If it feels like you didn’t spend much time savoring the most recent EPL weekend, you weren’t alone.
The first week of UEFA Champions League action took some of the attention away from last weekend’s results. That’s a bit unfortunate considering Liverpool’s dramatic victory against Manchester United and Chelsea’s convincing humbling of Manchester City.
SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul is here to refresh your memories of last week in the EPL. In this week’s installment of ‘A Look Back’, our regular breakdown of the recent week’s EPL action, Tyler discusses the crazy early results in a league that has been far from predictable in its first month. Here is his take on Week Four:
This new EPL is far from predictable
By JAMES TYLER
Normally by this point in the season, some semblance of a pattern begins to emerge, and like all things in nature, an equilibrium is eventually reached. You see the new 90210 get great ratings in its first week, much to your amazement (seriously, is there still some subconscious cultural yen for that show?), only to find relief and solace when the numbers plummet back down in Week 2.
The EPL is the same. Everyone begins on equal footing, and while the Hulls and Stokes have some fun with their nervier opponents in August, by now you expect to see the same jumble at the top of the league, and the same mess beneath it. Colaship clubs will yo-yo back down, the West Hams of the world will perennially linger somewhere between 9th and 14th, and all is put right with the world again.
Not just yet, anyways, and given that we’re a month in, I’m nervous that we’ve lost all balance forever.
Take Liverpool, for example. My hometown club and lifelong passion has been forever known for two or three things (at least since the birth of the EPL, anyway): they’ll have a cup run, they’ll fail somewhere around Christmas, and they’ll never, ever, ever beat the other Big 4 clubs in the league. They’ll steal some draws here and there, but at least since the beginning of the Benitez Administration, it’s something that’s never happened. Granted, the goateed goat has only been on these shores since June 2004, but in today’s hyperactive world, that’s longer than a lifetime. It looks even longer when you think that Rafa’s been in charge at Anfield longer than Gianfranco Zola’s been in charge of, well, anything, and that only a month into the season we’ve already seen two managers vacate their jobs.
And yet, on Saturday they looked like a team that could achieve the impossible even with their two best players sitting on the bench. Gerrard’s influence was minimal once he did enter the fray, but it was mattered not; this was their first win against Man United in the league since 2001. With the endless in-fighting, it couldn’t have come at a better time. 4 games in, 3 wins (2 of which were wholly undeserved even by my own biased eyes), and a draw at Aston Villa. When things like this happen, I feel like I’m going mad. It’s a cruel trick, surely, a tease until we get our hearts ripped out by the Wigans of the world. For now, we’re unbeaten, we stuck one to Fergie, and the world hasn’t collapsed yet.
There’s more evidence of this ridiculous first month.
Manchester City is now, in theory, the richest football club in the league, but you wouldn’t have known it to look at them on Sunday. Granted, it’ll be months before the full, raw power of their finances and urge to spend are unleashed upon the rest of the league, but if I were Robinho, I’d sit back and wish I had actually signed for their opponents like he thought he originally had. He is but one man lost amid a ragtag bunch of fighters, and he clearly couldn’t do it all against a more disciplined, more inventive Chelsea side. It was comfortable fare for the league leaders, although the big talking point arose from John Terry. What the heck was going on there? You look up to your captain for inspiration and guidance, but his bear-hug on Jo was more WWF than EPL.
Spurs, the team who spent the most money in the summer and who chose to eviscerate their squad entirely, lost yet again this weekend, this time at home to Aston Villa, and they find themselves bottom of the table. Juande Ramos is about a month away from the exit if we’re honest. They fired Jol, their most successful contemporary manager, for crimes far less egregious, and coming off 5th-place finishes in back-to-back seasons. What has Ramos done besides fired money and eliminated complex carbohydrates from the team cafeteria?
Newcastle are a joke that’s up for sale, and one that just entertained Hull before letting them leave with all 3 points for the short trip back home to Yorkshire. Everton needed 3 to beat Stoke, and West Brom beat the new London powerhouse, Zola Ham United. We’re in mid-September: shouldn’t these newcomers be settling in at the bottom by now? The world has gone mad.
I watched all of these games from the pub, still in a muddy haze of drink and singing from the early-morning miracle at Anfield. Running on 90 minutes of sleep and 94 minutes of heartburn, I ordered another pint and watched Arsenal turn in another tidy, unsung performance at Blackburn, another team with issues that are still bubbling under the surface.
There may still be a lot of time left in the season for things to slowly settle back down, but right now, I have no idea what’s going on. The lunatics are running the asylum. I keep losing money with the bookie, and I can’t tell if it’s the beer, the lack of sleep, the euphoria that still lingers from Anfield, or the fact that things will never really be the same again in this league. Perhaps Hull is the real deal after all. Perhaps Gianfranco will be the second coming at Upton Park. Perhaps Rafa and the Americans will find a truce that sticks, and they’ll continue to shock me every week.
I doubt it all, but I’ll never stop betting, and I’ll never stop waking up at absurd hours to tune in. After all, who needs dreck like 90210 when the best dramas occur every weekend on grass all over England?