Premier League Review…with some Comparisons to The Wire…

NBC Sports seems to be doing a solid job so far in promoting the English Premier League. You’ve likely seen the Jason Sudeikis spot as Tottenham coach Ted Lasso. In addition to that, their main philosophy in promoting the sport seems to be by saying, “Yup, it IS ok to get drunk before 11am. Do it. Seriously. Fuckin’ do it.”

That solid promotion took a snag today when they tweeted out this picture:


Which was like 2 steps forward, 965 steps back. Seriously, save that graphic for hockey, because I have no idea how many points an overtime loss is worth. But, it’s kind of straight forward when it comes to soccer.

So, here now, some kind of preview of Premier League 2013-2014. Because, damn, that NBC Sports graphic is NOT cutting it. I’ll cover every team, and make some comparisons to The Wire, because, why the hell not.

Manchester United: Chances are you’ve heard of them. They won the league last year. They don’t have the most talent in the league, especially not when Wayne Rooney isn’t being put to use, but, the one thing the addition of Robin Van Persie made sure of last year was that they didn’t drop points to suckers. And, that was the difference in winning the league. They need more spark in the central midfield. That’s why they’ve spent most of the summer wanting to buy Cesc Fabregas. They’ve failed spectacularly, which has been awesome, because they haven’t added much and definitely not Fabregas. Their only signing of note so far is Wilfried Zaha…and while he looks like a promising young winger, they need to be active for a midfielder before the close of the transfer window.

Chelsea: Should be the favored team to win the league. The league is wide open this year, a lot due to new managers with United, Chelsea and Manchester City. But, with Chelsea…the manager they selected, Jose Mourinho, is awesome. Mourinho gameplanning with Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard? That’s going to pretty spectacular. For those that don’t know those three, I’ll sum up what they bring to the table with Mourinho’s coaching ability, by, saying simply, that anyone else who read that statement that DOES know those three (and is not a Chelsea fan) just responded to it by only saying, “fuck.” The Chelsea fans likely smirked and then dove into a vault of oil riches Scrooge McDuck style.

They are going to be fun to watch AND really good.

The hell with them, though.

West Ham: West Ham this summer has purchased Stewart Downing for 6million euros. This coming 2 years after Liverpool had purchased Downing for 23million euros. West Ham this summer signed Andy Carroll for 17.5million euros. This coming two and a half years after Liverpool had purchased Andy Carroll for 41million euros.

If you learn only one thing about the English Premier League from me, it is this…make fun of Liverpool. A lot.

Liverpool: They’re owned by Fenway Sports Group…yes, the Red Sox. So, there’s an easy source of dislike for most. I kind of like some of their talent quite a bit. Coutinho is a playmaker with a ton of promise and Daniel Sturridge is another young player, an attacker that is going to be solid, and I think will actually complement Suarez a ton if Suarez stays. In terms of that, Sturridge was pretty good in the games I saw with him at Liverpool last year in terms of spacing and popping up when needed, while letting Suarez dominate. Suarez, despite the racism and vampire-ish ways, is a player I’ve liked since he handballed the goal that would have buried Argentina in the 2010 World Cup.

Arsenal: I’m a Spurs fan, so, I dislike Arsenal quite a bit due to the rivalry. But, seriously, Arsenal is part of the reasons why I chose to root for Spurs. If you’re American and you picked Arsenal, you’re likely pretentious. Why? Because American Arsenal fans picked the perceived weakest of the teams that generally finish amongst the Champions League qualifiers, and, their fans love to bang the drum that they don’t spend a ton of money in transfers like most other big clubs. But, the reality is that Arsenal has wages in the top 5 premier league teams in every season for the last decade. They have the wage structure luxury to bring in depth. Which, don’t get me wrong, they’re still very smart from an organizational standpoint, but, their fans always seem to ignore wage spending and focus only on their lack of transfer money.

In terms of on the field, I don’t think they will get Luis Suarez. So, I don’t think they will upgrade from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski at striker, but, I think they will get a defensive midfielder, and, really, that’s the position they need to upgrade the most. They’re good, and always will be with Wenger. Even if they spend more transfer money without Wenger, there’s no guarantee that will mean more winning.

Swansea: I like Swansea. I think they play a fun brand of football.  Although, admittedly less so this past year than the season before under Brendon Rodgers (who left for Liverpool). They have spent the past two seasons in the mid-table of the Premier League after being promoted from the lower league. That they didn’t really battle relegation either of these years is pretty cool. They have only spent money this summer, which is a good sign of their reinvesting money from the sale of players like Joe Allen (to Liverpool) and Scott Sinclair (to Manchester City).

If you want a team to root for this year because you don’t have one…and you don’t want to be a jerk and front run…this is my recommendation.

The New Teams: Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Hull City…Honestly, I couldn’t tell you much about these teams, so I’ll just stick them here in the middle. Just to make it known I am not sorting these teams by predicted finish. If Hull City complete a signing of Tom Huddlestone from Tottenham, which is rumored, I think that would be a good start. Huddlestone is no longer a real fit for a Spurs team that should push for a title, but, could be strong at anchoring a team in a relegation battle. Cardiff seem the most interesting of the bunch, as they seem to be willing to spend their asses off. And, could be a legit mid-table team.

Comparing a Bunch of Teams to Characters from The Wire:

Newcastle: Marlo Stanfield. I feel like Newcastle is the type of team that could be a lot better if they put more thought into what they did. They always seem like this team that plays a bananas style of football. They are generally fun to watch, but, also capable of losing like 8-1 any time out. Their name is their name. They’ll always have some buzz when they play well, but, they’ll go down by stubbornly protectin’ their corners.

Everton: William Rawls. Ervin Burrell. Jay Landsman…and any other members of the Baltimore police more concerned with not rocking the boat than doing really good police work… 6th place last year. 7th, 7th, 8th, 5th, 5th, before that. All under new Manchester United coach David Moyes. Frustrating, really. This is a team that should have parlayed this kind of run into something much, much better. But, seemingly content for this level of play, they haven’t progressed a ton.

Stoke City: Cedric Daniels. I don’t know, maybe reaching here, but, I feel like Stoke play a ridiculous, risk-free brand of football that is suffering to watch at times. But, at other times, it’s so frustratingly perfect…at least in terms of doing more damage than they should to contending teams.

Fulham: Bodie Broadus. Fulham are occasionally pretty damn fun. They had a run in the Europa League (think: 2nd Tier version of Champions League) a couple of years ago with Clint Dempsey. Fun, but, ultimately, a pawn that wants to be a smart-ass pawn, but, is going to get knocked off.

Manchester City: McNulty. THEY DON’T GET TO WIN! WE GET TO WIN! Ego off the charts, and ridiculously talented, but, step on their own feet quite a bit, only to seem themselves often pull through and win in the end. They spend like drunk dudes, too, mainly. 100million Euros this summer, and, likely counting. The guy they spent the most for is likely the one they need the least and overpaid for the most, Defensive Midfielder Fernandinho.

I think Jesus Navas is a ton of fun, however, and a great signing. Missing out on Isco is a big deal. As, I think they wind up with two forwards with Jovetic and Negredo, who, while going to be awesome, don’t quite fit in as well as I think Isco would have. And, there is City’s biggest problem year to year. Finding a club that all work together.

Who’s left?

Norwich City: They’re called the canaries!

Sunderland: They’re called the Black Cats! Jozy! I assume they will get a ton of American support for signing Jozy Altidore to play striker. I think Jozy should have stayed in the Dutch league one more year and wound up with a better squad after.

Aston Villa: Christian Benteke is 22 year olds, a striker, and was really good last year. His continued development into possibly a World Class striker is going to be something worthwhile to watch this year. I think they were downright awful at times last year, but, damn Benteke has some serious potential and is worth watching Villa for him alone.

West Bromwich Albion: They’ve finished mid-table the last few seasons. I couldn’t really tell you how. Not particularly great on offense or defense.

Southampton: Nothing big out and two solid players in. Defense mid Victor Wanyama from Celtic, and defender Dejan Lovren. Both are young players, and, with no outgoing sales thus far, should improve the team now, while providing potential for the future.

Tottenham Hotspur: They have spent big this summer, and it has led to a ton of speculation that last season’s best player in the English Premier League could be sold to Real Madrid. I don’t think that will be the case, and Bale will stay. They have money to spend and I think they are keen to boost their overall profile with emerging markets. NBC seem to love Spurs and have incorporated them heavily in their marketing. Bale is the face of the league and it’s a huge chance for Spurs to capitalize and increase their revenue year to year.

Here’s why I don’t think people should feel bad about jumping on the Spurs bandwagon this season if Spurs DO keep Bale and chase the Title…the Spurs are a long snake-bitten franchise. Taking just the last two seasons…Everyone knows that the Champions League spots are a big deal. Reason being, about 30million dollars, or more, in added revenue. There are 3 automatic spots. The 4th place team generally always make it through. Spurs finished in 5th this past season, and the prior year, they managed to finish 4th, but, were knocked out of the Champions League due to Chelsea winning the Champions League that year and NOT finishing in a top four spot in the Premier League. Last year they finished 1 point behind 4th place Arsenal…but, also got the most points in their history (during this current Premier League 20 team set up).

The biggest knock on this team for the last few years is that they have lacked a striker. This year, they signed Roberto Soldado. He’s 28-years-old, but, in the last three years, there are only two people who scored more goals in the Spanish league than Soldado. You know who they are even if you’re not a big soccer fan. Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. The best case scenario is that Soldado impacts this team the way Robin Van Persie did with United. I don’t think Soldado is nearly THAT good, but, Spurs desperately need someone who can finish against the weaker teams.

Spurs spending shouldn’t be completely unexpected. This is a team that has a fan base that will always be demanding. They just haven’t been in a position where they could really spend over the top and have a safety net to fall back on. Selling Bale is that safety net. They also have been close to 1 or 2 big signings, in the 20-25million pound range, over the past couple of windows. They just haven’t pulled the trigger. There’s a ton more money out there for everyone, really, and Spurs might be making a big move at a calculated time…new head coaches for City, United and Chelsea.

They need to keep Bale, though. Bale is awesome. If you haven’t seen Gareth Bale, damn, get on that. The wonderful thing about Bale is that he scores in so many different ridiculous ways. He even scored on some kind of leaping karate kick on a goalie trying to clear a ball last year. Here’s the thing about Bale…he’s won English player of the year TWICE now. He’s done it in, essentially, two roles. Before, he was more of an out and out Left Midfield player. Great at crosses, great at going forward, but, more about leading from a position that was a bit more passive. The second half of last season Tottenham started throwing Bale all over the place and in attack at much higher levels. And, he went on an outstanding goal run by playing more of an attacking style.

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