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armchair centre back :: too soon?

before i get to the titular "too soon" section, let me apologise for being too late in congratulating both the u.s. national women's team and the chilean men's national team for their respective victories and the women's world cup and the copa america this summer. i feel a little guilty for not marching myself to see a wwc game, since they were right here in the same city as me. in fact, there's a whole slew of missed chances this summer: watching the local team compete for a place in the club world cup; greeting our new player didier drogba at the airport [actually a wise decision: it was 40c/ 100f and the packed-in crowd overflowed, so a lot of people were stuck standing in the blazing sun], seeing paris st. germain, a world class team, take on olympique lyonnais in an exhibition game. there is nothing i regret so much, though, as deciding not to show up to whip eggs at chelsea, who were using montreal as their home base for two weeks while they toured the united states. nothing haunts us like the mischief we didn't start.

but enough with regrets! it's a new season in europe, which means that dom and i have had our weekend ritual restored. it also means that i can generally tell what day of the week it is, which is something that eludes me without these sorts of markers.

for me personally, this is exciting because, not only is the premier league back, but my cable provider [i'm old-fashioned that way] has decided to pick up bundesliga games. so now i have two sources of man candy sporting entertainment. of course, i don't know the german game as well [yet] and i haven't gravitated towards one specific team at this point. i'm normally loathe to support the wealthiest team in a league that just buys up the good players from everyone, but bayern munich has bought up a lot of the players that i like, which makes that instinct complicated. of course, i also like a lot of the players with borussia dortmund... plus i've also noticed that this blog gets a roughly equal number of visits from munich and the area around dortmund, which makes it even more difficult to choose. plus, of course, there are loads more teams who i just haven't seen yet. [well, there were two who i saw annihilated by the previously mentioned ones, i suppose. i actually felt sorry for them and thought that it was merciful of the refs in both cases to decline added time. ninety minutes is more than enough when you're down that far.]

but while i'm figuring that out, there's more than enough to entertain me on english shores. so here is my list of my personal favourites, even though things are barely underway.

feel the mysterious power
swansea are undefeated. w00t!! that's especially impressive since they held chelsea [who beat them soundly, twice, last year] to a draw in their season opener. at chelsea's stamford bridge fortress. i'm a little scared that i might ever meet swansea manager garry monk, because i'm pretty certain he could convince me to don a chicken suit and run along the swansea coastline trying to sing opera if he wanted to. [and who wouldn't want that? -ed.] somehow, he's managed to recruit players who had every chance of being picked up by larger teams [jefferson montero, who was a bright spot in the otherwise lacklustre ecuadorian team at the 2014 world cup, bafétimbi gomis, and andre ayew], teams that are getting much-coveted european play. and he's convinced them to come to swansea. hell, he's even managed to score two phenomenal players- ayew and goalkeeper lukas fabianski, for free. this man has powers.

"nobody loves me..."
everyone seems to hate jose mourinho more than i do. i wouldn't have guessed that were possible, but it's become really hard to find anyone who's willing to say a nice word about a man who was held in a sort of awe when his team- a team that's virtually unchanged this year- easily trotted off with the league title for 2014/15. people talked about him like he wasn't even fucking human, although that's possibly just them sensing that he's the antichrist. i read an article earlier referring to him as "toxic", slating him for his extremely public feud with his popular team doctor eva carneiro and rumoured falling out with his team captain john terry [i don't have a dog in that race, because they're both pretty risible characters] and, of course, the fact that his team have stumbled badly coming out of the gate. his egotism and petulance were forgivable when he was triumphant, but you sort of suspect that a lot of people were waiting for this. [no one more so than his nemesis arsène wenger, who blanked him like a boss after he finally defeated him in the battle for all of our souls community shield.]



on a related note, chelsea may have been taken over by pod people. if you hear a soft, sort of grating or chafing, it's the sound of thousands of heads being scratched as people ask themselves "what the hell happened?" it's not merely that they've salvaged just one point in two games- lots of people have sputtering starts- it's the way in which they've struggled that's astonishing. their defense, better than a cast iron chastity belt at preventing penetration last year, has been their weakest link. there's lots of time for them to get their old form back, but until then, let's all enjoy looking at the very early premier league table, shall we? look down, look wwaaaaaaayyyy down...

you know, swansea weren't outside the top ten once last season

there's a good[ish] chance that there will be some wild cards in the mix with the big guys this year. ok, it always looks like that after a couple of games, when normally middling teams get a couple of easy matches and run up some points. but aside from swansea looking solid [hope springs eternal], there are a few "dark horses" who've looked not lucky, but impressive: last season's late bloomers leicester have scored as many goals as heavy-hitters manchester city. west ham looked like champions league material against arsenal. crystal palace have been motherfucking elegant [yes, exactly that] and are so replete with goalscorers that manager alan pardew [on the cusp of being the winning-est manager the blub has had in premier league history after just over half a season in charge] is faced with having to sell one just because he can't make time for all of them. i'm not a fan
the best little brick shithouse in switzerland
of stoke, but they have signed xherdan shaqiri, a player i do really like and they have been building a pretty solid squad for years. yes, it's early. yes, it's unlikely that all these teams, or even most of these teams, can maintain their momentum. but isn't it fun to cheer an underdog? and besides, three of the four have already acquitted themselves well against top-tier teams, the ones who are perpetually competing for the league title, at least in theory.

unfortunately, there are also already things that are sucking donkey parts about this new season and in the interest of fairness and balance, i need to mention those too:

arsenal what the actual fuck? ok, they did win against crystal palace this weekend, but they really didn't make it look easy. their rising star from last season, francis coquelin, was extremely lucky not to get his ass thrown off the pitch. at least in this game, a handful of players were literally and figuratively on the ball, because the week before, they were nigh on tragic. thus far, marquee signing petr cech has looked like he would be more at home in this year's chelsea team. a lot of people were picking arsenal and chelsea to be fighting it out tooth and nail for the title [possibly for real, given the relationship between the managers]. at the moment, neither one of them is setting the world on fire.

no good can come of this
somebody needs to smack manchester united. hard. despite spending something like $10 billion on bringing in all the players this summer, manchester united have arguably been worse on the field than either chelsea or arsenal. [in fact, the only "big" team that's looked big is manchester city. and indeed, they have looked very big indeed, with six goals thus far and zero conceded. again, i normally hate the moneyed crowd, but at this point, they seem like the dignified "old money" next to the nouveau riche neighbours straight out of whatever manchester has in place of trailer parks.] nonetheless, they've managed to eke out two 1-0 victories that they absolutely did not deserve. that happened a lot last year, too, which just makes it seem that much more like a conspiracy. also, manager louis van gaal is nearly as objectionable as mourinho, although they're friends, which makes a lot of sense.

predictions for the rest of the season? oh, i don't know. i want to think that swansea can inch up a
what are they doing with my money?
little, besting their record-breaking season from last year. a lot depends on how healthy they stay, since that's almost always the downfall of less wealthy teams as the season drags on and people inevitably get hurt. [am i the only one who's a little troubled that it's inevitable that people get hurt? it seems like it should be evitable.] that said, last year's cinderellas southampton and regular contenders tottenham have both looked a little shaken thus far. so it could happen. the gomis-ayew-montero-shelvey-sigurdsson lineup they have going is the strongest they've put forward.

chelsea are going to start winning at some point, but if they don't seem to resume a commanding presence, expect team owner roman abramovitch, who's said "you're fired" to more people than donald trump, to start putting the screws to his manager.

arsenal need to do some more business before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. i'm still a little miffed that they didn't sign arturo vidal [remember what i said about bayern picking up players i really like?] when he seemed interested. or morgan schneiderlin, who seemed like he was waiting for them until the last possible second before moving to manchester united. there's a lot of "is he or isn't he? will they or won't they?" buzz about the team adding striker karim benzema, or possibly edison cavani. i can't explain why, but neither of those guys really does it for me. that's in no
him?
way denying their enviable talents, it's just that... oh, i don't know. call it a gut feeling. i'd honestly be much more excited by the prospect of pierre-emerick aubamayang [if only because his name is the most fun thing to say ever in history], or if they're serious about parting with crazy money, luis suarez or gareth bale [note: neither of those deals is ever going to happen.]. alternately, if we're going to broaden the horizons to include "general goal scorers", i'd love to see any of: marco reus, antoine griezman, mario götze or [cue angelic choir sounds] thomas muller. i share with admiral wenger a love for very flexible players, so i'm kinda surprised that we aren't seeing eye to eye on this one. here's hoping he doesn't just keep the wallet glued shut, as he was known for doing up until the last couple of years.

finally, i think that people are vastly underestimating liverpool. they've ended up with the same two scores as manchester united, but they've looked sooooo much better doing it. they've bought smarter [and faster] than anyone this year, after a decidedly off season. i'm surprised that no one is backing them to finish in the coveted top four.

so that's it. that's everything i've learned from the last two weekends. the real stories now are going to be about who's moving where, which always plays out like a high school gossip session where all the seniors are billionaires. honestly, i'm not certain that anything that exciting will happen. there are a few things that i'd like to see happen, but, well, i'd like lots of things that never happen. never.

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