David Hirshey writes weekly about the Premiership for Deadspin.
I can't tell you how many people came up to me the other night at Deadspin's version of Truman Capote's Black and White Ball (for the record, Leitch was wearing a Jack Black mask, if Jack Black had a little ball of sweat hanging off the tip of his nose) and said, "Guess you must be feeling better about Arsenal now that the greedy little bastard Ashley Cole has taken his filthy lucre and champagne-swilling, table-dancing wife to Jose Mourinho's Home For Overpaid Mercenaries and in return you got the unfairly maligned and always dependable Williams Gallas to anchor your central defense ... then you said a long-overdue hasta la vista to that crybaby Reyes and in return you got the Brazilian bulldozer Baptista to partner Henry upfront ... and finally when no one was looking you stole the Brazilian prodigy Denilson for a song and sent a box of French merde disguised as Pascal Cygan to Villerreal for a couple of million pounds ... "
OK, so maybe those weren't his exact words. Maybe it was more like "Nice start to the season, you gooner twat," but the fact remains that someone cared enough to inquire about Arsenal at a party where Thierry Henry could have walked in butt naked and had a 20-minute conversation with Will's Dad before anyone called Page Six. It should be noted that my response to my fellow Premiership aficionado was considerably more restrained than Wayne Rooney's to the Blackburn player who asked if the testicles-stomping ManU star and his lovely fianc e Coleen might fancy a threesome. Without ever getting up from his chair, Rooney laid out his interlocutor with one punch.
I took the slightly higher road and raised my glass as if to smash it into his benighted face, before thinking better of it and simply bellowing, "Game on, bitch." Witty badinage aside, I really felt as if the Arsenal season, mired in the mind-numbing ooze of the Cole and Reyes transfer sagas, was about to ignite, and that Middlesborough would be lucky to get out of Ashburton Grove with anything less than the kind of beatdown we administered to them last season in a 7-0 demolition. Suffice it to say, I was almost as spectacularly naive as Wenger, who blamed this latest fiasco on the fact that the pitch at his otherwise dream-like Emirates Stadium was 20 yards longer than the one at Highbury, allowing opponents a chance to catch-up when Arsenal is breaking from mid-field. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who is becoming increasingly addled in the face of the worst start in Arsenal history.
But why dwell on such unpleasantness when there was so much sweetness and light in the Prem this weekend? You could see it in the way that Fox Soccer's Michelle Lissel became increasingly frisky in her banter, not to mention in her on-air attire— a rainbow of colorful pastels, like that canary yellow number with just a hint of a lacy blouse showing through that only further underlines her evolution from Molly Shannon to the Suzy Kolber of soccer weenies. How long do you think it will be before she tosses those librarian-like specs in favor of contact lenses and has Jeremy St. Louis barking like a dog? Oh wait, he already does.
Not that Lissel doesn't still have the occasional lapse — like when she referred to Carlos Tevez as a Brazilian the other night — but she's trying so damn hard to overcome her Saskatoon, Saskatchewan roots, I, for one, forgive her everything except her weird fascination with Diego Forlan. And besides, Tevez did play for a Brazilian club before he alighted at West Ham along with his amigo Javier Mascherano in the shadiest, sorry, shrewdest, coup of transfer deadline day. Don't get me wrong: I have a special affinity for West Ham (the Hebrew Hammer, Yossi Benayoun, is a proud member of my fantasy team, Missing Foerskins United), but you've got to wonder why the two Argentine internationals would choose to ply their magic hard by the kebob stands of London's East End rather than in glamorous surroundings of a place, like say, Old Crapford. Perhaps it is the difference between the warm and fuzzy West Ham coach Alan Pardew and the dour, purple-faced, shoe-kickiing Sir Alex. I mean, would Fergie have put his arm around Tevez and rubbed his nipples, as Pardew appeared to do, before sending Tevez into the game for his much-anticipated cameo? The pug-faced striker came on for Marlon Harewood in the 61st minute in what to that point had been the most electrifying match of the weekend.
It's not that there was an over-abundance of world-class skill on display between West Ham and Villa — although Benayoun, Stilian Petrov and Gareth Barry had their moments — but Martin O'Neill has transformed Villa into an immaculately organized, hard-tackling, opportunistic side while the Hammers go forward with a considerable amount of verve. Imagine what Tevez was thinking when Villa scrambled a goal in the first four minutes and could have added another four soon thereafter had it not been for an acrobatic goalline clearance from Tyrone Mears, another desperate last-ditch interception from Anton Ferdinand and the crossbar that Ponged back two scorching headers from Juan Pablo Angel. Worse, Harewood looked more Marlene than Marlon when he missed a sitter nine minutes in that Tevez' grandmother could have converted with her eyes closed. To their credit, the Hammers clawed their way back into the game, getting a thigh-deflected goal from the Prem's hottest striker Bobby Zamora (five in five games from the Spurs' flop) and setting the stage for Tevez to win it and Pardew to date rape him on the field.
Alas, it was not to be, even though the Argentine twice slalomed through the Villa defense on the wing and cut the ball back for someone to finish, forgetting that Crespo and Mesi did not follow him to West Ham.
As happy as I am for the Hammers who, once Tevez and Mascherano are fully fit and Dean Ashton recovers from his broken leg, should challenge Portsmouth and Everton for a Champions League spot. That's right, Portsmouth and Everton, the Prem's second and third place teams behind ManUre. Everton, which blasted Liverpool 3-0, are still boring to watch unless you're a big fan of graft and long balls out of the back, but in Andy Johnson, they (and, yes, Missing Foerskins United!) have the consummate poacher and his two goals yesterday had David Moyes doing his best Jim Valvano impersonation along the sidelines, leaping and punching the air as if he had just won the championship. That is something that you're unlikely to see Arsene Wenger doing this season. At this rate, we'll be lucky if he even undoes his top button.