(10km Offside) What happens if Premier League managers lead the Defence of Winterfell?
It is sometimes said that the Premier League is the same as Game of Thrones (well, Fourfourtwo and David Squires have implied it), and there’s a point to that. In fact, you could point out that football at large is quite like Game of Thrones.
There’s the back-stabbing, the constant shift in loyalty, the recognition of a lesser evil, and the presence of terrible administration. Plus, the supposed Night King and his army marching to end all life bears semblance to the Beautiful GameTM, all the army of the dead has to do is wield a banner championing the European Super League, and we wouldn’t be able to tell which is which.
So, having outlined the similarities with the epic series and the game, not least the most-marketed league in the world, we opt to waste some of time and predict how it would happen if every Premier League manager was in charge of Winterfell’s defence as the Army of Ice approach:
Arsenal: Unai Emery
Things get shaky at the start, the army of the dead are close, and Emery’s Gunners look ill-prepared. Lord Stan Kroenke has ditched the North for the free city of Braavos, leaving Arsenal on their own. Emery, though, manages to mount a strong defence, and even solid attack, beating back the large opposition army. But as things look like it would end well, a mishap in the ranks occurs. Arsenal try to hold a shield line, but Unsullied soldier Shkodran Mustafi drops his guard, and as a result the plan falters. The Army of Ice overwhelm Emery and his men, and Winterfell belongs to the dead.
Bournemouth: Eddie Howe
Ever the idealist, Howe opts against defending, but rather taking the fight to the dead. Bournemouth try to ultra-swarm the wights, but eventually tire themselves, and lose in ultimately tame fashion. No matter, Commander Howe escaped, and is linked with the Iron Throne in Kingslanding.
Brighton: Chris Hughton
Hughton isn’t one for romance. ‘You don’t expect an army like ours to have it plain-sailing’, he warns his men. As such, his strategy is simple. Get everyone well inside the castle, and have them lump dragon-glass towards lone man Glenn Murray. It works for a bit, but that plan is unsustainable, and a negative approach costs Hughton and his army, who meet their end at the hands of the dead.
Burnley: Sean Dyche
Dyche is no slouch, and, having initially come face-to-face with the dead beyond the wall, is well prepared. Two banks of four thousand is the plan, and though some members of his army inevitably meet their end, the dead can’t get through, and a frustrated Night King accuses the Commander of Winterfell of Anti-war tactics. Not that wily Sean cares.
Cardiff: Neil Warnock
Warnock is not the most optimistic commander. ‘I wouldn’t bet on us to survive’, he announces to the army before the fight begins. Feeling betrayed because he was falsely promised more soldiers from Liverpool…ahem, the South, a stewing Warnock and his defeatist-esque mind-set are no match for the dead. At least he blames it all on Sean Bean before everything end.
Chelsea: Maurizio Sarri
Sarri has no room for external opinions on strategy before the war, as he sits alone atop a tower, using a dragon as a means to light his cigarette. His war strategy is a bit baffling, moving Lord Ngolo of House Kante out of the main hub of the city’s defences, and replacing him with Ser Jorginho. Chelsea square up against the army, but an over-reliance of Eden Hazard and his flaming sword eventually does for them, and the Army of Ice take the North.
Crystal Palace: Roy Hodgson
Reminiscing about his wonderful time with Aegon Targaryen in the past, Commander Roy is a bit confident of defeating the army of the dead, having experienced success in other places. But Palace have never been the most reliable army on their home soil, and, despite Lord Luka Milivojevic getting a few kills, Roy and his men can’t cope.
Everton: Marco Silva
A vibrant Everton army stand their ground against the wights, with the energy of Ser Richarlison aiding them to cut through the Army of Ice. But Silva’s army are susceptible on the aerial front, and with Silva inexplicably reluctant to deploy his dragons, the Night King uses his to effect, and Everton fall.
Fulham: Scott Parker
Commander Scott calls for commitment and desire from his Fulham army, as the army approach. His troops show said commitment and desire, but that can’t make up for their inadequacies, particularly with Ser Le Marchand and Ser Seri failing to hold their own. The dead hardly break sweat in overwhelming Scott’s army.
Huddersfield: Jan Siewert
Huddersfield’s army has previous with the dead, having battled them in Hardhome. But the events in that village saw them lose former Commander Wagner, and Jan Siewert now commands the army in the bid to protect Winterfell. But Huddersfield mount little effort in the North, particularly with leading soldiers Steve Mounie, Laurent Depoitre and Adam Diakhaby, all former free folk, staggeringly going into the battle field without their weapons. It was not a pretty sight.
Leicester: Brendan Rodgers
Led by Lord Brendan, a Leicester army, with youth at the front, and experiencing manning the gates, give the dead a fight. But ultimately, it’s not enough, and Rodgers’ army and their direfoxes fail. Rodgers does manage to leave Winterfell, alive, though, and travels to the citadel, where he pens his account of the war, praising his soldiers’ ‘character’ on the day.
Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp
Laden with fighting quality, Commander Jurgen makes his army go for it, with led by Brothers Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohammed Salah, formerly of the Night’s Watch, and both dragons deployed at the same time. The dragons are vanquished in the end, but the army in the North manage to beat back the dead, thanks in no small part to a defence led by Lord Virgil.
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola
Having learned of the army marching to the north a while back, Commander Pep travels to the citadel, to read up on the White Walkers and tactical ripostes before the battle begins. It is the Juego de Posicion for Pep and his Man City army when the battle begins, their power of positional sense leaving the dead bewildered. There are a few casualties on Pep’s side, but they get the better of the wights, unleashing the dragons for the crowning glory. But some parts of the seven kingdoms are not convinced, and still refer to the Commander as a ‘Bald fraud’.
Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Lord Ole took charge of the United army a while back, after former commander Jose was executed for demanding too much respect. Commander Ole began with fruition, triumphing in the ‘Battle of the Caretakers’ a while back, even Ser Philip Jones and Ser Christopher of House Smalling showing quality. But things look less-than comfortable with the dead coming towards the north. However, Commander Ole can look towards the expertise of Maester Ferguson with optimism, as well as memories of when Aegon conquered the world in 1999. That’s nowhere near enough, though, particularly with inadequate soldiers like sellsword Fred, and Ser Ashley the Young, who’s somehow Ole’s captain of the army. Ole and some of his troops survive and retreat to the south, where the commander knows he will need reinforcements to win this war.
Newcastle: Rafa Benitez
Commander Rafa has affection towards the north, despite hailing from Essos. Rafa’s hands are somewhat tied, though, as a result of the Iron Bank, led by Lord Mike Ashley, refusing to help with funds. So, Benitez sacrifices a few of his men for the greater good, aiming to make it final 15-minute battle. With Lords Miguel of House Almiron, Ayoze of House Perez, and Salomon of House Rondon in the battle field, Rafa’s Toon Army sweat fire and blood to beat back the army of the dead, just about succeeding. But this battle has drained a lot out of the commander, and can he continue?
Southampton: Ralph Hasenhuttl
Commander Ralph is a breath of fresh air following the previous command of Ser Hughes the Grumpy Knight, executed after his uncertainty towards Three-Eyed-VAR-Raven Bran Stark. Ralph’s troops look doomed to fail, but put up a good faith, with Lord James of House Ward-Prowse and Jan Valery Snow leading the charge. Sadly, it’s not enough.
Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino has doubts in his mind. He could easily be in the Isle of Bernabeu right now, instead of having to slog it out here. But he must put his mind off that, having been informed by Tormund Janssen that the dead are already on their way. With key members of his army sidelined and needing milk of the poppy, Commander Poch has to get the best out of a depleted army. But to the surprise of many, his army triumphs, thanks unlikely heroes in Lords Fernando Llorente and Moussa Sissoko. Yet, many are still sceptical of Poch, because how many titles does he have in the seven kingdoms?
Watford: Javi Gracia
Javi Gracia spends night planning the perfect strategy, taking trusted lieutenant Lord Abdoulaye Doucoure with him everywhere he went. But things don’t go according to plan, when Ser Troy Deeney decides to rush into the battle, trusting the lord of light, and his cojones. It was quite the epic fail.
West Ham: Manuel Pellegrini
Commander Manuel goes into this fight with the odds against his army. And with good reason, the Iron Army haven’t had a good time since siding with the mad king (Avram Grant) years ago. A disjointed army more than holds its own against the dead, with Lord Declan Rice of High Garden and Ser Felipe Anderson. Ultimately, the inevitable failure arises, and in the far away city of Narth, Samwell Allardyce grins in schadenfreude at the news.
Wolves: Nuno Esprito Santo
Empowered by the savvy Braavosi operator Jorge Mendes, Esprito Santo leads his ambitious warriors into battle. They take out a fair amount of White Walkers, but can’t get to the Night King, and their shocking ineptitude against the mere wights is their undoing. Who would have thought it?