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

What we have thus far: EPL in late-2010

There were rumors of Zola taking over Wilkins' vacant post, but it was decided that Chelsea supporters would enjoy that a little too much.

The new year is two days away, and the English Premier League season is as out of control as I’ve ever seen it at this point before. As I sit in my room listening to American Football’s self-titled for the 100,000th time, I’m trying to make sense of it all, as I sink into a deep depression.

Chelsea. The apple of my eye. Pride of London. Champions. They’re now in 5th place, and a loss to Bolton away from 6th place [the game will be played later today]. They’ve become the story of the season, again, for the wrong reasons. The past couple of months have been hard as a Chelsea supporter. Injuries, tactical miscalculations, and defensive mistakes have left Chelsea with little hope of repeating as champions of England. At this point, I’m more worried about the future of the club internally. With Arnesen leaving, Wilkins gone, and the possibility of Ancelotti being removed as manager increasing daily, the future of the club’s youth development, ability to acquire proper talent, and long-term success are in peril. I might be looking too far into the future, and sounding the alarm too quickly, but this is how it begins. Before you know it, you wake up in a Russian whorehouse, looking for Shevchenko’s phone number to see if he wants to get the old band together. Times might not get that desperate, but it can happen.

Carlo on the sideline has looked more a distressed door-to-door salesman than a Dolce & Gabbana-clad, world-class manager. Instead of continuing as the team that won their first five league matches by an aggregate score of 100 to -13, Chelsea have had the worst run of form in the last 8 games than any other team in the league and the worst run from the club in a decade. The biggest sin committed by Chelsea is not having wrapped up the title race by the end of November and therefore creating no need to play the rest of the season. Awful.

The team that just embarrassed Chelsea, Arsenal, look like they finally believe in themselves. Less importantly, it seems like those outside of the Arsenal camp are beginning to believe in the young Arsenal squad Wenger has put together. There are no more excuses. This Arsenal team can win the title. Despite having dropped points to much lesser, more physical squads, over the course of the season, the Gunners definitely have what it takes to win it this season.

Their only obstacle is Sir Alex Ferguson. If Manchester United win the title, it’s another example of why Ferguson could be considered the greatest manager in the modern era. Injuries, out of form players, sex scandals, contract negotiations, threats, and Darren Fletcher, have all threatened to tear apart United’s title hopes. SAF has steered the ship, and with two games in hand, they are poised to make that late-season push to secure the championship. They haven’t lost a game for the love of God.

On the other side of Manchester, City have put themselves in second place, and Mancini looks like he might actually be getting something out of a squad overflowing with quality but lacking chemistry. Balotelli is definitely proving his worth with his goal total thus far. Hopefully, his temper won’t get the best of him. Tevez is staying, and Dzeko is on his way from Wolfsburg. Manchester City have great players all over the pitch, and it’s just a matter of time before it all starts clicking. Manchester City will round out the new big four soon enough.

Back in London, Tottenham have inserted themselves into the top four once again. Tottenham’s success might be another story of managerial success. Redknapp has wheeled and dealt himself a wonderful squad from back to front. Unsurprisingly, Van der Vaart is playing like we all thought he was capable of playing. I didn’t think it would work out because, well, it’s fucking Spurs. Again, I was wrong. Bale is having a great Champions League campaign. His form in the Premiership, although relatively not as wonderful as on the continent, has provided extra bite to the Tottenham attack on the left side which compliments Lennon’s work on the right very well. Also, shout out to Alan Hutton who I think does wonderful work at right back, but doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

I think one of the most compelling, and most likely to blow up all crazy-like, stories of the season is the descent of Everton, Villa, Fulham, and the ascension of squads like Bolton and Sunderland. Moyes, Houllier, and Hughes are all trying to pick up the pieces, as Owen Coyle and Steve Bruce have their teams picking up points and places on the table instead.

Personally, Bolton have been the biggest surprise this season, outside of Chelsea’s fall from grace. Elmander is finally playing well. Stuart Holden is making a case for his inclusion into the starting center midfield on the American national team. Petrov and Davies are having the seasons of their lives. Gary Cahill’s management of the backline is exquisite. It’s tough to tell when or if it’ll all go wrong, but I certainly hope it doesn’t. There might be a little nationalist pride involved, but I want Holden to succeed.

Sunderland’s success has to be attributed to their wonderful frontline, specifically Asamoah Gyan. Sunderland might be in danger of relegation if it weren’t for the goals produced by their forwards. In the back, they are stout, but goals get you points. There is much to be desired in the midfield, and eventually, I think this will catch up to them. It’s likely they won’t be playing European football next year, but with results like the win at Stamford Bridge, I could be very wrong. Coupled with Fulham, Everton, and Villa’s inconsistencies, they could find themselves in Belgrade or Kiev soon.

Finally, the three promoted sides are all outside of the relegation zone at this point of the season. West Brom is playing great under the direction of Roberto Di Matteo. At home they are playing great, attacking football. They beat Arsenal earlier this season. Blackpool have been doing the same under the charismatic Ian Holloway and are in the top ten. The Tangerines are probably my favorite team in the Premiership right now, and it has nothing to do with their home and third away kits. They play like they have nothing to lose, and they don’t. Everyone wrote them off as one-and-dones, but that won’t be the case this season. Mr. Holloway has the players believing and playing with confidence. Newcastle have been the most wildly inconsistent team with both huge victories and losses to their name. Nolan and Carroll are playing great, and even Ameobi has netted a few this season (wut?!). Although the back line is questionable, Newcastle will definitely be staying up this season.

Anyway, this hastily written rant has dragged on too much. I can’t wait for the second half of the season. I know Chelsea will bounce back, and I’m also certain that it won’t be enough for a top two finish. There’s still that glimmer of hope, but it might as well have died in the Emirates on Monday. I’ll try to keep you all up with my thoughts on the league as the season progresses. That might be one resolution I might be able to keep.

-dago