Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A mere seven weeks into the 2010-2011 Barclays Premier League season and the footballing world has turned on its head. Liverpool and Everton, eternal residents of topflight football, are lingering in and about the drop zone. Premier League debutantes Blackpool and the biennial newcomers of West Brom are in the top half of the table, giving supporters and casual observers alike reason to believe. Manchester United β€” the insatiable kings of world football, the game and the global marketing phenomenon β€” are off to their worst start in nine years. Moreover, last year’s wonder boy can do nothing right, on or off the pitch. And finally, the Big Four is looking more and more like the Big Two. That is to say, the two teams operating on financial losses to the tune of nine figures also happen to be the two teams that appear most likely to walk away with the Premier League title.

No, Toto. Kansas, this is not.

But wait. Sunday’s feature match in West London offered up some familiar headlines β€” and emotions. For yet another season, Arsenal came up empty-handed against their cross-city rivals, despite having the larger share of possession and a great number of chances once more. (An important point of reference here is: I’m a Gooner.) So for me and my fellow Gooners, this season is starting to feel a lot like the last season, and the one before that, and the one before that. And yes, Mr. Wenger, you are insane, as am I. For every season, I start out filled with hope and confidence, allured by 6-0 wins at home to Blackpool and Braga.

“This is the season all will be made right. The year when, finally, the moral rectitude of the Arsenal product will prevail and silence the naysayers.”

Then there is Didier Drogba, and cosmos are realigned, however cruel or unjust.

But something is different this season. Where I might have seen Arsenal’s title hopes seriously damaged by the Ivorian Machine alone from the couch of my (then) studio apartment in seasons past, this Sunday I watched Arsenal’s title hopes seriously damaged by the Ivorian Machine in a pub, with friends, each of whom having a vested interest in the outcome. In that I may take a little pride.

Last season, I realized that Fantasy ‘football’ was an incredible aide for familiarizing oneself with an otherwise foreign and less accessible sport. This summer, with the 2010-2011 EPL season quickly approaching and the post-World Cup hangover threatening to set in, I needed something to sustain the football fever that produced the largest match-viewing gatherings I had been apart of thus far.

Our EPL fantasy league was born. (The details of this league can be read elsewhere in this blog.)

Of course, reservations are to be had. Maybe, as another blogger on here has alluded to, fantasy fans are a bit ‘different’ from the rest of us. But as Alex’s ridiculous free-kick smashed the back of the Arsenal net in 85 minute, crushing my hope, and sending the arms of my smiling week-seven opponent skyward, knowing instantly that this wonder strike had secured her a victory, I knew that something good had come of this. “She got it. They got it.” This game I had fallen in love with on my own, in my studio apartment, was now theirs.

Too bad they’re all indirectly rooting for Chelsea.

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