If you’re like most Americans (uncool Americans) you haven’t been paying much attention to the English Premier League. And that’s a shame, because you’re missing out on the bonkers season in sports history. The EPL is supposed to run like clockwork, with the big clubs (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, etc.) dominating the smaller clubs. But this season, it’s like that clock took acid. Nothing that is happening makes any sense and it is glorious to behold. If you love chaos (and as a writer for a site that regularly posts about Boogie, I DO) this is like Christmas. I’m going to try and explain what this is like using the NBA so that you can imagine this utopian (dystopian?) future for yourself. (NOTE: EPL fans, I know these aren’t perfect comparisons, don’t send me hate mail) First, imagine this:
Chelsea = Golden State Warriors
Chelsea Football Club didn’t just win the league last year, they strangled it. They led, almost during the entire season and no one really got close to them. It was domination from start to finish. Similar to how Golden State did last year, only without as much offense. They didn’t lose any big players in the offseason. There haven’t been any big injuries to speak of. But this year, they fell to the bottom of the league, fired their coach mid-season, and are now fighting to stay towards the middle of the league. Imagine if the Warriors weren’t the best team on earth. Imagine if after winning the title last year, they collapsed. What’s more, their best players were suddenly awful. Imagine if Steph Curry was regularly getting benched (like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard) and Iggy could no longer defend (like all of Chelsea’s back line). Imagine if Draymond morphed into the worst version of himself (like Diego Costa) and Steve Kerr got fired halfway through the season in an attempt to keep them from falling to the bottom of the league. Nothing big happened, nothing really changed. The best players just stopped being good. Now compare that with the top 4 who would be…
- Leicester City = Philadelphia 76ers
That is not a typo. That is a real thing. Leicester City was the worst team in the league for most of the season last year. They caught fire at the very end of the season to escape relegation (Note: in the EPL, the worst 3 teams get relegated to the lower league at the end of the season). Now, without adding any new players to speak of, their leading the league. Jamie Vardy, a 30 year old center-forward who has spent most of his life as an OK player on bad teams, is now the best striker in the game scoring 19 goals this season. He is also defined by his now famous post-victory speech: “Beers on the coach on the plane!” Riyad Mahrez, a young player who no one knew anything about before this season, is suddenly the best wing player in the league, adding 15 goals of his own. Imagine if you woke up at the beginning of this season and the 76ers were the best team in the league. What would happen to your brain if Ish Smith and Nerlens Noel were both MVP front runners? THAT is what it’s like at the top of the Premier league this season. Leicester hired a new coach at the end of last season, but its not like they changed everything or brought in new players. Schedule wise they’ve beaten all the big teams and are just playing great football. It might be one of the strangest stories in sports.
2. Tottenham Hotspur = Milwaukee Bucks
The only team that is even remotely close to Leicester is Tottenham Hotspur, the 3rd biggest club in London and a sort of “always a bridesmaid never a bride” kind of club. Their best players always go to bigger clubs (just like Kareem did at Milwaukee) just when they start to peak. Currently, the Spurs feature a young, fast team with Harry Kane (England’s great white hope for a striker) and Dele Alli, who is capable of doing this:
Feel free to watch that over and over again by the way…
While Tottenham had a decent season last year, they finished 5th, which is right around where they should. Now their second in the league and the only team that can possibly challenge Leicester. This is like if the Milwaukee Bucks were 2 games behind the 76ers at this point, with the rest of the pack about 5 games behind. Imagine a world where the you could say “The Bucks are my pick to win it, because of the combo of Jabari, Giannis, MKW, and Monroe.” and everyone thought you were smart for saying that. It’s like if you close your eyes Bucks fans, and picture the best possible scenario for your team, this is it.
3. Arsenal = Miami Heat
Arsenal is a perennial power house, with a promising collection of excellent players. They have a coach who is probably one of the best in the league but also might be an idiot. Somehow, the talent at Arsenal never quite lives up to how good they should be (like how Miami went to 4 finals in a row, won 2 and that somehow seems like a letdown, or the way you feel when you look at their current roster). Arsenal added Petr Cech in the off-season, one of the best goalkeepers in the EPL and they didn’t really get any better. Adding a top level goalkeeper is the kind of the move you make to win the league. It’s like how Hassaan Whiteside is amazing and essentially unstoppable but doesn’t help the team at all.
Individually, players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are fantastic, like healthy Dwyane Wade or Goran Dragic, but the team just never clicks like they should. Or they’ll click for a few games and then lose a game they shouldn’t. I was tempted to compare them with Cleveland, but Arsenal has a rich history of winning (much like the Heat) and their fans are super annoying (much like the Heat fans when they show up).
4. Manchester City = L.A. Clippers
I got us to California eventually. City, much like the Clippers, were awful for a really long time, then they got new owners, put in a ton of money to buy better players, and are now one of the biggest teams in the league. Even though they have one of the best collections of talent in the league, they’ve been really up and down this season. They also added Raheem Sterling from Liverpool, which is a little like if the Clippers signed DeMar DeRozen or Gordon Hayward, and somehow, they aren’t any better. They’re the second biggest team in their hometown (like the Clippers in LA), and while they haven’t fired their manager, they said he won’t be back next year and hired a new manager to take over next season. How weird is that? Imagine if halfway through the season the Clippers were like “Doc won’t be back next year, he’s going to coach the remainder of the season but Brad Stevens will be our coach next year”. City should be top of the league right now, but they’re down to 4th.
Think about that! What if the 4 best teams in the NBA were IN THIS ORDER:
WHAT?! Here’s the thing too, it’s not like we’re early in the season and this could change in a heartbeat. There are only 9 games left in the EPL, so this is probably your top 4. This makes no sense at all. Where would the other California teams be in this scenario? I’m glad you asked:
6. Manchester United = L.A. Lakers
United are historically the overlords of the EPL. But ever since their legendary manager stepped down (Alex Ferguson, the Phil Jackson of English Football) the team has kind of fallen apart. Their star player Wayne Rooney looks to be past his prime (a la Kobe) and no one is sure if their Manager Louis Van Gaal is an idiot or not. They’re hovering around the middle of the table, but when you watch the team, it feels like they should be lower.
19. Newcastle United = Sacramento Kings
This ones kind of easy. Newcastle have a weird owner who seems to be trying to sabotage his own team. They just fired their manager. They signed Jonjo Shelvey, a player who is just as likely to score a hat trick, as he is to get ejected in the first 10 minutes. They currently sit just below last place. That’s Kings territory.
So here’s to the crazy new Premier League! Long may it reign! And if you too enjoy chaos, turn your TV over to NBC Sports on Saturday morning and trade your coffee for a Guinness. All the cool kids are doing it.