Fuck yeah, man. The Premier League's back tomorrow. This is super duper great, because although various leagues like the German Bundesliga and France's Ligue 1 have already kicked off, ain't nothing like the Premier League. While other leagues annually boast only two or three top sides and naught but chum below, there are as many as six English teams that will be pushing for a trophy.
There are a bunch of Premier League previews that are out in the lead up to the first kickoff tomorrow, and they're all bullshit—even/especially this one—because no one has any idea what's going to happen. That's partially because nothing has happened yet, and also because with two and a half weeks left in the transfer window, there's a good chance all six teams will bring in new players that will change the squad. Some of these changes could be big. Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, for example, could end up in a Chelsea shirt, and Liverpool's Luis Suárez might be a Gunner by the time the window closes. In addition to that, the top three teams from last year—United, Manchester City, and Chelsea—all have new managers. We have no idea what this means for the league.
But fuck it; we're gonna guess anyway. So here's how we see the top six playing out.
Liverpool are kind of shit. They have one superstar player in Suárez, two very good, almost great players in Philippe Coutinho and an aging Steven Gerrard, and a whole lot of guys who might impress you here and there, but probably won't. This once-mighty club is now nothing more than the midtable's peach, but they're trying to make moves in the transfer market. They've brought in proven goalscorer Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo and picked up the once-great center back Kolo Toure from Manchester City who will be, if nothing else, a steady head on the field and in the locker room, as well as left back Aly Cissokho.
But the Reds loaned keeper Pepe Reina to Napoli, and Suárez will miss the first six games of the season after biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanović last year. And even though manager Brendan Rodgers is adamant that the Uruguayan striker is staying, Arsenal or Spain's Real Madrid may be able to pry Suárez from Anfield. (Not that he should sell, of course. Suárez is one of the three best players in the league.) And though Liverpool are reportedly in for Anzhi's electric Brazilian midfielder Willian, their season will ultimately come down to Suárez: whether they keep him, and whether they can navigate the first six matches in the league without them. We think they'll be able to do both. At this point, Suárez should not be sold at any price, and of Liverpool's first six matches, only Manchester United are expected to beat them outright.
A couple of months ago, I was in my apartment and had to take a shit. So I did; it was wet. As soon as I started, though, I realized there was no toilet paper. I'd recently bought a huge pack, but I have two roommates, and one has a girlfriend who's over a lot, so we run through the paper pretty quickly. I looked in the closet, and of course there was no toilet paper there, either. That's because my other roommate is passive-aggressive, and doesn't like me that much, and so even though he's a neat freak, he fights through his borderline OCD to make life harder for me in the apartment. Washes only his dishes even though everyone washes his, doesn't take out the trash much even though he cooks every night, and so on. You know him, even if you don't know him. So I waddled down to the bodega on the corner, to buy some toilet paper. My ass was clenched, but I was still petrified. I've got a sensitive bum, so I bought the good toilet paper. Charmin. One roll, because now I'm feeling passive-aggressive. It was like three bucks.
I spent more money on that roll of toilet paper than Arsenal have in the transfer market all summer.
Arsenal fans could live with that if the team was great. But Arsenal aren't a great team. They finished fourth last year, after a historic unbeaten streak, to overtake their hated rivals Tottenham and qualify for the Champions League. This summer, manager Arsène Wenger and Arsenal's front office claimed to have over £70 million in the bank to spend on strengthening the squad. They've offloaded no less than 22 players, and so far, have only signed one, Yaya Sanogo. He was free. He wasn't even supposed to see much time this year, but he likely will.
Gunners have a dangerously thin, dangerously mediocre team. They have for years, but we think this year is finally the breaking point, when they'll be passed over for a Champions League spot and heads will roll. They've been linked with fucking everyone, and haven't been able to sign a single great player yet. If they don't add real quality in the next two weeks, Arsenal are done. That said, look for winger Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud to both score 15 or more goals this season. It still won't be enough.
4) Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs are the most intriguing team in the league this year. We don't believe in one-man teams in soccer, but last year, Spurs were a one-man team. That player was Gareth Bale, the best player in the league, who swept the end-of-season awards. In the offseason, Real Madrid came calling for Bale, bidding as much as £100 million for the winger. Spurs said no, and instead, worked on strengthening the core around their star with defensive stopper Étienne Capoue, Brazilian box-to-box midfielder Paulinho (who might turn out to be unreal), winger Nacer Chadli, and Roberto Soldado, a striker who we're expecting to be the signing of the season.
Soldado's not a particularly great player by any measure except one: he scores lots and lots of goals. In 101 La Liga matches over the last three years for Valencia, the forward's scored 59. His goal-per-game ratio places him in the club of elite finishers, which Spurs sorely missed last year. Soldado scored 24 goals last season for his club. Tottenham's forwards last year, Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, scored 16 combined.
We like Soldado. In addition to being a vulture in front of goal, he's big enough to battle against the league's center backs. He can hold up the ball. He's good in the air. As a product of the Real Madrid youth system, he's good with his feet. He's the precise thing Spurs need to jump Arsenal, move into the top four, and, with any luck, push for the title.
As it stands now, Tottenham look fearsome. They're healthier this season. Bale is bitching and trying to force his way out by not talking to his teammates during training, but if Spurs are smart, they'll tell Bale to go fuck his feelings. Spurs have a proven goalscorer, a solid midfield and defense, and dangerous wingers. Right now, with Bale in the side, Spurs are one of the best three or four clubs in the league, and they can take three points from anyone, home or away. Even if they lose Bale before the transfer window closes, expect them to flip this astronomical fee for a few more signings. Spurs fans should be excited.
3) Manchester United
Now we're getting into the clubs that can truly hope to hoist the trophy at the end of the season. Talent-wise, United were maybe the third-best team in the league last year, behind Chelsea and Manchester City. They won the league with a month left in the season.
A lot of this has to do with the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, who was miles ahead of any other manager in the league, and squeezed every bit of potential out of his players. He's gone now. In his place, though, is ex-Everton manager David Moyes. No one's saying Moyes is Fergie, but at Everton, Moyes's entire job was to get his club of meh players to overachieve. So he definitely has the rough managerial tools, if not the genius, to pull off another title run. But...let's be honest. He probably won't.
Because holy shit, you have to see United's schedule. They start the season off with scrappy Swansea away, then three of their next four matches are home to Chelsea, at Liverpool, and at City. And that fucking sucks.
And to compound the problem, they haven't bought anyone yet, either. They spent most of the summer chasing lost causes to fill the midfield, like Everton's Marouane Fellaini and Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas, and now they've left themselves with little time and few options to strengthen. Luckily, they already have a lot of weapons. Wayne Rooney, for example, can still be the best striker in the league on his day, and even though rumors abound that Chelsea want him, for now, it looks like he'll remain a Red Devil. There's also Robin van Persie, who does whatever he wants and scores whenever he wants. But United also have Chicharito and Danny Welbeck, who will get theirs, and a squad full of hardened, experienced soldiers who always find a way to win. United don't have any real weaknesses, and they won't give away matches.
But winning a title is hard, and United will likely have to play catchup after their first five matches. We doubt they'll ever make it quite to the top.
2) Manchester City
You guys, City are so motherfucking good. They really are. They've been buying up as much talent as they can for years, and two seasons ago, they stole the league title from United in stoppage time in the final game of the season, in what is widely thought of as the most exciting day of Premier League soccer ever. United won it back last year, but we think City might finally have enough to surpass their rivals this year.
City finished second last year, but this summer they were active in the transfer market. They bolstered their strikers with Stevan Jovetic and Alvara Negredo from Fiorentina and Sevilla, scooped Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk and Jesús Navas, also from Sevilla, who will never, ever score but create havoc along the wings nonetheless. The best player they lost was Carlos Tevez, but they more than replaced him.
And now, they're stacked. Sergio Agüero is one of the best players in the league, as are David Silva, Edin Džeko, Yaya Touré, and Vincent Kompany. Javi García is an engine in the midfield when he can get in, and Samir Nasri is dangerous playing anywhere behind the striker. They've amassed so much talent that they're almost impervious to injury. And last summer, City signed Manuel Pellegrini from Málaga to manage the side.
We like Pellegrini. He's one of the best in the world, and led his side to within minutes of eliminating eventual Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund from the tournament, even though his Spanish side were overmatched. He's experienced, and similar to managers like Ferguson, Moyes, and Wenger, he's overachieved. They still need to gel, as we saw in last week's 3-1 friendly loss to Arsenal, but if they do quick enough, they'll be kissing trophies when it's all said and done.
José Mourinho. José Mourinho. José Mourinho. He's back.
All the Portuguese manager does is win, wherever he goes, no matter what. He's already won the league with Chelsea in 2005 and 2006, and now that he's returned, who can match his wit, his tactics, his mind games? Fergie's gone. Wenger's diminished. Who else is there?
Then, of course, there are Chelsea's players. Outside of André Shürrle from Leverkusen, Chelsea have not been active in the transfer market, but this is another team that already has all it needs. Michael Essien, whom Mourinho relied on heavily last year at Real Madrid, is back from loan to join an already ridiculous midfield. Ramires. Juan Mata. Oscar. Eden Hazard. These guys are studs. Mata, 25, could've won player of the year last year, and Oscar and Hazard are in their early 20s and already superstars. David Luiz can play as center back or in the midfield, and in addition to being one of the best defenders in the world, randomly has a knack for scoring really, really great goals. Petr Cech can still claim to be the best keeper in the league, and even though Ashley Cole is 32, he can still hold down the left side of defense. Frank Lampard, who everyone says is old and washed up and probably shouldn't even be on the field anymore, scored 15 league goals last year.
Their only weakness, if you want to call it that, is at the center forward position. They start Fernando Torres, who had a relatively disappointing season but came on at the end of the year and ravaged teams en route to Chelsea's Europa League title. But they're pursuing Wayne Rooney heavily, and Rooney wants a new challenge. If Moyes is smart, he'll keep Rooney, because if the world-class forward finds his way to Chelsea, it's a wrap.
Blast Us In The Comments. You Know You Want To.
And that's our top six. There's a lot of time yet in the transfer window, and anything could happen, so we'll update again once the window closes. But the offseason is over. It's time to stop thinking about what might happen, and start playing games. Feel free to comment/rank/disparage/troll below. We'll be around to discuss. Shalom, bitches.