By Tony Attwood
TV pundits have it easy. For unless we keep a collection of their ramblings on hard drives, or make notes as the programmes run, their wild comments about who is going to win the league and who will struggle are lost for all time. TV stations don’t do re-runs of their pundits cock-ups. Which is why the Linnekar character smiles in that funny way when he asks ex-players and the like who will win the league as the season progresses. He’s fairly sure no one will remember what he or anyone else said last time.
Newspaper scribblers however know (but tend to ignore the fact) that much of what they write can be found on the internet. Their one hope is that no one will bother to go back and look and that their endless hype that what happened three hours ago allows one to have total knowledge of the universe will once more be accepted.
So day after day they tell us how to think, what we think, and what really happened even when we were there and know perfectly well that it didn’t like that at all. Key issues, such as the question about the crazy antics of PGMO, are ignored, and instead trivia is included.
Take the Guardian for example – their writers were asked among other things to note what they were least excited about seeing this season, and wrote about roadworks and half-and-half scarves (mentioned by many in all the media) at matches, one even complaining about how many steps there were up to the press box at Sunderland.
My choice for “least excited about” would have been the ongoing silence in the press about the PGMO. And that indeed has continued despite the Chelsea Arsenal game which was a perfect opportunity to open up a discussion on refereeing. They didn’t even mention the petition: over 100,000 signatures in the end.
As for the individual writers and reporters, Daniel Taylor had Manchester City as winners with relegated: Sunderland, Watford and Leicester, with another close call for Aston Villa. He also went for Kane as the player of the season – a common choice.
His signing of the season was Petr Cech. “It seems bizarre that Chelsea would actively solve one of Arsenal’s problem positions. Arsenal already look better defensively.”
And indeed it is amazing how many other journalists followed suit. If you are already bored with this article, I’ll tell you what happens. Chelsea or Man C to win the league, (mostly the former) Petr Cech the best signing, Leicester to go down. Choose one of three that might be right.
But I’ve done the rest of the article, and I don’t like to see modest work go to waste so in case you like to see journalists make prats of themselves here it is…
Barney Ronay also had Man City to win the title. Relegation was predicted for Watford and Norwich, just because they go up and they go down. And probably Leicester too. Player of the season: Harry Kane
But then it got a bit more interesting.
Simon Burnton showed us why journalists often get it wrong with his “analysis” which basically said last season Chelsea “were the best two teams in the division, and… whichever one turns up this time must be favourites once again.”
But history doesn’t repeat and what happened last year is generally just about the worst guide to what will happen this year (unless you are looking at the German league. Or the Greek league).
In the relegation places he had Leicester, Norwich and …Aston Villa. With the players of the season being Eden Hazard and Sergio Agüero.
Burnton also did a good bit managers “Least excited about: Hearing what José Mourinho has to say about things four times a week.” But that implosion has been such fun Simon. It’s been worth it hasn’t it?
Paul Doyle for his title prediction went in another direction and said, Arsenal, after Chelsea are ravaged by injuries. Relegated, West Ham, Sunderland and Norwich. Personally I would love to see State Aid Utd go down and play their first season in the State Aid Stadium in division 2, but at the moment it seems not.
Mr Doyle also said, “Claudio Ranieri may struggle to keep Leicester City in the top flight.” Or not as the case maybe.
Already I am wondering quite why the journalists had such a downer on Ranieri and such a love affair with Chelsea.
Dominic Fifield said, “if José Mourinho’s transfer dealings serve to reinvigorate, the champions should remain a step ahead.” And for relegation, “Leicester may have to repeat last season’s late heroics, though can that be achieved with Claudio Ranieri in charge? Watford have virtually a new team – and manager – from the set-up that gained promotion and will have no time to settle.”
Now these people are not employed as fortune tellers, but they are employed to do analyses and pick out the key elements in what is going on, and so far it is not very impressive.
Andy Hunter announced the title would go to “Chelsea. Expect Arsenal and Manchester United to provide a stronger, closer challenge this season but they lack the champions’ defensive quality. A lot, perhaps too much, rests on Diego Costa staying fit, however. Relegated: Norwich, Leicester and Watford.”
His player of the season was interesting too: Wayne Rooney.
Signing of the season: Petr Cech. “Seven years after Jens Lehmann ended his first spell at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger has finally got round to signing a goalkeeper of proven, outstanding pedigree. Imagine the eruptions emanating from Stamford Bridge should the veteran provide the foundation for an overdue title challenge at the Emirates.”
Well, no, I think they have other issues on their minds at the moment.
“Least excited about: The prospect of last season’s top four quickly retaking their positions, staying put throughout and three of the four once again failing to mount a credible challenge to Chelsea.” So he is presumably rather excited then.
David Hytner went along similar lines: “Title winners, Chelsea. Arsenal and Manchester City will challenge more strongly but Chelsea have the power, relentlessness and savvy to get the job done again.
“Relegated: Leicester, Sunderland and Norwich. I fear that Claudio Ranieri will struggle at Leicester…”
He also had an interesting nomination for young player of the season: “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Still only 21, the winger-cum-central midfielder has enjoyed several purple patches in his Arsenal career and, if he can stay injury-free, he is ready to put it together over a full season.”
That would be nice if it could start to come true after the international break. But I fear that “Most excited about: LVG Part II,” was always a forlorn hope.
Jamie Jackson had “Title winners: Chelsea. For the first time in seven seasons, since Manchester United claimed a hat-trick of crowns in 2008-09, the same name should be embossed on the trophy in consecutive years. Manchester City are weak defensively, United lack world-class outfield players and Arsenal are again bound to be the Arsenal that crumble.”
With a view like that it is not surprising that he went for “Relegated: Watford, Leicester and Newcastle”. He did put Newcastle in the mix though, which most others didn’t.
Jacob Steinberg pronounced that “it is hard to see past Chelsea, even though it can be dangerous not to renew your squad over the summer. They could have done with a right winger and another midfielder.” Or a manager who doesn’t verbally assault doctors. But actually that phraseology from Steinberg is interesting because it confirms the earlier point. For journalists it is generally hard to see beyond “more of the same”. A bit like economists really. (As in “economic forecasting only exists to give fortune tellers a good name”.)
“Relegated: The bottom half is always much of a muchness but Norwich lack Premier League class, Leicester could regret replacing Nigel Pearson with Claudio Ranieri and maybe this will finally be Sunderland’s year.
“Player of the season: Eden Hazard will continue to delight.
“Signing of the season: Remind me again why Chelsea let Petr Cech go to Arsenal? Arsène Wenger’s side are probably still a top striker away from winning the league but Cech will make a huge difference in goal. His presence alone increases their confidence.”
Isn’t it interesting how so many of them could see the validity of signing Cech, but not that their favourite love-affair poster-boy could suddenly get exposed for being a petulant little self-serving head case. Yet it has happened all through history.
Louise Taylor gave us a refreshing change: “Title winners, Arsenal. Arsène Wenger will stick a strictly metaphorical two fingers up at Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal et al before announcing his retirement next summer.
“Relegated: Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford. Well they do say what goes up must come down … Leicester could also be in the mix but Claudio Ranieri may just exceed expectations.
“Player of the season: Aaron Ramsey. Wenger’s key midfielder has improved almost beyond recognition and this could be his moment in the sun. He can play a bit himself but also possesses the invaluable knack of creating the right midfield framework for Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil and gifted friends.”
But then one starts to wonder. “Most excited about: Seeing Steve McClaren turn Newcastle into much more of a passing, attack-minded team. It will take time but should be worthwhile.” Still maybe it is just taking time.
“Title winners: Chelsea. Best-organised defence, proven goalscorers, smart manager. With or without John Stones, this is a winning combination that could last a long time. Relegated: Leicester, Bournemouth and Watford. Surprise of the season: Everton finishing above Liverpool in the table. To be honest I don’t see it happening. But it would be a surprise.”
The BBC went for Chelsea as “The signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas transformed Chelsea into champions last season and, on current evidence, it is tough to say with real confidence who will unseat them.
“Chelsea may yet produce a marquee signing but even if they do not they look immensely strong in all departments. The slight unknowns are just how long the ageless John Terry can turn back the hands of time and how often Costa is fully fit, but they will be champions again.”
Arsenal were placed second with Diego Costa saying Petr Cech’s signing means Arsenal “have a good enough side to be in with a shout” for the title.
“It has been many years since Arsenal were as optimistic as this entering a new season – but all upbeat bulletins must add the rider that we have heard all this before only for the title challenge to fail to materialise…
“Arsenal still need a world-class striker as an embellishment to the superb Alexis Sanchez and could pay the price if they fail – but let’s back the Gunners to go the distance and at least give Chelsea a run for Abramovich’s money.”
Man City were placed 3rd by the BBC because “Manuel Pellegrini is merely keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola’s arrival from Bayern Munich next summer.
“The wild card here, however, is City’s ability to make the sort of world-class signings that give them an added dimension between now and the close of the transfer window. It could change the title landscape in an instant.” Now on that point I think they have been proven right.
For Man U the prediction was fourth and that was seen as a problem as “Van Gaal needs to be challenging for the title. No excuses.”
Liverpool were predicted to come in 5th. “FSG has supported Rodgers totally in the transfer market, armed with the £49m from Raheem Sterling’s sale to Manchester City, and he must now deliver. Rodgers cannot afford a poor start, especially with the coveted Jurgen Klopp available, and he will need to settle in a selection of new faces.” That’s a good prediction.
Tottenham were said to be heading for sixth with Norwich Leicester and Watford making the drop.
Elsewhere J. Redknapp had a top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Man United and with Arsenal winning the FA Cup for that magical third time and thus creating yet another cup record. I’d take that.