It’s a Saturday. That can only mean one thing.
But after that’s over, you’re left with the other stuff. Like today; a full set of Premier League fixtures.
Now, I’ll be honest. I’m starting to go off top level football. Not that I’ve ever been terribly passionate about it any way, but I’m finding this season that it’s becoming increasingly hard to devote even the tiniest part of my Saturday to keeping track of whether or not Liverpool have been relegated yet. Maybe (and I don’t mind admitting this) it has something to do with these predictions that I made two months ago, before the season had begun. Even now, barely a quarter of the way through the season, I find myself changing my mind about too many of them. This is a real shame, as I seem to remember putting a lot of effort into this thing.
But really, Premier League football is turning out to be exactly what people claim it is: impossible to predict (but I’ll still keep trying). While we’re on the subject, let’s take Liverpool as an example, who will surely begin to show some of the class we expect from a top half team – but unfortunately, they’ve had such a shocking start that I find it hard to stay adamant about them making the top 4. They absolutely won’t (6th). Then again, I remember once saying something similar about Arsenal, who haven’t sprinted out of the blocks, but at least are showing signs of that crucial concentration that deserted them at the start of last season. I’m sticking by that one (2nd), which may also leave you asking what I think about Chelsea, who have started excellently and are now expecting to challenge for the title. I don’t see it, though; adrenaline can only take you so far, and they’re going to have a bad patch (you know how I’m psychic?) which could throw them off course – but hey, a decent start is good for something, and I think they’ll get 4th because of it. I haven’t seen anything from Manchester United (1st) and City (3rd) that I wasn’t expecting, although Everton have shown they have the quality to stay right up there, leading me to say that the team threatening the top 4 won’t be Liverpool or Spurs (7th), but David Moyes’ team (5th).
Then we get to the ‘relegation fight’, two words that Q.P.R. manager Mark Hughes is disliking more with each passing day. By the looks of things, mid-table obscurity is still far beyond a team that we were promised would never be in this position again and spent millions over the summer. How embarrassing – and that one emotion may be what motivates them to drag their heads back above water (15th).
Last season Q.P.R. made history by being part of the trio of promoted teams who stayed up: this being only the second time since the Premier League began (in 1992) that it has happened. The other two, Norwich and Swansea, are also running into problems this season. Strangely, though, and despite glaring evidence to the contrary (which we’ve already established doesn’t mean anything in this league), I can see these teams switching positions come season’s end. Norwich have a manager who understands English football (17th), the lack of which could cost Swansea who, despite starting well, look like they are letting naivety slip into their play: I can see them similarly slipping down the table throughout the season (18th).
Now, I know I risk my integrity with such a turnaround (just two months ago I had Norwich in 19th and Swansea in 14th), but I’m increasingly forming the popular opinion that it is almost impossible to accurately predict anything before the season has actually begun, because things like form and other unknown elements (such as beach balls, or balloons) can have such an impact. If we look at Swansea, for example: the reason they go down may not have anything to do with whether they’re good on paper or not. We saw how good they are on the opening day when they beat Q.P.R. 5-0, but what we don’t often take into account before the first kick-off (I try to, but it’s usually just guess work before you’ve seen the teams play) is the psychological impact that each result will have on individual players, and therefore the team. Swansea look like they’re rapidly losing the inflated confidence they gained from their amazing opening day result, and that’s why I put them further down over the course of the season.
And then there’s the rest…
I said Reading were going to have to continue on their fantastic form from the latter half of last season if they wanted any chance of survival this season. They haven’t, and even should they now begin to pick up more points per game, I don’t see them getting any sort of consistency together – they don’t have a strong enough squad (19th).
West Brom have perhaps been the biggest surprise so far – and some feel they may threaten a top half finish. Don’t get too ahead of yourselves there; they may not be relegated as I have said, but I still don’t see the great form lasting (14th).
West Ham have started well and may avoid a relegation fight to finish mid-table (11th).
Wigan haven’t exactly set the league alight, despite my pre-season efforts to build them up. It looks like they’re in for another typical season, but I think they’re good enough to survive again nonetheless (16th).
Please refer to my previous post to read about the teams I’ve neglected to mention (sorry Southampton – still 20th – fans). The point I’ve been trying to make in the most long-winded way possible is that my point of view of English football is changing. My interest is being drawn down towards the lower leagues and grassroots; things which I can write new stuff about. Mainstream the Premier League may be, but as we all know, there’s only so much people can write about one league before everything turns into a cliche, and that’s the danger I would be putting myself in if I was to stubbornly refuse to look elsewhere when I find my interest in the top league waning. So this is probably the last time I’ll focus directly on it until the second week of August, in 2013, unless I’m flooded with fan mail begging me to reconsider.