UPDATED Monday 28 December 2015
News following Christmas Bank Holiday football
It has been one of those years for top flight managers getting the sack in English football, so there are new (if not fresh) faces around the patch and in charge at some quarter of the twenty premiership clubs.
British “Big Sam” Allardyce was (unfairly?) shown the door from the finish of last season at West Ham [to be replaced by a Croatian Slaven Bilić this season – will he be good enough to survive though? He has indeed had some memorable results at West Ham so far, but was got rid of by Lokomotiv Moscow two years ago, and then by Besiktas (Turkey) at the end of last season]; however the replaced Allardyce has also form in that respect, hasn’t he? Like being terminated at Blackpool (1996), Newcastle (2008), and Blackburn (2010). To give him credit he is very resilient though, so nevertheless he is back in rat race Premiership management again this season, taking over at Sunderland, when Dutchman Dick Advocaat kind of got the push in October. Sunderland got beat on Boxing Day and are one from bottom and will remain there whatever their result at home against Liverpool tomorrow night as they cannot overtake their local rivals Newcastle.
Another October casualty shown the exit door after three years was Englishman Brendan Rodgers at iconic Liverpool. His team were within a hairs breadth of winning the Premiership the season before last (losing out to Man City on the ‘final’ day!), finished sixth last time out, but they had a very lackluster start to this year’s campaign, didn’t they? He went suddenly, to be replaced immediately by a supposedly new Messiah and football genius German Jurgen Klopp, someone who has in fact now delivered a ‘worse’ record than Rodgers was achieving at the season start that got him the sack (oh dear, eh?). Liverpool got a win against top firing Leicester on Christmas Day (a good result), and play their second Christmas match tomorrow night against lowly Sunderland, so another win would leapfrog them over Man U into 6th place.
Current bottom of the table Aston Villa put the boot in on new boy and another Englishman, dejected and rejected, Tim Sherwood in black October, despite him having saved them from the drop last season and magnificently taking them even to the Cup Final as well (where they lost to the holders Arsenal). Replacement, another foreigner Frenchie Rémi Garde, doesn’t seem to have done them much good, does it? No, Sherwood was handled the poisoned chalice by depleting his squad, and not allowing him to get in players, so he has simply passed it on to Garde, who cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear as the idiom goes, can he? No, under him they have never yet won even one game, hence they are heading down (as eighty percent of people think) possibly perhaps avoiding the record of the lowest haul of points ever (they currently have eight points when Derby got relegated with the current lowest total of eleven points in the 2007-8 season). Aston Villa continues their relentless march into the lower division with yet another dire display and defeat (a 2-0 loss away to Norwich).
Young talented Gary Monk bit the dust at Swansea in December in his second season, after a sudden fall from grace (‘fifteenth’ in the table) following previous successes in his early time there (including the club’s first ever win over Manchester United and a double win over Arsenal to boot). Caretaker manager Alan Curtis hasn’t really helped matters however, as they are now ‘sixteenth’ and only one point off the relegation zone – the club are looking for a new permanent manager in January (from abroad of course!). Swansea snatched a point in a dour 0-0 away draw at top performing Chrystal Palace, but nevertheless drop a place to 17th and now are only one above the relegation zone.
The latest one to hit the buffers, is Portuguese Jose Mourinho, who was also sent packing in December by Chelsea (his second demise at the same club) after two and a half years and winning the title only last year to boot – but a string of bad results has left them lingering near the drop zone this season, hasn’t it? Dutchman Guus Hiddink has been appointed as caretaker manager till the end of the season [when they are hoping to get Spaniard Pep Guardiola (currently at Bayern Munich) signed-up ahead of Manchester City]. Hiddink was appointed in a similar role in 2009 when Chelsea sacked Brazilian/Italian Luiz Felipe Scolari and he then won the FA Cup and indeed lost only one game during his twenty match tenure. Chelsea, albeit with some players missing, blew their chance to move out of troubled waters in a goalless game against Man U at Old Trafford, so they have done nothing for the credibility of their misfiring stars – some of them can expect to be on their way out (like the previous manager).
In a recent post here, it was identified that Dutchman Louis van Gaal (LVG) was the latest candidate this season for the boot from his football manager’s role, because of the shockingly bad performances rolled out by his team, At a press conference a few day ago, in advance of their latest match (against middle of the road Stoke), an ill-tempered LVG decried the speculation about his future at the club and lambasted the media for what he called their unwarranted speculation, and the adverse effect it had on his family and friends. Not a word of apology to the paying fans for the dreadful standard of football his ultra expensive team has displayed this season. Not a glimmer of acceptance for responsibility for poor ineffective tactics, team selection, and player motivation. Not a hint of embarrassment at turning a top team into cannon fodder for mediocre teams like Norwich. Not a sign of dropping his arrogance and big-headed attitude. Not a drop of shame at pocketing six million pounds a year to bring about mayhem and failure. He stormed off after less than five minutes without a word about the forthcoming match, and making comments to show that he was solely blaming the Press for all his problems. Probably just as well that he didn’t talk about the match, because subsequently Stoke took his side apart and exposed his players’ total lack of commitment and fight – so Man U lost two-nil after another rubbish display (their fourth defeat in a row and now seven games without a win – their worse performance in over fifty years and IF they lose today, it will be the most dire run for nigh-on eighty years). After the Stoke match LVG said his players were “frightened” to play good football (why would that be, eh?) and admitted he might have to walk away (the loyal fans would say ‘the sooner the better’, wouldn’t they?). David Moyes was offloaded by Man U because his results after fifty odd games were deemed to be too bad, as was seventh slot in the table, and LVG was handed the plum role, and this is his second season there (finished fourth first time round, were though knocked out of FA Cup and thrashed by a League 1 side in the first round of the League Cup).
However, the fans may be regretting that change of managers now, because his record is not just as bad as Moyes – it is a damned sight worse! The win percentage is DOWN, goals per game is DOWN, the longest unbeaten run is DOWN, the longest winless run is UP, but because he has turned the team into a defence orientated shambles, they have conceded less goals. With eighteen games played in the Premiership his team have scored nine less goals, had forty-one less shots with twenty-two less of them on target. They were beaten in the FA Community Shield, are already out of Europe’s Champions League, in the FA Cup their two hundred and fifty million pound team were held to a goalless draw by zero cost Cambridge from the lower end of League 2 (and needed a home replay to proceed), and moreover, by tonight they could well be down to seventh (or lower) in the table, perhaps?
Many thought that LVG would get the chop before the Christmas games, but he is still there in charge for today’s home game at Old Trafford against Chelsea starting 5.30pm. Two misfiring rich teams full of expensive players meet each other in an interesting management contest. The football gurus conclude that Man U has a minus 273 (absolute zero) chance of winning this one (but what do they know, eh?), as they expect the Blues to be firing on all cylinders being rejuvenated and reinvigorated by interim manager Hiddink in his second game in charge (he got a draw in the first at home against high flying Watford on Boxing Day). Chelsea will though be without their petulant, confrontational, but influential Brazil born Spanish-adopted striker Diego Costa (21 goals last season & 5 so far this campaign) who collected his fifth yellow card so is banned. A further defeat will have the home fans baying for the manager’s blood –so perhaps LVG will commit hari-kiri on the pitch, eh?
Jose Mourinho is waiting in the wings for the vacancy at Man U, a job he has coveted for five years (you see he had high hopes of succeeding Alex Ferguson), but does his face really fit there? He certainly thinks that he is bigger than any club and that will not go down well at such a historic unit as MU, will it? It is rumored (rightly or wrongly) that he is wanted back at Real Madrid, but he is definitely keeping his powder dry on that one for now, until he sees how the Man U situation pans out – he would certainly have to take a pay cut however as Man U would only fork-out about half of the £12 million he was (and still is, despite being sacked) getting from Chelsea.
LVG just about saved his bacon (for now anyway) with yet another goalless draw (their fifth in the last eight matches there) against Chelsea at Old Trafford. He changed tack and sent out a team prepared to attack and they looked a completely different outfit and that impressed the fans and pundits. The match therefore left LVG in defiant mood, but his arrogance still shone through. Their one point gained, plus the failure of Watford to get any kind of result against Tottenham, meant that MU remained 6th – but that could all change tomorrow if Liverpool overtake them and push them further down to 7th. [With only 30 points in 19 games MU have got the lowest number in a quarter of a century]
[Many observers would be happiest if Mourinho swans out of English football for good, and packs his bags for warmer climates, wouldn’t they?].