Neil Humphreys: All you need is loathe
Unbridled animosity between Manchester City and Liverpool is top of our columnist's wish list for the new EPL season
1) CITY, LIVERPOOL, PLEASE LOATHE EACH OTHER
Football is a visceral experience.
We come for the artistry. We stay for the anger, the honest-to-goodness seething hatred between enemies.
Think about this, objectively.
What are the most memorable moments in English Premier League history?
Kevin Keegan, in his Princess Leia headphones, spitting into a microphone, telling the world how much he'd love it if Manchester United were beaten.
He'd love it, because he hated them so much.
Or there was Martin Keown, auditioning for Planet of the Apes, jumping all over Ruud van Nistelrooy after the striker missed a penalty.
Indeed Arsenal and Manchester United gave us the greatest, hate-infested relationship, serving up Pizzagate and Roy Keane promising to see Patrick Vieira outside.
They really were the best of times, uniting tribes against each other in the most compelling of ways.
Winning is great, but beating the despised is something else altogether, something truly intoxicating.
Thankfully, Liverpool and Manchester City might be bringing the hate back.
At the Community Shield, their fans booed each other throughout.
Pep Guardiola and Juergen Klopp are increasingly needling each other, their talent so immense and so close that there is little to separate them.
They are united only in their fear of losing to the other man.
Fear leads to anger and anger leads to sensational football contests, or whatever Yoda said.
It doesn't really matter. The point is purists be damned.
City's passing exchanges, Liverpool's gegenpressing, Mohamed Salah's kindness and Raheem Sterling's niceness are decent narratives.
But the rest of us crave something spicier, particularly in a title race with only two credible competitors. The EPL needs a volatile rivalry that forces even neutrals to take sides.
If football is theatre, then it requires heroes and villains.
We can decide which is which later on, but if City and Liverpool could oblige us with some foaming hatred of the Keane and Vieira variety, then we will all be in for a treat.
2) GEEKS CAN'T INHERIT THE EARTH
When the rulers come out, the people lose.
Not imperial rulers, but actual rulers, the kind that primary school kids keep in their pencil cases. And now, they are coming to an EPL match near you.
At some point, someone in a TV studio is going to produce a ruler to check the validity of a decision made by the video assistant referee (VAR) system and the rest of us may lose the will to live.
For years, the EPL stood firm against modern technology, throwing out soundbites to justify its reputation as a league for Luddites.
Human error was part of the game. Bumbling officials were part of the game. Putting the remote control through the TV was part of the game.
Well, not any more it isn't.
VAR has arrived.
The geeks are about to inherit the earth on every EPL pitch.
And that's the fear.
The EPL's guiding principles for VAR are that it is used for "clear and obvious errors", involving goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Officials have been instructed to preserve the fast pace of the EPL.
But referees aren't really the problem.
It's the petty pundits and pub dullards who'll spend too much time leeching every nuance of the free-flowing game and obsessing over millimetres.
Correct decisions are one thing, but turning such a kinetic, physical spectacle into a scientific observation exercise is something else entirely.
The TV camera already has too much power over the game.
The machine cannot be allowed to take complete control and suck all fun and subtlety from the game.
3) A STAR NEEDS TO BE BORN
Serie A has Cristiano Ronaldo. La Liga has Lionel Messi.
The EPL has Harry Maguire, a happy-go-lucky Yorkshireman with the head the size of a medicine ball.
Yes, that's a facile comparison, but since Eden Hazard's departure and Paul Pogba's apparent indifference to his surroundings, legitimate EPL superstars are in short supply.
This season needs a breakthrough.
Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets bums off seats. Rodri looks right at home in Manchester City's midfield. Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur broke the bank to sign Nicolas Pepe and Tanguy Ndombele respectively and West Ham United's Sebastien Haller looks a £45 million (S$75.6m) steal for a No.9.
But the season's standout could be an existing player.
Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling tapped tentatively at the door marked "superstardom" last season. Either City man would be a worthy addition to the pantheon.
4) SHARE THE SILVERWARE
Note to the oligarchs annexing English football: If Manchester City win everything again, it will actually diminish their achievements. See Paris Saint-Germain for details.
Last season, City treated their domestic challengers like the Harlem Globetrotters playing a pick-up game with college students.
City can't be faulted for their faultlessness. But in the interests of fair play - and those staying up to watch in Asia - let's share the wealth this season.
Besides, Guardiola may realise that relinquishing a cup or two is in his best interests.
This time around, all roads must lead City to the Champions League Final.
5) IF IT'S RUBBISH, SAY IT'S RUBBISH
And finally, a personal indulgence on behalf of fans tired of having their intelligence insulted.
When a game is paint-drying dull, we know. We have eyes.
They may be screaming in terror, but we have them nonetheless.
So, to those working to promote the EPL product that we return to every year - no matter what - stop lying to us.
If the game is less appealing than a prostate exam, tell us.
Confirm what we can already see. Don't say it's "in the balance", or "keenly poised", just say it's rubbish.
We'll keep coming back anyway. We're masochists.
We'll endure just about anything, except men with rulers measuring VAR lines.
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