Too soon.

Bob Bamber of Own Goal Podcast asked the other day what our Premier League team of the season so far is. We’re only 6 games in, but I think this would be a great way to talk about how the Prem is shaping up and the impressive individual performances this season. Also, it’ll be a good way to redeem myself for the outrageous team I suggested to Bob on Twitter. I tried to fit just about every center mid in the league in my initial team. What can I say. I likes what I likes. Let’s go with a wide 4-2-3-1, aye? It’s what I play in Football Manager.

Goalkeeper

Petr Cech, Chelsea 

Call me a homer if you want, but I’m going to go with the guy with the most clean sheets at the best defensive record. Cech has been one of the top 10 keepers in the world for years. Last season, he got Chelsea out of some tight jams. This year he is doing much of the same with his intelligence, stature, leadership, and ability. Lovely to see a player with so many years left to give play so well. Some may consider Cech’s game a bit debilitated by his massive head injury, especially in set pieces. I believe it’s made him a smarter player, and the hat’s really cute.

Defenders

Ashley Cole, Chelsea

Another homer pick. Within the last month or so, Cole himself has claimed that Real Madrid’s Marcelo is the world’s best left back.  This week Carlo Ancelotti said Ashley was the best left back in the world. I don’t know where all this talk about left backs started. As Jürgen Klinsmann assured the American media, ANYONE CAN  PLAY LEFT BACK. Anyway, an up and down summer that began in May with the Champions League Final and included that missed penalty against Italy hasn’t affected Cole’s form for his club. At 32 years old, Ashley still works as hard for the team as anyone else on the field. His energy and his ability to defend and attack has been critical to a Chelsea team whose left side has for years lacked in consistent quality in attack. Currently, Ashley is in negotiations with Chelsea about the length of his contract. I believe Chelsea would be wise to keep him around as long as possible. His heir apparent, Ryan Bertrand, is ready, but Cole’s experience and ability would be something Chelsea would be foolish to let go. Plus, Ashley does a great job of riling up Arsenal fans — namely, massive fuckwit Piers Morgan. Honestly, I think blokes like Cole and Terry are fueled by boos and abuse. Weird to me. I would just cry.

Jonas Olsson, West Bromwich Albion

This might be an odd pick for some people. West Brom has been pretty tight defensively, and I like to attribute that to the leadership and ability Olsson displays. Every time I watch West Brom play, I’m impressed by their organization at the back. I think Clarke is doing a great job, and Olsson is the perfect player to execute his vision for WBA. One of the few internationals on WBA’s squad, Olsson is great at ushering his backline, communicating, and defending on set pieces. Also, he looks fucking terrifying, which is always a plus for a defender.

Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur

If his form continues, he might become one of the best signings of the season. With William Gallas at the back help team him the ropes and rein him in a bit, Vertonghen has quickly become an impact player on Tottenham’s squad. His early goal in the match against Manchester United was critical to their victory at Old Trafford. His forays forward open up play. While that may leave Tottenham a bit exposed defensively. The potential is there to balance him out and make him a solid Premier League center back. (On first impression reminds me a bit of David Luiz’s first few months in England, at least in terms of impact, they are definitely not the same player, as Jan is a better defender.)

Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City

Part of being the champ is that everyone is gunning for you. Teams throwing everything at you is part of the territory. At Chelsea, everyone wants to beat the European Champions. At City, everyone wants to take out England’s champion. Through this and last season, I believe Pablo has been one of Manchester City’s unsung heros. Keep in mind that this is the guy that is keeping Micah Richards out of the starting 11. He is effective both ways, strong, and intelligent. City’s defense hasn’t been as air-tight this season. I am confident City will find its defensive legs soon enough. Zabaleta will be a crucial part of City’s title defense this year as teams keep throwing everything they can at Manchester City. My biggest problem with Zabaleta is his male pattern baldness. It makes me think he’s much older than he is, and I keep underestimating him because I think he probably has to do dialysis daily or has done a shit ton of crosswords instead of train.

Midfielders

Ramires, Chelsea

Imagine a world where Ramires wasn’t made to play right wing the first few games of the season. Okay. Chelsea would have one hand on the title by now. Ramires’ recent (only in the last 2 matches) return to center midfield has allowed Mikel to play his game. It has made Chelsea stronger and has allowed for an attacking 4 of Mata, Hazard, Oscar, and Torres to gel over the past three matches or so across all competitions. His workrate is second-to-none. Of course his passing needs more work, but his movement both defensively and in attack is intelligent. It is obvious that he has put forth the effort while at Chelsea to improve his game. His role in the win over Arsenal at the Emirates was massive, and I expect more from him this season. Now, what to do about those braces.

Joe Allen, Liverpool 

On Being: Liverpool last week, Brendan Rodgers stated that Joe Allen might be 5’ 8”, but in terms of footballing ability, he’s probably the size of the 50-Foot Woman, at least. I agree. Joe Allen is rarely out of position. His passing has only gotten more precise and assertive since I first saw him play for Swansea in the Championship a couple of seasons ago. I’ve been a huge Allen fan, and I’m glad that he is quickly becoming a star on a Liverpool team that is looking for quality and consistency. Not only does he bring poise to the Liverpool squad, he brings an uncanny likeness to Phineas from Phineas and Ferb. That’s something we can all appreciate.

Steven Pienaar, Everton

If you’ve watched Everton play, it may be hard for you to think of a squad with a better left side than Everton. Leighton Baines and Stevie P. cut through teams easily down their flank. A lot of it has to do with the communication between the two and Pienaar’s all around control, incisiveness, and attacking nous. The guy can flat out play, and it’s wonderful to see him back at Everton after a barren and fruitless time at Tottenham.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea

In a gadda da vida, babyyyyy. Don’t you know I’ll always be fouled.

[15 minute organ solo]

He’s been such an impact player for Chelsea, it’s amazing he cost the club £15m less than Fernando ‘Can’t Say No to Suck’ Torres. His ball control is phenomenal. His vision is wonderful, and he is building a footballing rapport with Mata and Oscar, which will make him even more dangerous. Expect great things from Hazard this season and the future. Oh, and thank Christ someone got him to shave off that string of hair framing his face. His facial hair has improved since he started at Chelsea. All good things. 

Raheem Sterling, Liverpool

I’m reluctant to jump on the Sterling bandwagon because with any young Englishman, I feel the pressure of fame and expectation will stunt his development as a player. He needs to be humble and motivated. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to fly under the radar. Rodgers has obviously put his faith in the 17 year-old. He is quick on and off the ball. He makes the occasional poor decision, but who doesn’t? His potential is great, but I’m afraid of the youngster burning out. Also, I try to stay out of the personal lives of footballers as much as possible. Most of the time, I think the media is really inappropriate in how they pry into the lives of footballers in England. I don’t know how true the recent stories are of him being the father of up to 3 children, but I don’t take that as a good sign. You can’t concentrate on football if your life turns into some English, screwed up version of Bébé’s Kids. True or not, if he can focus on football and improving, I think Liverpool have found a wonderful opportunity in Sterling. Good, true wingers in the vein of Antonio Valencia, who is so critical to the success of Manchester United, in my opinion, are hard to find these days.

Striker:

Demba Ba, Newcastle 

I’m just going to leave this here.

And, that’s just normal to him. 

Honorable Mention: Cazorla (Arsenal), Fellaini (Everton), Baines (Everton), Routledge (Swansea), Michu (Swansea), Lambert (Southampton), Mata (Chelsea), Bale (Tottenham), Dembele (Tottenham), Suarez (Liverpool), Johnson (Liverpool), Valencia (Manchester United), Toure (Manchester City), Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), 

TL;DR Chelsea are the best team in the league right now. They have the most players on my team. You’re lucky there aren’t more, and I tried to be impartial. 

My team: Cech (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Olsson (WBA), Vertonghen (Tottenham), Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ramires (Chelsea), Allen (Liverpool), Pienaar (Everton), Hazard (Chelsea), Sterling (Liverpool), Ba (Newcastle)

-dago

European Football, Colonization, and FUN WITH MAPS!

I’ve been so swamped at work, and I’ve found little time to just write for myself, Own Goal, or work on The LOL is Round. I wrote this on a break at work. It took 5 minutes or so [humblebrag]. As soon as this conference is planned and done with, I’ll be ready to take on this upcoming season with lots of poorly thought out pieces and crudely drawn references to things no one gives a shit about, as such:

The critique of the systematic pillaging of the non-European world at the hands of European powers isn’t something new. Since the revolution of revisionist history in the United States and Europe in the 1950s and 1960s and the study of post-colonial ERRYTHANG, English-language literature on the events between 1492 and now has gotten quite expansive. Eduardo Galeano, if you’re looking for a good book on the subject, wrote The Open Veins of Latin America in 1971. It’s wholly depressing, but is a great resource for building one’s understanding of the work that goes into creating a European empire at the expense of countless lives. From the late-15th century until about last week, European powers, at will, through war, disease, papal decree, whatever, carved up the natural and human resources of the non-European world. Europeans got pretty efficient at creating networks of colonial and imperial outposts that served crowns and governments over centuries. America even got in on the action after the War of 1812 and that lil’ Monroe Doctrine-y thing.

This summer marks another off season where European football clubs take their show on the road and hit Africa, Asia, and North America with a typhoon of lazy step overs and out-of-shape footballers. Disturbingly, the way the European and American media speaks about these tours, they seem more like crusades of conquest than anything else — a flexing of European exceptionalism. Most importantly, it’s all part of a new systematic, calculated ‘materialistic’ sacking of new world markets that can provide a place for the selling of English and Spanish goods. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Juve, PSG these are the new global conquistadors of corporate entertainment. United and Arsenal (BTW Arsene Wenger doesn’t like this who touring thing) have their eyes set on Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (so do Real Madrid). Chelsea spends its time and money to make money in the United States and in the process cornering already sports-heavy markets with their royal blue and white, rouble-fueled charm, but everyone wants a piece of that sweet American pie.

Like European conquerors before, clubs in Europe swear that they are spreading the noble truth that is European football that these unwashed, unclothed, and backward peoples really need. It is their duty as emissaries of European football culture. This truth will cleanse the souls of these beasts and also create a uniformity that will make the European products easier to sell and pawn off to people thousands of miles from SW6 or the Champs-Élysées. These noble savages will inevitably throw away their local culture and traditions after having seen the true light that is global marketing strategies.

The winners are no longer decided in a league or cup formet; it is won in the storefronts and online shopping carts outside of Europe. South America, Africa, North America, and Asia, are the new battlegrounds for European competition. And, like the colonization of Africa in the 19th century at the hands of the English, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italians, these are both public and private enterprises that benefit the European public and private sectors. 

To be honest, the football is better in Europe. They do have the best players and the best coaches. Everyone on the wrong side of the imaginary line that divides Europe from the rest of us should be proud that their exported products — players like Messi, Suarez, Toure, Drogba, Dempsey, etc. — are repackaged and sold directly to those who helped create these and many other greats of the eternal game.

Shades of the Columbian Exchange. 

Unfortunately, here, there will be no Boer War. Even worse, there will be no Boxer Rebellion or Opium War. This time the conquered are happy to have their new masters. They are welcomed with open arms. I am, at times, that person.

Personally, it’s hard to come to terms with the way clubs, the European media, and even the American media approach these pre-season friendlies. At times I just want to say screw it and not watch a minute and burn all my Chelsea shirts. My rage against the machine usually stops because I realize how much I paid for those shirts. I also really love European football. It’s entertaining.

The same stupid smile I wear on my face when sipping a Coke or buying frivolous piece of technology I felt that I absolutely needed is probably the same smile I exhibit when the European season kicks off. It’s the same smile I have when I get to see my favorite players play against the Sounders or PSG. The smile is a sign of the state of blissful ignorance I have entered when Chelsea Blue is on the screen. I’m conflicted because I feel like I owe my local football culture more, but who isn’t? I try hard to like the MLS and my local team, but my inclination is still there to sing “Blue is the Colour” and bang on about how John Terry couldn’t possibly be racist. 

Screw it.

The MLS All-Stars v. Chelsea Football Club will be aired tomorrow, Wednesday, July 23 on NBC at 7:30PM CST.