Premier League preview
Good lord, the Premiership season starts TOMORROW? Dammit. Keep in mind I'm taking more or less totally out of my ass with these picks.
1. Manchester United
The rich just get richer. If there's any poetic justice, Carlos Tevez will get some sort of rare staph infection just before a match between ManYoo and West Ham, and somehow the mutant spore will infect everyone on both sides, and cause both to be relegated. Can you imagine what would happen if United actually got relegated one season? The earth would stop spinning on its axis.
Surely my boy Shevchenko can regain a bit of glory this season. He did score 14 goals last year, so it's not like he was ignominiously horrible or anything, but it was underwhelming for someone making all of those pounds. Perhaps he was tired from carrying Ukraine on his back for the entire World Cup, and now he'll be fresh and ready to go. Seriously, was Ukraine the worst team to ever make the World Cup quarter-finals? I don't think they had even one good player besides Sheva on the roster. Anyway, Chelsea will have another good year but once again come up short against Man U.
Peter Crouch might be my favourite footballer in the world. What's not to love about a gawky giant of a man who occasionally celebrates goals with the robot?
Many seem to think that Spurs have added enough talent to break the Big Four's dominance on the Champions League spots, and since I'm always in favour of variety, what the hell, Tottenham for fourth. A videotaped message from Tim Duncan provides inspiration for Spurs to follow in San Antonio's footsteps. Bill Simmons remembers he picked Tottenham as his favourite team and jumps on the bandwagon at the end of the season to celebrate, i.e. he vaguely mentions it once in a mailbag.
Thierry Henry is gone, which apparently has robbed Arsenal of its heart and soul. Unless you're a vampire, you generally don't operate very well without a heart and/or soul. Is Arsene Wenger actually a vampire? That would explain a lot. Like how Arsenal never plays day games (editor's note: not true).
6. Aston Villa
That's right, I'm going out on somewhat of a limb to predict that Villa will qualify for Europe. What am I basing this on? Coach Martin O'Neill has a dry wit. That's right, I'm now basing my predictions on the qualify of answers during press conferences. O'Neill reminded me a bit of the Edge for some reason. Aston Villa looked good in their friendly against Toronto FC, but...well, it was a friendly. And it was against Toronto FC. But hey, every year it seems a lot of the high-profile player signings blow up in teams' faces. Maybe one will finally pay off and the acquisitions of Reo-Coker and Harewood will prove to be spectacular.
The team known as Pompey had a surprising run last season and nearly qualified for Europe for the first time...ever? I'm too lazy to take the one-minute trip to Google to check this, but let's just say it would've been a big deal for a team that is usually a doormat. They've done nothing but improve their club in the offseason, so I'll say that Portsmouth actually breaks through and gets that last UEFA Cup slot as a reward for all their hard work.
8. Newcastle United
Newcastle welcome new coach Sam Allardyce, who turned crappy old Bolton into a semi-contender by slowing down play to a near-comatose level. Newcastle United have more offensive talent, so perhaps they can actually make things interesting for their fans who appreciate victory, but also like to stay awake while watching their team play. I actually considered adopting Newcastle as my favourite Prem team last year, and my final decision was based on a taste test. If I liked Newcastle beer, I would've started rooting for the Magpies. As it turned out, it tasted like a dying magpie's bodily fluids.
Everton fans will be singing the 'blues' after this poor finish! Zing! Tip your waiters! Yeah, I just don't have a good feeling about Everton this season. They'll have the UEFA Cup to worry about, plus this whole controversy about them maybe moving out of Liverpool to a new ground, and I just think it'll wear on the team after a while.
Rovers have the rep of being the dirtiest team in the EPL, so they've got to stick around at mid-table just to make things interesting for dramatic purposes. It's the perfect place in the final battle between good and evil. If they were relegated or just crap, there's no fun in seeing villains get such massive comeuppance. If they were really good, it would be irritating. But at mid-table, they get to continue their rep as the Midnight Express of the Premiership, while never really being quality enough to worry anyone. They're villainous, but not too villainous. In Batman terms, they're like the Riddler. He causes problems, but he's not a mass killer like the Joker or anything.
This team has the most accurate name in the league. They always seem to be hanging around the middle tier, except for those wacky years when they actually made the UEFA Cup final. I'll say they take a step up and crack the top dozen this season, though who knows, they could easily fall into the relegation zone. I really have no idea. I don't know anything about football. I'm a fraud.
Roy Keane, former Irish superstar, has done a remarkable job of building Sunderland up into a contender once again. They'll win the Promoted Teams Cup by sticking around the Premiership, and make a good showing of themselves. What I like most about them is that they play in a venue called the Stadium of Light. That just sounds intimidating as hell. Where would you least rather play, the Stadium of Light or Bolton's Reebok Stadium?
There seems to be a couple of different schools of thought about European competition. One is that it's a prime goal that every team should strive for; others think that it's just a distraction to league play. Reading manager Steve Coppell is one of the latter. This is why, when his team made a surprise run at a UEFA Cup spot last season, he publicly spoke out against it, arguing that it would harm his team's overall development. He may have a point, but I just thought it was funny that crappy old Reading (in their first-ever year in the top flight) were suddenly getting all high and mighty about playing for the UEFA Cup. I think they're going to fall back a bit after their impressive EPL debut last season.
14. West Ham United
Hey, remember last year when West Ham were shite and would've been relegated without help from the player they illegally acquired? Why does everyone think they'll suddenly turn into semi-contenders again? People might be reading too much into their late-season run against largely garbage competition. Seriously, you could've relegated the bottom six of last year's league, since that was a poor excuse for top-tier soccer.
15. Manchester City
Hey, I remember Sven-Goran Eriksson! That is literally all I can think of about Man City this year. Maybe they'll actually score some goals this year. They somehow finished 14th in the table last year in spite of finishing tied for last in goals with 29.
So last year I took a page from Bill Simmons' book and decided to pick my favourite EPL team. I took on some of his same criteria -- pick a team that I might see play live sometime (so probably in or near London), none of the big four so I don't seem like a bandwagon jumper, and a team that wouldn't be a constant threat to be relegated. Well, I did well on the first two, but the no-relegation-threat went out the window for 'my' Cottagers. In hindsight, picking a team that I later learned was something of a joke in the English soccer world might not have been a good idea. New coach Lawrie Sanchez seems hell-bent on reviving the team by signing every Irishman he can except for Bono. It'll be another tough go this year for Fulham, but I think in the grand tradition of teams I like being mediocre but never totally bottoming out (take a bow Leafs, Packers and Blue Jays), they'll avoid relegation.
Here's a team that has been built up by Sam Allardyce as a defensive stalwart a la the trap-era New Jersey Devils (i.e. crushingly boring) except without near the championship pedigree. Now Allardyce has left, leaving a roster that's still mostly stick-in-the-mud defensive types under a new coach that's going to play a bit more of a regular type of attack-minded soccer. This seems as ill-fitting as Ricky Schroeder as a bad-ass CTU agent on 24. Combine this with the distraction of playing in and probably getting killed in the UEFA Cup, Bolton is in for a bad season.
Someone has to be relegated from the 17 teams that were in the 06-07 EPL, and Wigan gets the short straw. They're just not a very interesting club. They have a reputation for being tough at home, but that can only count for so much. Plus, they're putrid on the road. Like, Blue Jays-level putrid on the road.
Congrats Birmingham City, you're in the Premiership! You're going to get your asses kicked! They're going to be beaten worse than the female character in Amanda Marshall's "Birmingham" got beaten by her husband. One preview I read favored Birmingham to stay up since their lineup has the most Premiership experience. Yeah, it's full of Premiership guys....who weren't good enough to stick around in the EPL and got a spot on a Championship team.
If you read some of the Premiership previews at various soccer sites around the net, you will find unanimous opinion that the Rams will a) be relegated and b) have one of the worst seasons in Premier League history. I've seen some pundits predict them for fewer than 10 points. You've got to be just about clinically dead to not even get 10 points over 38 games, right? Derby still gets relegated, but they shut the critics up with an awe-inspiring 11-point season.
BONUS PGA Championship pick!
I'll pick Tiger to win. I also predict strong showing by Scott Verplank, Stephen Ames, Geoff Ogilvy and Woody Austin. Wait, what's that? It started two days ago? And those guys are the top five? I'm clairvoyant! I'll celebrate by doing the robot!