As I am yet to be signed up by a club in the Chinese Super League — despite my best efforts to attract their attention with a series of disappointing performances and outrageous wage demands — I have some time on my hands. So, come dumpster dive with me.
The Great Un-Spursing
This Premier League season makes no sense, mostly because the teams that are supposed to be good have not been very good at all.
Chelsea — the reigning champion — spent the first half of the season within spitting distance of the relegation places.
Manchester United, after having spent more than the GDP of some developed nations in the transfer market, is complete and utter rubbish. Worse yet, Louis van Gaal’s team doesn’t even have the decency to be amusingly incompetent, like Everton.
Manchester City has the best squad in the league, by a considerable distance. Unfortunately, City also has a lame duck manager, an impressive collection of incompetent center backs, and star players who can’t seem to be bothered that often.
Arsenal should have its best chance in a decade of winning the thing, but this is a side so full of bottlers that it would finish fourth even if there were only three teams in the league.
Into this void of real quality has stepped Leicester City. Everyone expected Claudio Ranieri’s surprise package to have dropped off by this point, but here they are sitting pretty at the top of the table, with over two-thirds of the season gone. Leicester is the most entertaining team in the league, powered by
blood doping a relentless counter-attacking style, the indefatigable midfield harrying of N’Golo Kanté, the magic of Riyad Mahrez, and the goals of noted sinophobe Jamie Vardy.
Leicester City’s improbable run at the top of the table has spawned untold column inches devoted to the team’s “fairy tale” season narrative: the flirtations with relegation last season, the coach that was seen a likable joke, and the budget that is a tiny fraction of those of the teams around it. Leicester should be everyone’s pick to win the title because everyone loves to see an underdog triumph, the columns suggest. And that’s often true, except when that underdog is racist. The parties involved in the racist Thai orgy video (let that phrase sink in for a second) have all been sacked, but the party in the racist abuse in a casino video happens to be the team’s top scorer. As fun as the Foxes are, they must not be allowed to prosper.
So in a completely batshit crazy season, there is only one winner that makes sense: Spurs. Tottenham has built its reputation on disappointment, so it is a jarring sight to see the team that Mauricio Pochettino put together look so competent on a weekly basis. Spurs aren’t especially exhilarating to watch, but they are the only team outside of Leicester City that appear to have a clue as to what they’re doing.
Pochettino has managed to forge a young team that possesses graft and creativity in equal measure, and has a found a system that maximizes the ability of its best players without any of the expensive misfits that have been a hallmark of Spurs’ recent past. It is a shockingly sensible approach to team-building, completely out of step with the team’s reputation. Spurs are good, but not special; a nice story, but not particularly romantic; impressively assembled, but forgettable in most other seasons. This is the champion that the Premier League deserves.
Serge Aurier must be smoking the good stuff
Serge Aurier, the soon-to-be-former Paris Saint-Germain full-back, lost his goddamn mind earlier this week. In what is probably the first Periscope-related scandal in soccer history, Aurier insulted his coach and teammates during a live question-and-answer session. Somehow, Aurier is enough of a Millennial™ to be using Periscope in the first place, but not savvy enough to realize that his comments would become public. Aurier called coach Laurent Blanc a “faggot,” used similar homophobic language to insult Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and degraded teammates Salvatore Sirigu and Gregory van der Wiel as well, for good measure. PSG has already suspended Aurier indefinitely, and a disciplinary investigation is currently underway that will almost surely end in Aurier never playing for the club again.
Professional athletes roasting their coworkers in public is always hilarious and should be encouraged at every opportunity. But homophobic language has no place in civilized society, not just for being hurtful and offensive, but for being decidedly unoriginal and unfunny. Shame on Aurier for ruining a moment that we could have all enjoyed with his vile choice of words. After all, it’s not as if Ibrahimovic didn’t need taking down a peg or two since his brand has become entirely too self-aware and manufactured. And for all Laurent Blanc’s outrage at Aurier’s actions, let’s not forget that Blanc himself was at the center of his own discriminatory episode not too long ago. What a pity then, that we can’t laugh at them, just because Aurier is one of those morons who still thinks gay jokes are funny.