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Premiership preview: Reach for your barf bags if you’re watching Blackpool or Man City August 11, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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A bonily elegant, perfectly manicured Italian hand flutters briefly along the angular, cold silver of the Premier League trophy before Roberto Mancini clutches down decisively upon it and thrusts it into the muggy air of a Lancashire May over the Reebok Stadium, dashing coat, fetching scarf, rakishly feathered locks and all. Sheikh Mansour dumps a cooler full of pure crude oil on ice over his head, then lights a cigar with a 100-pound note. Wayne Bridge, having pulled the last bench-splinter of the season from his behind, belly slides down the touchline, salivating all over his winner’s medal. Carlos Tevez strips off every article of clothing, tossing each to the huddled traveling support.

This image; does it make you want to vomit? Then maybe you should prepare a little bin next to your couch for the upcoming Premiership season, because it’s not impossible that the Premier League title will find its way to Eastlands in 2011.

This season’s story is likely to be about the ever-more-constricting tentacles of austerity on the field. Manchester United have become the allegory of our Troubled Economic Times ™, once the whirring fulcrum of a frictionless capitalist economy expanding at light speed, now the tattered necropolis left behind when its own weight crushed it. The devastating seamlessness of Eric Cantona once represented the stylish promise of the expanding enterprise; the cold-blooded plundering of Ruud van Nistelrooy at another time embodied the uninvited ruthlessness with which it ate up everything in site; the high-stepping opulence of Cristiano Ronaldo was the talisman of the luxury it bought.

Look no further for an emblem of ruin than at United’s current talisman: Wayne Rooney, the furious, jaded-eyed ogre-urchin of the slum festering within the decaying empire. Dimitar Berbatov’s gaunt face is haunted by the ghost of luxury and excess, and he’s surrounded by the zombies Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand.

Gone too are the incontinent bursts of ill-advised spending at Arsenal, which has turned into the squirrel of the league’s financial pinch, stashing away an army of embryonic Francophone aesthetes for the even more austere winter. Chelsea’s gibbering, grabby childhood under Claudio Ranieri and lean, libidinously pansexual puberty under Jose Mourinho have matured into the beer gut and balance sheet of the Ancelotti years. Newcastle now subsists on bruised Alan Smiths and factory rejects like Xisco. Leeds United is gone but its memory haunts the rest. And Liverpool died inside long ago.

It’s difficult not to see English football’s lone freewheelers surging into the void. To an already serviceable team they can now add David Silva, a left-footed, serviceable knockoff of Andres Iniesta. Aleksandar Kolarov has every bit as much blood and thunder as did Wayne Bridge anemia and weak spirits. And more than anything, Toure Yaya, potentially a beast-sized version of Steven Gerrard in his prime with more positional sense, a footballing Godzilla who will leave midfields smoking in his wake like tangled Tokyo train tracks. There’s even the prospect of the force of nature that is Mario Balotelli.

Of course, that’s all down to Mancini’s ability to harness these players. You can easily see Toure Yaya sadly shoehorned into the center of defense behind a nondescript triumverate of Gareth Barry, Pablo Zabaleta and Nigel de Jong in midfield, with Silva slumped back on the bench in frustration. You can easily see him falling under an Emirati guillotine after the first shock defeat to Sunderland.

The only thing about the coming season likelier to be more nauseating than the shenanigans at Manchester City, even if the Blues do win the title, is going to be Blackpool. Plucky little Blackpool. Poor little Blackpool.

Nothing against Blackpool in particular. They’re in a difficult position, considering that their entire budget equals what it would cost to buy three of Laurent Koscielny’s limbs and half of his torso (7 million pounds, if you wondered). But every time a Blackpool player so much as laces his boots successfully, he’ll be submitted to flurry of falling-anvil pats on the head. The round of massive headwounds this is likely to cause will not help matters. Seeing a team field 38 players, all with their skulls smashed in by the sheer force of journalistic patronizing is going to be a gruesome spectacle indeed. As I said, reach for your barf bags.

Our prem preview continues tomorrow.

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