james debate
james debate

Sunday 29 May 2022

Another doozy of a season in the record books, which means it is time for The Ephemeric's traditional end of season review. We had drama, tension and last minute twists, but who did what and which players caught our eye? Read on to find out.

premier league 2021 manchester city champions klopp pep guardiola tuchel lampard chelsea ephemeric european super league
The 2021/22 season kept us in suspense right up until the final whistle, but in the end it is another title for well-funded Manchester City, a title that may seem something of a consolation prize for a team still eluded by the European glory they so crave. For runners up Liverpool, however, it is a tale of oh-so-near. Having been within a realistic shout of an unprecedented quadruple just days ago, they instead need to settle for the two domestic cups, neither of which, it has to be said, were claimed all that convincingly. The tale of English football's top clubs is rounded out by Chelsea who, while injury crisis prevented them from sustaining a title push, did manage to end the season as Champions of the World and with another Super Cup to boot. 

Now we head into the next season with so many tantalising plotlines to follow. Have Tottenham finally got it right with Antonio Conte? Can Erik ten Hag work his magic and find a way to turn Man United's cast of disparate starlets into a cohesive unit? What does the future hold for Chelsea in a post-Abramovich world? The Premier League remains football's most exciting competition, and we are already looking forward to next season.

Now without further ado it is time to move on to the Ephemeric end of season awards, followed by our carefully selected Premier League team of the year.

The Ephemeric Premier League Awards 2022:

Winners: Manchester City 

Relegated: Burnley, Watford, Norwich 

Player of the Year: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) - Arguably the best player in football today. Salah topped both the goals and assists table and remains the essential player of one of the world's best sides.

U-21 Player of the Year: Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace) - A competitive year for this prize. On another day I could easily have awarded this to Reece James or Phil Foden, but in the end it is the Crystal Palace loanee that has most impressed. To make his Premier League debut and immediately exert such influence and poise is a remarkable accomplishment and hopefully the beginning of a very strong career.

Best Goalkeeper: Alisson (Liverpool) - The most clean sheets, and just a constant presence in this Liverpool defence. Alisson just seems to have every attribute a keeper needs.

Top Scorer: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) & Son Heung-Min (Tottenham) (23) 

Most Assists: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) (13) 

Manager of the Year: Antonio Conte (Tottenham) - For years Tottenham have seemed like a club adrift, consistent only in their underachievement, even under the stewardship of some top level managers. In Conte it seems the club may finally have found someone with the will to elevate these players and finally achieve some level of consistent results.

Best signing of the season: Luis Diaz (Liverpool) 

Worst signing of the season: Dele Alli (Everton) 

The Ephemeric Premier League Team of the Season 2022:

english epl bpl premier league best team xi of the season 2021
A surprisingly difficult XI to pick this year. Alisson in goal picks himself, along with the league's two standout players Salah and Son, but for every other position there were at least two or three players who could have made a credible claim to be in this team. 

The inclusion of Reece James over Trent Alexander-Arnold may raise a few eyebrows, but quite frankly it shouldn't. TAA has shown himself time and time again to be shaky at the back (as we saw this past weekend to tragic effect), while James has been arguably Chelsea's most rock-solid defender, to the extent that he has often played at centre-half. James' attacking talents are also underappreciated, the fact that he has a higher combined goals and assists tally than TAA despite being injured half the season says everything. Trent is a fantastic footballer, but Reece James, when fit, was arguably among the league's best players this season.

Harry Kane is another who seems to have flown under the radar, possibly as a result of Son stealing the headlines. While it is true that Kane has had a quiet season by his standards, the statistics don't lie. 17 league goals and 9 assists, a very formidable tally by anyone's standards. Kane remains one of the most dependable attacking talents in world football.

Then there is Kevin de Bruyne, the Premier League's official player of the year. His pick over the likes of Salah and Son may be questionable, but there is no denying that he is a world class talent and the beating heart of a very good Manchester City side. I choose a tantalising central midfield for this XI with the marauding creative talents of De Bruyne and Mount (fun, underappreciated fact: only two players in the Premier League had a greater combined goals/assists than Mount) playing off a Declan Rice fulcrum. 

Completing the defence with the standout players of the league's most miserly defences seems like a no-brainer.

So there we have it, another season of Premier League football gone by. We'll see you again next season!

Saturday 21 May 2022

Directed by Rupert Goold
Written by Mike Bartlett
Starring Bertie Carvel, Tamara Tunie, Lydia Wilson
Theatre Old Vic

47 47th old vic donald ivanka trump biden kamala harris theatre 2022 bertie carvel charles
Even though his time in office has come to an end, it's clear that it will take some time for the world to shake the spectre of the 45th President from its collective consciousness. This fixation comes not just from a place of revulsion, but fascination. There are many out there who still yearn to understand, not just the man, but his following. How could such a person command a fervent and loyal base of support from so many? How could his reprehensible ideas and obvious nonsense find any measure of resonance, not just among the uninformed, but in some cases the intelligent and powerful? For all his controversies and corruption, Donald Trump remains a mystery that compels interest in even those who stand against him. The 47th indulges that fascination and in doing so crafts some superb entertainment, without ever really providing any deep new insights.

Politics makes for great theatre and indeed this is far from the first look at the 45th President that has graced the London stage. But politics can be tricky to get right, particularly when the subject matter is so current. Writer Mike Bartlett, fortunately, has a record of doing political theatre well. His most recent original West End show, Albion, made for an astute and memorable Brexit parable. But the 47th shares most of its DNA with what is arguably Bartlett's most notable work to date, King Charles III

King Charles III envisioned the succession of the British monarchy to a more politically inclined Charles interpreted as a Shakespearean court drama, even going so far as to be penned in blank verse. The 47th pulls much the same trick, imagining instead the succession to the Trump dynasty amid a hypothetical third run for office. But where King Charles III was a fairly straight-faced homage to Shakespeare, The 47th mostly uses those influences to comic effect, relishing the contrast between the stately Shakespearean form of language and the contemporary crudeness of Trump and his circle. Hearing these characters lace an eloquent monologue with inelegance and references to the likes of Selling Sunset and Lin Manuel Miranda is inherently humorous. In an odd way, Trump's nonsequitious manner of diction fits well with this style. His constant asides and tangents are reminiscent, as indeed the play itself notes at one point, of Shakespearean characters playing to an audience during a monologue.

If King Charles III was an homage, The 47th often feels more like a pastiche. Rather than simply being a modern play in the classical style, the plot here lifts heavily from specific plays, with very clear lifting of narratives and characters from the likes of King Lear, Macbeth, Richard III and Julius Caesar. Trump's offspring vying for his patronage, Joe Biden's fretful sleepwalking, Ivanka Trump's machiavellian scheming, even some directly borrowed dialogue ("for Ted Cruz is an honourable man"). Where Bartlett saw serious Shakespearean drama in the succession to Elizabeth II, here he sees pomposity and self-aggrandisement ripe for the mocking. 

If it is perhaps all a bit too knowing and wry, it's hugely entertaining, Bertie Carvel's swaggering performance in particular. But aside from tantalising brief glimpses into the psyche of Trump himself offers little in the way of fresh insight as to the movement or people behind him. The depiction of public unrest and insurrection inspired by Trump feels more like a retelling of the January 6th attempted coup than any kind of prophecy, right down to the lifting of imagery from that day (the buffalo-horned shaman even makes an appearance). The 47th depicts vast masses of people enthralled by conspiracy theories and lies without ever really asking why. It reminds us of the threat Trump poses to democracy, but doesn't really extrapolate further from that point in the way that King Charles III did. 

Where The 47th does ask compelling questions is in how far one can go in order to defend what is right and just. As Trumpism ravages the nation in carnage and chaos, those who stand against him are faced with the dilemma of how to counteract his movement. Continue to play by the rules and likely lose out to his dirty tactics, or compromise your principles and lower yourself to his level. It presents a sort of Faustian dilemma wherein whichever choice you make, you lose. Either maintain your ideals and lose the fight, or win the fight but in doing so validate the anarchic worldview you stand against.
The show ends with the sting in the tail that posits Ivanka may be the more dangerous Trump, similar to King Charles III's final act depiction of Kate Middleton. But whereas King Charles III fully demonstrated Kate's ruthless ambition and machiavellian scheming, that really isn't felt in this instance. We see Ivanka briefly demonstrate her political nous, before being largely overpowered by her father's chaotic whims. We don't really see anything to suggest that she has that capability, so this parting message rings somewhat hollow.

The 47th is an immaculately presented piece of theatre marked by a spellbinding central performance. But much like its subject matter, it is gaudy and designed to elicit a visceral reaction, rather than a true exploration.

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