The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Premiership Fiction

The last Premier League season was Patton—a brutally honest yet boring march to Manchester United glory. Despite a remarkably similar cast, the new sporting year has provided a spark to burn away the tediosity of corporate debt-financed superficial success. Concepts remain: The league. The table. The points. The games. The season. Yet the linear construct we normally impose has been washed away by a series of chaotic, random events, somehow intertwined. This is not reality. This is…Premiership Fiction.

Chelsea finds it.

“—I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that…What does Carlo Ancelotti look like?
—What country are you from?
—What? What? Wha…
—What ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of! They speak English in What?”

The Blues lead at the top of the table thanks to finding a diamond in the rough waters of Italy. Explanations ebb and flow and sizzle. Did Carlo really implement the two-striker formation? Or simply perfect it? Didier Drogba sprinted out of the blocks with guns blazing, but will his delicate calf continue its Spring-tenderness-tendinitis? How will Chelsea fare against a team capable of completing two passes?

—Say What again. Say What again. I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!”

What plagued the Blues last season, rust and oil, still has yet to rear its ugly face. The machine hums along happily, dutifully under warranty for the first ten thousand miles.

United won’t hand it over.

“—Normally, both your asses would be dead as fucking fried chicken, but you happened to pull this shit while I’m in a transitional period so I don’t wanna kill you, I wanna help you. But I can’t give you this case, it don’t belong to me. ”

United lost Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet the goals fall from the sky in waves of meteors. Spurs get burned in a second half explosion, and City tastes bitter defeat in stoppage time. The suffocating 1-0 victories give way to fiestas of goals. Time ticks on Sir Alex’s career, yet he clings to the Premiership trophy with both hands, staring down the opposition with a gaze that could freeze fire.

“—Besides, I’ve already been through too much shit this morning over this case to hand it over to your dumb ass.”

Asking questions of United’s signings only leads to more questions. How can the same defensive unit look so porous? And how can Owen and Valencia replace Tevez and Ronaldo? Still, never doubt the grasp of an elderly gentleman clinging for dear life.

Arsenal lost it.

“—Have you ever given a foot massage?
—[scoffs] Don’t be tellin’ me about foot massages. I’m the foot fuckin’ master.
—Given a lot of ’em?
—Shit yeah. I got my technique down and everything, I don’t be ticklin’ or nothin’. ”

Eduardo is back. Tomáš Rosický is back. Vermaelen is scoring goals. Arsène Wenger has a healthy and fit squad in his first-touch passing image. The technique, the movement, the style, all are present. All add up to two league losses early in the season. Patrick Vieira. Gilberto Da Silva. The boots remain empty.

“—Would you give a guy a foot massage?
—[a long look, realizing he’s been set up] Fuck you.
—You give them a lot?
—Fuck you.”

You look into Wenger´s eyes and hope he has a dead body in his garage. You hope that dead body is a six-foot-six holding midfielder who can stick a decent tackle. And that the body will come to life. You want Wenger to win, but the Frenchman keeps faith with his collection of semi-competents. Fabregas fades from the picture.

Liverpool never had it.

“—[cleaning the inside of the car which is covered in blood] Oh, man, I will never forgive your ass for this shit. This is some fucked-up repugnant shit.
—Did you ever hear the philosophy that once a man admits that he’s wrong that he is immediately forgiven for all wrongdoings? Have you ever heard that?
—Get the fuck out my face with that shit! The motherfucker that said that shit never had to pick up itty-bitty pieces of skull on account of your dumb ass.”

Rafa Benítez believes in Fernando Torres, even if Torres has his doubts. Last season, Liverpool appeared to ride on the backs of Gerrard and Torres, yet the disappearance of Xabi Alonso left a black hole big enough to swallow the Milky Way. But it would find the taste repugnant.

“—I got a threshold, I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a fuckin’ race car, right, and you got me the red. And I’m just sayin’, I’m just sayin’ that it’s fuckin’ dangerous to have a race car in the fuckin’ red. That’s all. I could blow.
—Oh! Oh! You ready to blow?
—Yeah, I’m ready to blow.”

Blow for blow, Scousers keep in cobra-strike distance of the leaders. Yet morale has plummeted. Benítez blames players for losses and credits himself for victories. His head fastened in the guillotine, will gravity befall?

City wants it.

“—Well, the way they make shows is, they make one show. That show’s called a pilot. Then they show that show to the people who make shows, and on the strength of that one show they decide if they’re going to make more shows. Some pilots get picked and become television programs. Some don’t, become nothing.”

Emmanuel Adebayor is motivated. But for how long? Hughes failed to balance the Brazilian egos last term, yet this year offers a new task of intricate complexity. How do you tug at the soul of a Togolese national? City lives without Robinho, and plays well without Adebayor at Old Trafford. Barry plugs the holes, but his legs can only carry him so far.

“—She starred in one of the ones that became nothing.”

Nothing is expected and everything is expected of City. The sky is the limit but the floor is the reality. The volatile cocktail of castaway talent has mixed well when stirred, but skeptics remain. In the first year of the new-look City, will a second season be optioned or cast to the TV Land doldrums?

The season’s collection of games and points has surprised few mathematicians, yet the twists and turns have been anything but formulaic. Most can predict which teams may have it at the end of the season, but few know how they will snatch it. Or from whom.

Elliott is the editor of

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Premiership Fiction

by Elliott · September 23, 2009

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