Hill’s Patented and Highly-Scientific Method of Figuring Out Who Will the Premier League

The first week in European football always throws up the usual roster of conspiracy theories and depressed Arsenal fans who, after one match, realize that their team once more, will not be winning any trophies.

However, for the rest of the world, it raises the question of who will the Premier League?  Here to help out is my theory developed over years of joy and pain watching the Arsenal and various other teams.

A number of points:

1)    Despite my usual expertise and knowledge base.  This theory does not depend on corruption, bribed referees or fixed matches of any kind.

2)    It is pretty infallible. Up there, with my Theory of Martin Jol’s Lasagna to predict winners of major international tournaments.  I cannot remember ever being wrong with the theory, however, this may be selective memory.  It certainly gives fans a better a way of analyzing the league than the usual interminable discussion of tactics and transfers.

Right.  Here goes.

First, there will only be one team out of the following six who will win the Premier League: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.    This is straight-forward stuff, but there are always the odd freak who pops up at this point of the season to write articles predicting things like, “This is Cardiff City’s year to shine.” Or “Hope and Glory for the ‘Toon!”   Sure and Martians will land on earth and help us find a solution for global warning.

Two, the summer tabloids have been dominated with the will-he-won’t-he transfer sagas of Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez.   Ignore them.  Premier League titles are not won by highly-skilled, but temperamental, players like Suarez and Rooney.  They win games, they do not win titles.

Here is the theory.  Imagine this scenario:

It is 11 o’clock at night.  A fancy bar in downtown London.  All six of these top teams are there along with their WAGs, superb clothes and expensive drinks.  Words are exchanged.   The teams rise and fight each other.   There are no alliances, no treaties, no fixed agreements between them.  Nor are there bouncers or paid staff to help. Each team fights for themselves.  There will be only winner. One team will, at the end of the brawl, be in charge of the bar, the others will be outside on the street.

Who would win?

Name that team – and you have the winner of this year’s league title.

Look down the roster of each of the six top teams and decide who would win the bar fight and you will know who will be Champion.  For example, this year it has been fashionable among the bookies and fans to discount Manchester United.

You know the arguments.  Ferguson has gone.  Rooney is on his way out.  David Moyes, a man whose former team was once beaten in European competition 5-1 by Dinamo Bucharest, does not have the gravitas to win the Championship first time out.

Why anyone would present this argument when United still has Rio Ferdinand – the thinking man’s thug – and Nemanja Vidic – the picture of the man who you do not want to meet in a dark alley (I think he is in Wikipedia under that category) is beyond me.

Manchester City fans will point out that in Vincent Kompany they have a defender who treats opposing forwards like an ill-tempered Frankenstein meeting a group of unruly Transylvanian peasant.  Chelsea fans will say that John Terry is the man who looks like the driver of the get-away van.   The response is that yes – they are.   But once Kompany and Terry’s groin, knee, left-elbow or pinkie are injured this season, can Gary Cahill and the others pick up the fight?

This is not simple bravado or macho posturing.  Nor does it mean that players of skill are not important.  If this were true, then Stoke City with their Neanderthal collection of monobrowed, knuckle-dragging players would be the perennial Champions, but it does mean that there is something beyond the latest highly-expensive transfer of a skilled player in deciding who will win the Premier League.

The Premier League and all of the accompanying tournaments (FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League, League Cup, etc, etc) are played at a frantic pace and a wearying schedule of travel.   It is not only a brawl against other teams.    It is on one’s own team that this kind of toughness is needed.

For those fellow-disenchanted Arsenal fans, who watched the defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday. After 67-minutes, two dubious penalties and a non-red, red card, it was clear that the Arsenal had been beaten.  After these set-backs, the midfield lads jogged around.  They did not track back.  They went for the occasional ball with little spirit.

Try playing like that with Rio Ferdinand in your dressing room and see what happens.  It is the same attitude that Ian Rush talked to me about when we spoke about Fernando Morientes and other non-performing continental players at Liverpool.  “It is difficult to get them to get up for a mid-February game against Crystal Palace.”

It is the spirit the Rush showed when he was playing.  It is that spirit that will win games that one is supposed to lose. It is that spirit that wins Championships.

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