Ighalo in it): Watford have started changing managers faster than Donald Trump changes his stance on immigration. The newest character on the touchline at Vicarage Road is Italian legend and Alec Baldwin look-alike Walter Mazzarri. His start fills us with confidence that he, much like Messrs Puel and Moyesie, will ensure Watford perform well within expectations. The fact that Watford’s only point so far this season came against good old Puel’s Saints seems to neatly back this assertion.

Special mentions: Sean Dyche (Turf Bore) and Aitor Karanka (Beg, Boro’, Steal).

There’s much cause for optimism when one surveys this cast of characters. Things are already looking up (unless you’re Southampton) and we should be in for a wonderful, emotional, definitive return to normalcy.

There are also some new faces that didn’t quite make our list, but we don’t expect them to significantly change anything this season. 

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