The Premier League is my favourite domestic sporting competition in the world. I enjoy it both for its strengths and its many, many flaws. With the new season kicking off this weekend, the following preview focuses on the latter category.
That's right, all of them. How the Premier League sucks up so much attention with so little quality boggles the mind. In its ongoing series ranking the Balon d'Or prospects of the world's best players, Bleacher Report included a whopping two Premier League 'stars' in its top 20: N'Golo Kante at No 20 and Harry Kane at No 19. Rounding out the list: eight from La Liga, four from the Bundesliga, three from Serie A and three from Ligue 1. Ligue 1! A competition made relevant only by the terrorism-supporting kleptocracy of Qatar has a higher peak of players than the Premier League. Might as well merge with the Scottish Premiership and be done with it.
They're probably going to win the league, but can a team really be considered winners when they shell out 50 million for Kyle Walker? That deal will be a permanent asterisk on City's inevitable title.
There is nothing more painful than listening to someone talk about their fantasy team and, unfortunately, the Premier League draws out New Zealand sport's loudest mouth-breathers. 'What a great weekend for Tekkerslovakia - made Lukaku my skipper and he scored a brace, which puts me sixth on my Subway work table!' F-k your fantasy team.
When the survivors are chatting about the extinct sport of football in our near-future nuclear winter, what's going to be the more unbelievable tale they trade around the campfire: that Leicester City once won the league or that they sacked the successful manager the following season? Poor Claudio Ranieri. The Foxes deserve their imminent annihilation.
Here's what the Liverpool manager said after his side lost to Atletico Madrid in the final of something called the Asia Cup earlier this month: "Atletico wanted to win the cup. We did also, but we also wanted to play football. Atletico only wanted to win the cup." Jurgen, it was a pre-season friendly, chill. No wonder Coutinho wants to leave.
Oh, how appropriate it was for United, while on a pre-season stop in Los Angeles, to invite Julia Roberts to training for a few pictures with the players. Both the club and the actress ceased being relevant five years ago. Seriously, look at the movies Roberts has made since the Red Devils last won the league: Secret in Their Eyes (34 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes), Mother's Day (7 per cent), Money Monster (57 per cent) and Smurfs: The Lost Village (38 per cent). Still, I'd rather watch those four films on loop than be subjected to United's last four seasons.
If only there was recent evidence of what happened when a once-successful club parted ways with a long-serving manager. If only Arsenal fans, who constantly grumble for the sacking of Arsene Wenger, could look elsewhere and judge whether the grass is, in fact, always greener. The Gooners are just as entitled as billionaire owner Stan Kroenke and his big-game hunting porn.
Watford's shiny new club-record signing is a racist and an extraordinary homophobe who, according to his Twitter account, "hates lightys" and wants "gays" to "burn" and "die". Gray will now be unironically cheered on from the Sir Elton John Stand.
It's quite incredible how, in a single season, one company managed to alienate both its baby boomer and millennial customers. But that's exactly what beIN achieved after winning the right to screen the Premier League in New Zealand. The old-timers blanched at adding the package to their already obscene Sky bill, unwilling to take that particular total to $780 a month (all prices approximate), while the youngsters were aggrieved the long-promised app was delivered after Chelsea had already been crowned champions. If only there were a cheaper and possibly less legal way to watch football in this country...
What a fairytale for such a small team to make the big time etc etc. Alternative take: Huddersfield are frauds. They finished fifth in last season's Championship to sneak into the playoff, because apparently 46 games isn't enough to determine a competition's top three teams. They then scored once across 330 minutes of playoff football - an own goal, at that - and secured promotion by winning successive penalty shootouts. Such a spine-tingling effort.
Who would have thought that a club playing regularly at the home of England's national team would be a bad thing? No one saw that coming. Yet Spurs ignored the available evidence and, after winning only two of their nine matches at the new Wembley, insisted on playing this season's home league fixtures under the Arch while White Hart Lane was rebuilt. Oh well, at least their prospects will be boosted by the acquisition of ... wait, no one? Literally not one human being? Daniel Levy has hoarded his under-paid young players and spent the savings on, what, rent at Wembley?
First they sacked their manager after finishing eighth and making a cup final. Then they threatened to let star defender Virgil van Dijk rot in the reserves rather than allow his desired move to Liverpool. And the Saints are considered one of the Premier League's good stories.
The Chelsea manager is unhappy with the size of his squad, having spent a mere 144m in the transfer market and having let 26 young players leave on loan. My heart bleeds. It's too bad Roman Abramovich, the club's oligarch owner, spent his off-season losing half of his "hard-earned" wealth in a divorce.
With the signings of Joe Hart and Javier 'Little Pea' Hernandez, things are looking up for All Whites skipper Winston Reid. At least they will be, until he goes down with a mysterious knee strain the week before an international window.
I realise he's no longer in the Premier League, having moved to Aston Villa because he couldn't bear the thought of playing against his beloved Chelsea. But for last season's absurdly contrived 26th-minute substitution alone, f-k John Terry.