Strange times at the top of the Premier League. All is chaos, all is flux. Introductory paragraphs are getting shorter.
Take David Moyes's Manchester United. Though they may have comfortably beaten Crystal Palace, they are still a bit crap. We don't propose to waste any words on the antics of thespian disappointment Ashley Young - once this paragraph is over, we don't intend to acknowledge his existence ever again, at least until he's arrested for fraud - but that United fans came away cooing and salivating over Adnan Januzaj's cameo tells you everything you need to know about the state of the preceding seventy-odd minutes, the state of United's wingplay, and the state of the world in general.
Across the city, it is a sign of the infinite adaptability of the football fan that Manchester City being rubbish is unusual and unexpected these days. But rubbish they were, and lucky not to lose to Stoke, which would have made Mark Hughes a very happy man and so was probably best avoided. We've addressed City's odd transfer policy before, but it looks like the only way to get away with playing Javi Garcia at the back is to make sure that Jonathan Walters is on the other team, and however much money they've got, that doesn't feel like a long-term solution.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are certainly a team in their manager's image, which is to say that they're a shabby and badly-dressed parody of the Jose Mourinho that used to be. Madrid appears to have done something to his soul. Once he genuinely smouldered so hot you could fry an egg on him, now he just looks like he eats too many fried eggs. Once he bestrode the touchline looking sharp as hell, and his teams bent close games to their unremitting will; now he slouches about like a geography teacher forced to cover PE in the only free period he's got all week, and his teams lose 1-0 away at Everton. Everton were great, yes, but Gareth Barry, for God's sake. Surely Samuel Eto'o, the last Barcelona player it was acceptable to like, deserves better than this?
Outside the predicted top three, north London is also going some interesting times. For all that Andre Villas-Boas's Spurs may have looked pleasing against Norwich, it's worth remembering that (a) the last club to buy first-team players in this number was QPR, an experiment in coherent team-building that didn't end particularly well, and (b) Norwich were toss. And for all that Mesut Ozil is a magnificent footballer that would grace any club, even one that already employs Nicklas Bendtner, it took some jazz refereeing to get Arsenal past a limited-if-willing Sunderland, and it's hard to shake the feeling that the playmaker's purchase is that of a man who, upon realising he isn't wearing any trousers, immediately buys the largest hat available. Perhaps the hat will be large enough that the absence of trousers doesn't matter. Perhaps. Is it too philosophical to ask that if a hat covers a man, is he now blind?
Terribly early days, of course, but the nightmare scenario is already starting to form, lurking at the back of the nation's collective consciousness. Could it be that Liverpool, being the only team that seems to make any kind of sense at the moment, end up accidentally winning the league while everybody else is dicking about? We're not looking forward to having to pretend this season never happened - it won't help the book sales, for a start. But if that's where we end up, well, we don't see that there's any other choice.
We need to talk about Sundays. Specifically, we need to talk about Sundays and their modifying adjectives. Not all Sundays are created equal, after all, and they can't all be Super.
This is not to deride Southampton-West Ham, which as nil-all draws go wasn't all that terrible, and was worth watching purely for the performance of mighty Welshman James Collins, who managed to combine defending quite well with moments of high farce, here managing to nutmeg himself while slide-tackling an unchallenged ball, then launching what would have been the winning goal into the afternoon sky, and at one point standing perfectly still in midfield, blinking slowly, desperately attempting to remember who he was, why he was wearing shorts, and what that man in red was doing taking that round white thing away.
This is to say that there needs to be some kind of structure. If one Sunday is Super, another must be less Super, and perhaps another more Super than that. In an attempt to make Sky's hype-fuelled madness more coherent, here's a list of Sundays that we'll be sitting through this season: Super; Excellent; Ace; Decent; Acceptable; Considerate; Gentle; Irrelevant; Ennui-tastic; Pleasant; Irritating; Confusing; Ambiguous; Voluptuous; Riddled; For God's Sake, Is The Season Not Over Yet; Delicate; Anderson Cooper's Suits; You're Standing On My Foot; Sausage Meat; I Need A Netflix Subscription; Prolapsed; Globular; James Collins Existential Question Time; and Wall. Distribute according to taste.
N.B. Liverpool will of course not win the league.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton