So what have we learned after 1 game of the Premier League 2013-14?
1. Roberto Mancini will not be missed.
If you believe all the reports, Mancini treated managed men in the same way that sheepdogs manage sheep; lots of barking, bullying and the occasional bite on the backside (metaphorically, rather than Luisologically, speaking). Pellegrini has made more sense in one press conference than Roberto did in three years. The signings, and therefore the signs, are good. If the Chilean can get Dzeko looking like a potent goal-threat rather than the lovelorn giraffe of last season then he really is a capable man.
2. Jose Mourinho never left.
Seriously, I swear John Terry had a bit of pace in them there legs. Gone was the dawdle of a three-legged crab. Frank Lampard looked thirteen, and is still taking penalties in the same way he did when Jose first arrived. His strike-rate from the spot can only be down to the denseness of the average frontline goalkeeper. He goes to the right more often than UKIP party spokesman's oratory. Most memorable of all, Chelsea played lovely stuff and settled for a 2-0 very early. And some numpty in the crowd held up a sign that read 'We Are The Happy One's' proving once and for all that a lot of Chelsea fans need to go back to school.
3. Moyes may not be moved
Good start for Moe, but the stats suggested that Swansea weren't that far behind. Van Persie is a law unto himself, and his fitness is vital. He's exactly the sort of thing Moyes lacked at Everton. Welbeck has already got his one for the season - we shouldn't start imagining that the second means he's gone all cold-eyed assassin, anymore than we should think that age has rendered Ian Holloway's post-match comments into something credible.
4. Wenger's Days Are Numbered
Well now it's easy to get carried away with one result but Arsenal were utter drivel against Aston Villa. I mean shite. 'Spend, Spend, Spend' is all very well but on who, exactly? No one of a game-changing disposition wants to get anywhere near the Emirates. The latest player to get you Gooners hot under the collar...? Yohan Cabaye, that's who. Talented French midfielder who did bog-all last year. Still at least Arsenal are a bit short in the pint-sized midfielder area. Ahem.
In truth this perpetual scramble for fourth place is sitting at its last chance saloon. There's something pathetic about Wenger's attempts to claim this as a triumph - akin to a toddler being pleased to have managed to put a spoonful of slops into its own mouth. Again.
The only thing that'll improve Arsenal this season is a lack of Gervinho. 4th place depends on how quickly AVB assimilates the BRC into his Tottenham team. That's the Bale Replacement Corps. Latest reports suggests Will.I.An is joining the crew. The signings look good, and Palace, for all the huff n puff, could and should have been shredded.
Liverpool, too, may have a say now that Suarez is happy to let his child wave at Scousers. I mean I would never inflict that on a child.
5. My bottom three prediction is spot-on
I simply don't see how any of the promoted sides has a prayer this year. Even a bit of first-game chutzpah did nowt for any of 'em. Any Palace victory will depend entirely on whether Phillips can get on the pitch. They should be sponsored by Seven Seas Fish Oils. Hull are an assembly of recognisable unfulfilled talents. Cardiff may do best, but that's cos the manager's got his head screwed on.
6. The Whingeing Manager is back already
Pardew continues to put his team's problems down to nasty people asking about his players. 'We were just about to play and Arsenal said they wanted our player and then we couldn't play nicely after that' was how he put it. Sometimes I wonder if there are any grown-ups left playing professional football.
Ian Holloway's grizzle about Chadli's 'foul' - and by God in my day that challenge is fairer than a Nazi Youth rally - and the handball not being a penalty... well, please you great Bristolian berk, can't you at least start the season on Planet Earth? There's a long season ahead not least for lonesome Dwight Gayle, who was ran his little socks off but resembled a dozy terrier that keeps heading off after an unthrown stick. Poor lamb.
Meanwhile the Ashes come to a close with Darren Lehmann urging his fellow Australians to make Stuart Broad cry when he comes visiting in November. This is cos the lanky England bowler and, on occasion, first-class tosser, failed to walk after edging to first slip at Trent Bridge.
Now Australians never walk unless they're called Gilchrist so really you're suggesting that Broad should walk cos his edge was bigger. This is ethically a tad murky. I mean how big must an edge be before you must walk, eh? Perhaps we'll have Hawkeye telling us the angle at which the ball came off the bat and deciding that one nick is more worthy of departure than another.
Broad'll get his fair share in Brisbane anyway. We don't need Lehmann spiting the pips out of the sourest grapes in order to make that happen. It's not like England fans consoled Warner for twatting our baby-faced opener, is it now?
In the meantime England prove that they still know how to take a foot off the throat of an Australian by kindly picking two newbies for the last test. No. No. No. Tremlett should be in. Stupid.
Oh and finally. Mo Farah. That sprint down the home straight of his. Like I've always said, narrow your eyes and you can see the pack of lions hunting him down. And never quite catching him. Has there been a better British runner? Well, no. He's just marvellous.
Friday, 16 August 2013
-Well I've had a lovely summer bathing in the warm glow of on-tap micro-brewery ale, savouring the tissue-paper thin spine of the Australian batting line-up, and slowly recovering from a torn calf muscle. I've reached the stage now where I have to stop limping and start walking proper, like, until the bastard hurts, apparently.
I am allowed painkillers but not even ibuprofen suoer strength can dull the hurt till of the first game of Boro's campaign. More of the bleeding same! We are the Mumford and Sons of Championship football.
Any road, what do we reckon to this year's Premier League possibilities? Let me put aside visions of Jake Humphreys`smarmy choirboy call to arms (I look at him and know what BT stands for) and tell you what's going to happen this season.
The last seven seasons have resembled the slowest resignation speech in history. Arsene's been promised a big budget but I think like a pensioner who's won the lottery, he's forgotten how to spend his pennies and everything seems a lot more pricey than it was in the old days. If he can get Higuain, plus a someone like Fellaini, then maybe they'll improve. But don't die waiting, Gooners. 4th.
It doesn't matter who they've brought in, the main thing is they've kept Benteke which is the first known example of a baby managing to hang on to its candy. It's possible that Lambert has finally got shot of the Villa's big club mental disorder. There is a core of young lads at the club that should ensure a steady progression. 11th.
They weren't much cop at our gaff last year but Mackay has made some interesting additions, not least a tough-tackling Chilean midfielder who goes by the nickname of Pit Bull and looks for all the world as if he could've walked out of series 3 of Breaking Bad. Be nice if they had a pit-bullish grip on 17th, wouldn't it? 19th.
He is returned. He arrived by crossing the Bay of Biscay on foot. The fat Spanish Maitre D has gone off to pastures lucrative, and order is re-established. So far Jose has not exactly been pulling up stumps in search of new players. The bid for Rooney was merely a bit of new-boy needle for Moyes. But Chelsea were the best team in the league for big stretches of last season and I wouldn't bet against the pouting Portuguese nicking this year`s title. In fact Gawd help us I think they will win it.1st.
Olly's back in the big time. Expect more quirky analogies to him and his missus (e.g `every time we win I go home and make love to the wife and right now she thinks I`m celibate`) and a team that swirls energetically down the old Premier League plug hole. The manager has described it as being like starting a marathon and being 20 miles behind. 'Can we catch them up?' he asks. Not without a Ferrari and unlimited bus lane access, no. Dead last.
Who knows? Moyes left a club that has developed from dogged and difficult to really rather easy on the eye. No doubt Martinez will maintain that but so much depends on the back four looking after themselves. If Roberto ran a cattery you'd want someone else checking the cat-flaps every night. He won't be an overnight sensation. 8th.
Are they still in the PL? Really? Expect another season of national indifference you cottagers (and that's not a nickname that's likely to ingratiate yourselves with anyone Russian - if you believe Ms Isinbayeva. Incidentally Isinbayeva is Russian for 'fuckwit'.) Bent'll get em the odd goal. Taarabt will be entertaining, so erm, I dunno. 14th, somehow.
The best conk in footy is back too. Steve Bruce must be a better manager than I take him for. At least when it comes to getting teams out of the championship. The Tigers spent the last few games of last season looking flea-bitten and declawed. Like their promoted colleagues I wouldn't give em a prayer. Huddlestone and Livermore have understandably fled a Spurs midfield more overcrowded than a bus out of Damascus, but when the question is 'where do we find a top goal scorer?` and your answer is Danny Graham, you know not to get too optimistic. 18th.
It's Bugsy or bust, innit? If Suarez stays then maybe there's hope of improvement - and by staying I mean staying on the pitch, the bitey little tosspot. Dead wood in the form of Downing and Carroll has been chopped away. More neat little Rodgersish players have come in. Slightly better this year if Luis doesnt bare his teeth. 5th.
It`s simply a case of getting a load of talented millionaires with egos are the size of national museums to play as a team. I know nowt about Pellegrini but im already not missing Mancini saying `in this moment` every other sentence. Fernandinho should be interesting watch - and I hear his son Ferdinandinhoinho is pretty good too. Still got the spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya and Aguero. Even with e his sy fits they'll be fine. 2nd.
Well look they weren't the best team last season but they had the Mighty Wind from the Fergie hairdryer to power them along. I can't see Moyes stepping into those red wine stained loafers without the odd wobble. Take away RVP and I wonder what there is to worry about. One season to bed in, I reckon. 3rd.
The Franco-Cockney takeover is almost complete. The former bar Shearer`s now sells an exclusive menu of jellied eels and escargots. `Les stottie cakes sont merde` said one player. What to expect from those Wonga-sponsored wannabes is anyone's guess. 7th. Or 20th. Let's say 13th.
Much will depend on Hooper and the wonderfully named Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Rip Van Wolf's brother). Norwich flopped off the end of last season like a drunk falling off a bar stool. Worthy, hardworking. oh so easy to patronize, they will be first one out if one of the promoted trio saves themselves. 17th.
You can't bet against Ricky Lambert, can you? What a wonderful start to an international career. There's one one-cap wonder we won't forget in a hurry. As for the Saints, well they'll be a bit better, but finish lower. 15th.
Someone said to me that Mark Hughes `can't become a bad manager overnight`. I told him he hasn't - it's taken him ten years to be this shit. That may be harsh but he was at least very responsible for the utter farce at QPR last year. He suggests a change of culture at Stoke but I don't see Pulis`s legacy being wholly overturned. More mid table mediocrity off the back of set pieces and cloggery. 12th.
That classy fascist with the penchant for dirtying posh suits will be entertaining us from the touchline again. It'll be a better watch than his team no doubt. He's brought in shed loads of foreigners and whether they'll all gel is anyone's guess. I'm guessing not. 16th.
Hands up if you don't like Michael Laudrup. Thought so. I was hatching a plan to kidnap him and swap him with Mowbray. But that would've involved going to Swansea. The Swans will do just fine again so long as European competition doesn't deplete them. 9th.
The Portuguese Stick Man had a good first season but couldn't get em into 4th as Spurs suffered their predictable end of season lull. Without Bale though, as I've said before, they're Fulham. But given they've signed some tiptop players, I can see them improving enough to get even closer to Champions League football next season. What's that? Bale`s off is he? 6th, then.
West Bromwich Albion
Lukaku will be a big miss. Anelka will score of course but he's a bit of a Worzel Gummidge so it'll depend on which head he has on. You can't see em doing better than last season's over achievements but 10th would be excellent.
West Ham United
Say what you like about Allardyce (`dull, fat chewer` for example) but the man knows how to make the best of what he's got. There's no danger if his tune changing after completing the signing of Carroll but the big Geordie lunk is due a big season and he'll be spoonfed a rich diet of pumps into the box this year.7th. (Prediction made on the basis that I didn't have anyone else down for 7th.)
So joy for Jose, misery for Malky and a big fat no change there then for Arsene. It's going to be interesting.