There are ten games (for most teams) left of the Premier League season, so what will they hold? Here’s an arbitrary number of predictions for this arbitrary number of fixtures…
Liverpool will win the league and it will be slightly – slightly – underwhelming
This clearly does not apply to Liverpool fans, who after 30 years would gladly and hungrily accept the title-winning equivalent of it going in off their arse and will certainly take being by far and away the dominant team in the Premier League, but for the rest of us it’s inevitable there will be a mild sense of anticlimax. If someone said they were going to show you the Grand Canyon, but then plans changed and we all went to Antelope Canyon instead, a few miles away in Arizona, we’d all still get to see a magnificent canyon, but it’s not quite the canyon we thought we were going to see.
After it looked like Liverpool might go the season unbeaten, or win some sort of treble (which technically is still on, depending on how you count the Club World Cup) them merely winning the title will somehow end up feeling a little underwhelming. Perhaps this isn’t true and is wildly misjudging prevailing sentiment. But if it is the case, it’s almost certainly a symbol of a spoiled generation, that we can’t even accept as magnificent a feat as this without wanting more.
Cue them winning every remaining game, finishing on 109 points and becoming the first English team to retain the European Cup in 40 years.
Manchester City will play in the Champions League next season
At the time of writing Manchester City haven’t appealed against their ban from next season’s UEFA competition, but it’s inevitable that they will at some stage. How can they not take this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after so stridently insisting they have done nothing wrong? If so, the pace at which these things move means that their suspension from UEFA competitions next season will be, erm, suspended, and they will be free to have another go.
Leicester won’t finish in the top four, Arsenal will
So that leaves two places to fill, rather than three. Over the last couple of years in Major League Baseball there’s been some between innings entertainment at Atlanta Braves games, in the form of a bloke called The Freeze racing around the field against some schmo from the stands. Now The Freeze, member of the Braves’ ground staff who is also a keen amateur track athlete, is fast. Bloody fast. So the race starts with whichever boozed up, cocky bro who volunteered to have a crack being given a 50-yard head start. Chad or Brad or Brody or Cody will inevitably streak out ahead, think they’re going to win but in the end The Freeze will usually streak past them.
It’s a lesson in hubris, how cruel competition can be but also that, no matter how far ahead you are at the start, you can always lose. With that in mind, we predict that Arsenal – currently in tenth but with a pretty friendly fixture list (Manchester City aside) in the coming weeks – will take one of the two remaining top four spots, and Leicester – third but in absolutely no form and with myriad problems throughout their side – will drop out.
Jose Mourinho will reach previously unknown levels of Jose Mourinho
He’s already declared that there’s no way Tottenham can play without their two best attackers, that he wants the season to be over some three months early and now that the board have a choice between competing against Burnley in the Premier League or RB Leipzig in the Champions League. It almost feels like Jose Mourinho is peaking too early, that the wild swings and the grim recriminations and the howling at the gods for just being so damn unfair on him belong in his second or third season at a club, not five months into the first.
Where will Jose go from here? Will he declare that the coronavirus is part of a PGMOL-orchestrated plot against him and him only for some reason? Will he go full Kurtz, hide in the shadows and start mumbling something about grocery clerks? Will he silently protest against…something by sitting with his back to a game for 90 minutes? Who knows what exactly he’ll do, but we do know one thing: it will inevitably be tiresome.
Odion Ighalo will score three goals, one of them will be quite important and thus this whole business will be declared a success
Manchester United need no second invitation to slap themselves on the back, even though that’s usually to do with wild exaggerations about how many people support them based on Facebook likes. It would take some pretty exceptional levels of chutzpah for them to claim that the signing of Odion Ighalo – the equivalent of a panicked Mother’s Day purchase of a weirdly overpriced bunch of flowers from a petrol station forecourt – was part of the plan all along, but if anyone can do it, they can. Ighalo has one goal already, he’ll probably get a couple more, one of them will be in a relatively big game and up his picture will go, on the Powerpoint presentation alongside the report on the number of TikTok followers in the Cook Islands.
Raul Jimenez will continue to be the most weirdly underrated striker in the league
Perhaps it’s because Wolves work so well as a collective, comfortable in various fluid systems and really exciting to watch however they play, but it is a bit odd how little Raul Jimenez is talked about as being among the top strikers in the Premier League. He’s got 13 goals and six assists so far – only Mo Salah and Jamie Vardy have made more direct contributions to goals than him. While it’s pretty tough to actually be underrated in modern football, such is the sheer volume of discourse around the game, Jimenez is probably as close as you’ll get.
Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace will finish with a win ratio of around 33-36%
Because as Duncan Alexander pointed out on a recent edition of the Totally Football Show, that’s what he always does. Palace currently have nine wins from 28, or if you prefer 32%. Slight improvement required, but the consistency is absurd.
David McGoldrick will score a league goal
We believed even before he scored in the FA Cup, but that means we believe even more. We really do.
West Ham are going down
Been supporting West Ham long enough to be able to *feel* when you’re absolutely definitely getting relegated.
This one’s a classic- genuinely quite impressive & we really have timed our run perfectly.
File alongside 02/03 (Joe Cole, Carrick, Defoe, Di Canio, Sinclair, Kanouté)
— Benji Lanyado (@benjilanyado) February 19, 2020
Totally Football Show contributor Benji Lanyado recently remarked that he could just “feel” it when West Ham are in a relegation season, and the feelings were strong this season. Their win over Southampton last week still feels like a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory, particularly when you consider their next four games are against Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea. With teams around them showing signs of life, those four games could do for them, spirits crushed before they get to their more winnable run-in. Championship games in the Olympic Stadium. Imagine.
Troy Deeney will say something forthright about being a proper man or scrapping with someone or something.
The most outlandish prediction of the lot.
Players should be allowed to have it out with one fan after every game
This is less a prediction, more a suggestion. While the sight of Eric Dier wading into the crowd and chasing after a Tottenham fan on Wednesday night was a bit undignified, mostly because he had to awkwardly hop over rows of seats as he hunted down his prey, it remains remarkable how precious fans can get about players in any way responding to the streams of abuse they get in every game. Football fans are the ultimate “happy to give it, can’t take it” group, where they’re allowed to say what they like but they’ll be shocked – shocked I tell you! – when the players they’re tearing into turn out not to be androids and have a chip back.
There will be gripes about how footballers should be more restrained, the inevitable nonsense about the money paid by fans and to players, as if the price of a ticket has bought you the right to treat the bloke running around in the shorts like a verbal punching bag with no right of recourse. But it’s ludicrous to complain if you scream for 90 minutes then get a little bit in return. You should expect it, even. Or, as a philosopher once put it more succinctly, chat shit get banged.
So how about this: after every game a team can nominate one player to pick out a fan that has been abusing them throughout, and they can square off after the final whistle. This could take the form of a verbal argument, a thumb war, rock-paper-scissors or, if they really want to, by absolutely leathering each other.
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