Spurs fans are the happiest in the Premier League and we’re just going to have to grit our teeth and wait for the inevitable crash.
Quite a bit has changed since we last did this in April.
Norwich, Watford and Burnley sadly drop off the list to be replaced by three shiny new teams. Liverpool drop quite a bit. We still don’t really know where to put Chelsea. But top spot and bottom spot remain the same, strangely. Arsenal were also quite low back then as well which shows just how late their run to ‘almost certain Champions League qualification’ and then ‘bollocksing up almost certain Champions League qualification’ came.
Anyway, April’s instalment is here. Now read on…
1) Tottenham (1)
Nauseatingly chipper. There was a mail after the Champions League final that wondered despairingly if Spurs fans didn’t actually end the season as the only truly happy fans among the Big Six. As you can see, we have been forced to confirm those suspicions. Pinching a Champions League spot was quite something – it’s a tournament we really didn’t think Spurs were going to bother with again – but doing it at Arsenal’s expense in that manner was truly sweet with the ensuing meltdown from Arsenal fans obviously only adding to the vibes.
More ludicrously still, it actually looks like Spurs are going to use the opportunity to actually do something. They made a genuinely eye-catching signing before the end of May and have been given £150m in free money from owners ENIC to spaff away on shiny new players. Obviously this is Tottenham, so everyone else just needs to hold tight, get through this, and wait for inevitable falseness of this dawn to kick in, but for now these are sunny skies indeed over N17.
2) Newcastle (5)
Finished the season in Champions League form and are richer than God. While everyone else looks on asking serious questions about sportswashing or wondering whether Eddie Howe can take this rare chance for a manager from outside the established elite to have a crack at something massive, Newcastle fans are for the most part just enjoying themselves. You can and should probably feel uneasy about that, but you must also accept that the vast majority of your club’s fanbase would behave in identical fashion, and you haven’t lived through the years of Mike Ashley-based ritual humiliation.
3) Nottingham Forest (NE)
Promotion to the Premier League is generally a mood-lifter. And while automatic promotion is the most sensible and pragmatic way to do it, the play-offs are definitely the vibiest way to go about it. More drama, more uncertainty, more exciting, day out at Wembley. Getting promoted via that play-offs having been bottom after eight games is entering dreamland territory. And doing all that when you’ve been waiting more than two decades for a return to the top flight and you’ve got a heady cocktail indeed. Don’t worry, it’ll all turn sour soon enough. They got on the right side of VAR in the play-off final, which means the first time it inevitably goes against them next season will provoke much nonsense, and if that doesn’t suck the joy out of them then a few months of being called ‘Notts Forest’ by people under 25 who don’t know any better and people over 25 who know precisely what they’re up to should do the trick.
Right now, though, the only person happier than Forest fans about it all is yer da, who spent the four days immediately before the final and three days after it telling you Forest are a “proper Premier League club” despite next year being just their sixth season in it. Leeds surviving at Burnley’s expense and Forest being promoted at Huddersfield’s does suggest that some unknowable force is, for reasons known only to itself, manipulating the universe to match yer da’s idea of how things should be. This may also explain how Boris is still in a job, but should also be good news for Sheffield Wednesday fans over the next couple of years.
4) Brentford (2)
A season that never really featured any serious relegation threat and ended with a run of seven wins in their last 11 games with Christian Eriksen doing bits. Good vibes, those. Have a well-earned reputation as a sensible club and that cracking end to the season is far from the only reason to believe they can avoid the sophomore slump that engulfed Sheffield United and threatened to do likewise to Leeds this season.
5) Brighton (8)
Had their best ever season and in Graham Potter have a manager who is both a) one of the best in the league and b) self-aware and intelligent enough to know he is on to a good thing at Brighton and won’t just leap off to the first shiny thing that flutters its eyelashes at him. In summary then: good vibes. Now just imagine if they manage to get hold of a proper striker. Never mind the mood rankings, they’ll be somewhere near the top of the actual table. Some would argue that is, if anything, even more important.
6) West Ham (6)
Cliché time, but the very fact that finishing seventh having been knocked out in the semi-final of the Europa League represented disappointment is a pretty clear indicator of How Far They’ve Come. Back-to-back qualifications for Europe via league position is a genuinely notable achievement for any non-Big Sixer and doing it from where the Hammers were a few years ago means the mood quite rightly remains decent. Even the final-day failure to pip Manchester United to a Europa League spot appears to have vexed other fans hoping for an even bigger giggle at United’s expense than it does West Ham’s. The only possible incoming piss on their chips appears to be whether they can keep hold of Declan Rice, the Harry Kane de nos jours.
7) Fulham (NE)
We sort of assume that Fulham fans are always happy enough. Just hard to imagine them being angry about anything, really, certainly not something as silly as football. Just a game, isn’t it? Is there a Fulham version of Arsenal Fan TV? Surely not. It is literally impossible even to imagine it. That said, be nice if Fulham could snap out of their current Groundhog Day existence and give the Premier League a decent crack on one of their now biennial cracks. Why has the universe decided that Fulham and Norwich can never be in the same division?
8) Manchester City (4)
City fans of any age have seen enough to know they should never get blasé about only winning another Premier League title in another season with 90-plus points and wonderful football from wonderful players, but they are also only human. They’ve got to stop f***ing up the Champions League. Every year and every passing failure only makes it harder to break the cycle. Must also accept the very real fact that even if/when they do finally get their hands on the Champions League the online discourse will shift instantly to ‘only one Champions League’ in much the same way it has around Liverpool’s similarly long-awaited Premier League win. You must never be happy, nobody may be happy.
9) Crystal Palace (7)
Patrick Vieira’s Palace ended up precisely where Roy Hodgson’s Palace generally did but got there in a much more fun and enjoyable way and that is precisely what the mood rankings are here for.
10) Liverpool (3)
If they hadn’t seen such riches, they could live with being poor. ‘Poor’ in this sense meaning ‘only winning two trophies instead of all the trophies’. It was another brilliant season but there’s no doubt the manner of its ending has significantly dampened the mood at a club where there is suddenly just a sense of an era coming to an end, of a great side about to start breaking up, and a degree of introspection about whether one Premier League and one Champions League is really quite enough ‘big’ trophies to show for all that brilliance. If they were only going to win two trophies this season, then they definitely should have won the two bigger ones in our opinion. Silly to win the other two instead, even if it did help round out Jurgen Klopp’s collection. Also no denying that now, having won only those two trophies, that the manner of both wins – on penalties after goalless draws – feels a bit meh in retrospect. That’s silly and harsh, especially when you consider who currently sits top of this list and how they would bite both your arms off for any underwhelming trophy win but that is the nature of vibes-based rankings. They don’t have to make sense. Also no ignoring that the disappointment has now largely given way to righteous anger over the disgusting treatment of their fans at the Champions League final and the authorities’ attempts to blame them. The cause is noble but also draining.
11) Bournemouth (NE)
Delighted to be back I’m sure, but there must be at least a small part of their brains worried that they’ve entered into the same contract with the devil as Norwich and Fulham.
12) Aston Villa (12)
A pretty ropey end to the season brought just two wins in their last 11 games, but the vibes remain generally quite good somehow, no doubt assisted by some early bits in the all-important transfer window. This immediate post-season period is always the best time to make signings. One because it actually is for dreary but correct pre-season, bedding-in reasons but also because at this point it’s just all good fun, isn’t it? It is quite literally months until you have to worry about whether they’re actually any good. Never is it all more Football Managery than in June.
13) Chelsea (9)
A ropey end to the league season, bantered off by Real Madrid in Europe and beaten in two cup finals on penalties by Liverpool, and a lot of players hitting the end of their contracts and heading off somewhere new. What looked at one stage like being a proper title challenge ended with Chelsea far, far closer to the silly pair of north London banterclubs than the two heavyweights at the top. And that’s before we even get started on the fact they spent much of the season facing a genuine existential threat to their very existence. That has now passed but football fans being football fans we already suspect that what should be about a five-year period just thanking their lucky stars they still have a club to support will in the space of a few short months give way to entitled whingeing when the new owners prove fractionally less lavish than the previous one. This is not a Chelsea observation; it is a football fan observation. For now, though, that sense of relief does lift them a place or two higher than would otherwise have been the case.
14) Wolves (11)
Finished tenth in an eight-horse race. Bit annoying and undeniably underwhelming when they were challenging for Europe for most of it. It’s still not a bad season, but we must also point out that it’s exactly what Everton did in 2020/21, and look what happened to them.
15) Leeds (15)
Yes, they survived. But at what cost? Hard to shake the notion that there is something distinctly Faustian about what happened at Leeds this season. They had something truly special with Marcelo Bielsa, a club-manager-fan relationship so perfect that it might only come along once in a generation. Is that really less important than being in the Premier League? The dreary boffins and bean counters will tell you that the answer is ‘yes’ and also they’re probably right, but still. Also doesn’t help that his replacement Jesse Marsch, while a demonstrably competent football coach who made necessary improvements to Leeds’ horror-show defending, is also an American who inexplicably appears to be leaning in to the inevitable lazy Ted Lasso stereotyping and surely has almost no chance of still being manager by the end of November. Solution: bring back Bielsa. It’s a plan just crazy enough to work.
16) Leicester (10)
Finished eighth somehow in the latest example of how the league table can absolutely tell massive whoppers sometimes. Total inability to defend set-pieces became one of the season’s most reliable recurring gags with the commitment to the bit and fondness for repetition giving the whole thing a distinctly Stewart Lee feel. They conceded another goal from a corner, Stew, Leicester did. They conceded a corner, Stew, and from that corner they once again allowed the opposition to score, Stew. They did, Stew. From a corner. You get the idea with that.
There was also the Spurs game which is the sort of thing that is going to be brought up over and over and over again forever. That said, these are still heady times for Leicester – even this vague disappointment of a season featured a European semi-final and top-half finish which is, you know, not bad. The post-Conference finish to the season with three thumping wins over terrible sides and a draw at Chelsea has that slightly confusing vibe of being both a mood-booster but also a hint at what might have been in a season when at various points four of the top six Leicester are trying to infiltrate shat their bed. Have fought the good fight against the Six Bastards for so long, but the improvement at West Ham and the goings-on at Newcastle mean they know it’s only going to get harder and harder, and that must be quite tiring.
17) Arsenal (16)
A fanbase that has spent the last few weeks shouting “I’m not owned” as they slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob, blaming anyone and everyone else for the failure to pin down fourth spot. The very real and tangible progress made by Mikel Arteta’s young side has been inevitably overshadowed by the catastrophic nature of their late-season collapse and the identity of the club to which they’ve handed a Champions League spot that really should have been theirs. It was an opportunity that has no guarantee of coming round again and promising young sides don’t always deliver on that promise. Insistence that it doesn’t constitute a bottling (hint: it does) just because they weren’t expecting to finish in the top four at the start of the season also means Arsenal fans will have to retire the ‘third in a two-horse race’ jibes at Spurs because if there’s one thing we know about all football fans it is that they are inherently logical creatures whose universes must always run on solid internal narrative integrity.
18) Everton (14)
There is huge relief that the ignominy of relegation has been avoided, but it is tempered by the undeniable facts that a team that was widely described as being too good to go down is only just barely that and their manager is a fraud whose career is sustained almost entirely by his world-class playing career and the enduring love and support of a media class for whom the very highest praise that can be bestowed upon any manager is the phrase “spoke well, I thought”.
19) Southampton (13)
Didn’t lose 9-0 at any point, which is a bonus. Did lose 6-0 at one point, though, which is still very bad and ended the season in truly horrible form in a March onwards run that began with a 4-0 twatting at Aston Villa and ended up being one win and nine defeats in their last 12 games. That followed a highly impressive run of 11 points from five games where they beat Spurs and drew with both Manchester clubs, results that ended up far more important than they should have in keeping the Saints clear of any nasty and unexpected relegation trouble. Ralph Hasenhuttl remains a confusing enigma of a manager whose best work means he has survived some horrific stuff that would have finished most managers. It all makes Southampton quite hard to place here, but if we had to choose one word to describe the current mood we reckon it would be ‘trepidation’. Which isn’t exactly a hugely positive one.
20) Manchester United (20)
Not great, is it? A horrible season ended particularly badly and the departure of Paul Pogba means the primary lightning rod for criticism and scapegoating is no longer there to shield everyone else. Ralf Rangnick managed to manage his way out of that cushy consulting gig and Erik Ten Hag already looks like a real-life 24-7, walking, talking Arrested Development “I’ve made a huge mistake” meme as he starts to discover the enormity of what he’s taken on. No team fell shorter of what was expected of them last season and the grimness of it all is summed up in the fact that nobody really expects this to be a one-off. Another season as bad as this one with another manager departure midway through seems entirely possible and even quite likely.