Summer transfer season predictions

every damn year - Laurence Griffiths

After enough summers spent watching transfer and preseason coverage, I think I have a pretty good handle on what's going to happen.

If you've paid close attention to the European soccer world for a while, you start to notice certain patterns that emerge in media coverage. A lot of the same things are covered year in and year out, and a lot of opinions seem to repeat. After a while, you start to think that there's an Illuminati conspiracy to manipulate news coverage or something.

Well, you're right. There's a conspiracy in world football, and the media are all in it together. But we can fight back - those certain subjects that pop up again and again are signs of the Illuminati, and if we band together, we can fight back. I'll concentrate on the ones that concern Arsenal most, since that's the kind of thing you'll see most often. Read on, and know your foe.

"Tottenham will finish above Arsenal."

We heard this when Harry Redknapp was in charge - his wanton spending in the transfer market was going to take Spurs past Arsenal and finally doom us to midtable mediocrity, or something. Then he got fired because he couldn't actually finish above Arsenal. Andre Villas-Boas comes in, and of course he will take Tottenham past Arsenal! He managed at Chelsea, he's the hot new name on everyone's lips, and he's got to be able to outdo old, staid Arsene Wenger. After one shot (against Arsenal's Worst Team In Decades Part XVIII) he, too, failed.

One of these days, Spurs will probably finish over Arsenal again. They're presently a good team, and you can't expect to be the better team 100% of the time. But every time the media predicts it, it amuses me anew. Someday they'll probably be right - but with their luck, it will probably be the year they pick us to win the league.

"Chelsea's/Manchester City's latest round of big-money signings will win them the league."

Every summer there's a ton of noise around these two teams. Papers love transfers, and rich teams buy a lot of players. But with the media obsession with player acquisition comes a fallacious assumption: that buying a bunch of awesome players means a team will improve.

For an example, look at Chelsea the past three years. In the 2010-11 season, Chelsea spent £99,300,000 in transfer fees. They finished second (three points ahead of Arsenal). In the 2011-12 season, they spent £87,800,000 in fees. They finished sixth (six points behind Arsenal). Last year they spent £92,000,000 on fees and finished third (two points ahead of Arsenal). On the other hand, in those three years Manchester City finished third, first, and second. It can work. It can also not work. The team that spends the most will likely be crowned Summer Champion, but that won't end up meaning very much. We'll hear a lot about them, though.

"Liverpool will challenge for a Champions League spot."

I don't know what it is about Liverpool. Maybe it's that they're somehow so irrevocably English, no matter what countries the manager, players, or even ownership hail from. Maybe it's the club's history, and how strange it makes their relative fall from quality. But every single year, they get hyped as a possible top-four team. I'm never really certain why - while I don't believe that spending all the money guarantees success, I never feel like the purchases Liverpool make are massive improvements. They usually get decent players, and I don't think Brendan Rodgers is quite the dunce he's sometimes made out to be, but I don't usually see where the praise comes from.

Particularly if Luis Suarez stays, this will probably start cropping up next month.

"Everton/Newcastle/Queens Park Rangers/(pick your own dark horse team) will finish above Arsenal."

I don't know why this always happens. We hear again and again that you can't win without spending money. We hear again and again that Arsenal have to spend more to win. And yet, every year, there's some Hot New Team that bought a bunch of decent-to-good players for not that much money, and we're supposed to believe they'll make the leap together. Arsenal do the same thing, but with slightly more money, better players, and a better foundation - and they're to be left behind. And while usually they make a pretty valiant effort - remember Aston Villa a few years ago? - they typically fail, and end up almost getting relegated within a few years - remember Aston Villa this year? or Newcastle?

As we said last year, if you come at the king, you best not miss.

"Arsenal will finish fifth."

You may have noticed by now that most of these have to do with money, and other teams using it to pass Arsenal by. Somehow, with Manchester United and City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, and Newcastle all above us (and maybe more, depending on the year!), we're always predicted to finish fifth. It's like there's just a modicum of respect for the fact that we're always in the Champions League and (now, basically without an argument) that we have the best manager in the league. But not enough to have the faith in club, manager, and team that they'll be able to pull it off again.

Don't let the Illuminati fool you. Ignore their predictions, and know the reasons why they make them - to attract attention, for the most part. Together, we can beat back this New World Order and keep the lizardmen out of soccer.

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