Overreacting to Match Day 1
Premier League teams do not get the luxury of a playoff round. Sure, we can count for the FA Cup or the League Cup, but everyone knows those trophies are basically like a participation medal. Here you go, thanks for trying, now come back again next year and see if you can do something about the EPL. In North American sports a strategy of “let’s just make it to the playoffs” can be sound, reasonable even. Just stay close enough to the leaders and then make a final push. The EPL is different.
It comes at you both fast and furious in equal measure. You get 38 match days to prove your worth and that’s it. There isn’t a bonus round where you can maybe get your shit together for one final push. There isn’t a consolation prize, unless you resign in magical Wenger-land where 4th place becomes that. There’s just a winner and 19 losers.
Because of such a grueling outlook on the League table, we place extra emphasis on each match day to see how the team may be gelling, if there are any underlying chemistry issues or red flags we should be concerned about. We scrutinize with the same intensity that Taylor Swift analyzed every word said to (and/or near) her by her high school crush. Sometimes we come to reasonable conclusions. Sometimes we turn into the guy on the corner with no shirt on and one pant rolled up screaming about the end of the world because it happened to rain. So… Let’s panic.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The Spurs win 50 games in a regular season stretch of the NBA. Meryl Streep wins an Oscar. Arsenal fail to sign enough necessary pieces in the off-season, start the league slow, get into injury trouble, make a late rush before coming up just short. These are certainties of life.
Arsenal fielded a team that was short on both existing (plenty of players including Ozil, Giroud and Koscielny are not match fit) and potential (still over here waiting for both Lacarzette and Mustafi) talent. Still, in the first half they managed to look like a better team until entirely disintegrating in the second. They looked inexperienced and not ready to compete across two major competitions (let alone four). Coupled with the injury to Aaron “are they still casting the next Bond villain” Ramsey, things are actually perilous for Le Professeur. Grab your pitch-forks, light the torches, let’s head to Wenger’s house.
Leicester on path to relegation
The life of a Premier League champion is perilous. The Foxes managed to snatch the title from some of the usual suspects, but have began their quest to defend it with a loss. A thin squad that will now have to add Champion’s League to its already crowded schedule might not be the best thing. Just as Blackburn.
Blackburn Rovers: A cautionary talethecauldron.si.com
In Hull, Leicester couldn’t have asked for a better opponent. A team is caught up in such turmoil that they make the Sacramento Kings look like an exemplary case of how to run a franchise. They’re one injury away from having to go to the local park and pull players into the squad. Yet, the clock struck 12 and last year’s Cinderella lost 1–2. What’s worrisome is Hull looked more decisive in possession and tactically outmaneuvered the foxes throughout the game. They shut down avenues to counter attack and were able to suppress both speedsters (Vardy and Musa) from breaking out int a head of steam at their back line.
Pep’s greatest challenge
Asking Gael Clichy to play the Philip Lahm role for City is not much different from asking me to suit up and step into Kobe’s production for the Lakers this season. The Pep era in Manchester began with the decisive “meh” as they needed an own goal to down Sunderland. It might take a while for them to figure out the tactics Guardiloa wants to instill, but if the talent isn’t there to match the conceptual brilliance everything else is moot.
Too many times did both Clichy and Sagna got caught in unfamiliar territory, stumbling without a map. Playing as an inverted full back requires patience, decisiveness and most of all split second decision making. Neither could handle even the simpler passes at times, leaving the defense unprepared for a quick counter. The magic beans John Stones had for breakfast also seemed to have dried up as he made a number of crucial mistakes, including an absolutely horrid positional choice that lead to Defoe’s equalizer.
That being said, City still won the game despite not even starting their number one keeper. In their defense, unless you get the Champion’s League version of Joe Hart standing on his head like he’s fighting for his life at the Kumite he’s nothing but average, but then again Caballero isn’t much better. City got away with one here and as the season gets deeper they better figure out what it is their manager expects from them in a hurry. Or bring in some players that will.
All hail king Zlatan
I am ready to over-react to Zlatan all day. He’s on pace for 38 goals this season and I will vote for him to get 50. He is about to put United on his broad, Swedish and absolutely perfectly sculpted shoulders and meander them to victory of the League.
United delivered absolutely one of the better performances of the weekend from a team not from Liverpool. They seemed well organized and in sync despite starting a CDM in a center-back slot. Now imagine Smalling and Pogba come back. Champions of the world!
Tottenham are ready to battle it out for your affection
They may just be Champions come next year. After a slow start that felt more like walking through the remnants of last season than a clean sheet, Spurs dominated the second half with the poise under pressure we’ve come to expect and would have won if not for some theatrical ventriloquism from Maarten Stekelenburg. The Spurs are still going to be the most fit team, even with Champion’s League in play and if they keep pressing like they’re Charles Barkley facing Angola at the Olympics, who’s there to stop them?
Of course none of this shit is probably true. Arsenal will historically be fine. City has too much talent to flop and Leicester will right the ship to end up in the middle of the table. Liverpool will figure out that Moreno is not an actual soccer player and will get better defensively. Everton will be miles better with Lukaku and Williams in the squad. Tottenham may lose Eriksen to Juventus. But with one match day under way, anything is possible.