AVB Under Pressure For A Reason

Whilst talk of AVB getting the sack may be rather premature, Spurs' manager is under pressure for a reason. Plus, Allardyce, Jol, Mourinho, Swansea's defence and Artur Boruc...

Last Updated: 29/11/13 at 09:55 Post Comment

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Andre Villas-Boas
No-one expected Spurs to get anything at the Etihad last weekend but very few could have predicted the catastrophic capitulation that took place on Sunday afternoon. Manchester City are a wonderful side already (particularly at home) without a defence completely absolving themselves of positional responsibility on numerous occasions. It was men against boys.

This week's discussion over Andre Villas-Boas' continued employment has been largely blamed on an over-zealous tabloid media desperate to find a story where none may exist. That is certainly the manager's line, and he's sticking to it: "There is only one (area) that I come under pressure from, which is the press. I have the confidence of the board. I have the confidence of my players and I have to move on to do a proper job."

Unfortunately, that's just how it works Andre. Spurs may have more points than at this stage last season, but the fact remains that the home defeat to West Ham was unacceptable, the home defeat to Newcastle was unsatisfactory and the manner of the shellacking at the hands of City was deeply humbling. It doesn't matter who you are and which team you are managing, such results invite pressure upon your position.

The job of the manager is to get the most out of a group of players, create a formation and strategy that allows fluidity and understanding, and ensure results match up to pre-season expectations. AVB is currently meeting none of these requirements. Patience should be allowed given the upheaval in the summer with the departure of Gareth Bale, but this is a virtue with a short lifespan in a league in which fourth is everything and fifth nothing.

Being likeable, young, foreign or intelligent shouldn't make you more deserving of criticism from supporters or the media (and certain journalists do have their own specific agenda on the issue), but nor does it make you immune to reasonable rules of logic in attracting blame. Defeat against Manchester United should not see AVB get the sack, but it would certainly serve to further increase already substantial pressure.


Sam Allardyce
"More worryingly for Allardyce is the fact that his side have taken just seven points since the opening day - that's the same as Sunderland, and that they have scored from just two of their last 56 shots in the league."

Let's update last week's Big Weekend accordingly - More worryingly for Allardyce is the fact that his side have taken just seven points since the opening day - that's the same as Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and that they have scored from just two of their last 64 shots in the league.

West Ham were not expected to beat Chelsea. They were also not expected to roll over and have their bellies tickled by a London rival, to admit defeat without putting up a fight or have just one shot on target at home. But, because they were underdogs, they were forgiven.

Allardyce's side are, however, expected to beat Fulham at home, and this time a draw won't do, much less a lack of noticeable desire. The recent lack of any creativity, ingenuity or excitement in their performances will also not wash for much longer with either owners or supporters. Only being kept out of the relegation zone by Saturday's opponents, progression is desperately needed.

West Ham currently look like a rotten apple bobbing in a particularly murky pool that represents the dross in the lower half of the Premier League. Presumably that's not the look that Allardici was after?


Jose Mourinho
Whilst the victory at the Boleyn Ground last weekend helped to ease the doubts after one point had been taken from two games against Newcastle (a) and West Brom (h), the lacklustre defeat to Basel splashed cold water on the faces of those who believed the club's issues to be resolved. This was a performance described as 'dribbling bumjuice' by one Chelsea commenter - that's quite the evocative image.

Sunday's game is crucial for Mourinho not just because of the manner of Chelsea's defeat but because the manager admitted that it was down to his poor team selection. "I should have made more changes from Saturday. I could see many signs of fatigue. Probably I should have changed the team. Today is a day when I'm disappointed, not upset with the players."

As I wondered in Champions League Winners and Losers, the decision to pick ten of the same players in Switzerland as in East London four days previously was completely unfathomable, given the strength of Chelsea's squad and that the Premier League must surely have been the priority and Chelsea's comfortable Champions league position.

In admitting that his squad looked tired and jaded, Mourinho must surely have revealed that he must make changes for Sunday - players don't lose fatigue in three days. If that is the case, then Chelsea will be taking on Southampton with a team outside of that considered by the manager to be his best. Frank Lampard can no longer play three games in a week for example, and therefore we must assume that he will not start - so why pick him in the Champions League?

Whatever the reasoning, if Chelsea don't beat the Saints then Jose's self-confessed mistake may well have more effect that just the defeat against Basel.


Newcastle
On November 1st Newcastle had 11 points - just three points above the bottom three - and were eight behind Spurs in fourth. After three consecutive victories they now find themselves above Spurs, are ten points ahead of the relegation zone and just two points behind the top four. If Newcastle beat West Brom on Saturday they will go one point off fourth, an unbelievable achievement given that one half of their summer signings were Joe Kinnear.

A chance to win four consecutive league matches for the second time in seven years, hugely impressive given that Spurs and Chelsea would be two of their victims. As Sarah Winterburn said this week, we might have to start giving Alan Pardew some credit.


Martin Jol
The surprise will not be when Jol leaves his position, but that he has survived until now. The Dutchman currently has the look of an old dog slowly pulling himself round his master's yard, and it's surely time for Shahid Khan to take Old Trusty into the woods and do the decent thing, breathing some new life and invigoration back to the Cottage.

The longer Khan waits (unless something changes remarkably quickly), the more difficult it will be to arrest a slide that currently sees Fulham heading towards the Championship. QPR, Swansea (on the last day when they were on the beach), Sunderland, Stoke and Crystal Palace are Fulham's only league wins since March.


Crystal Palace
The first week at the Selhurst Park Pulis Academy went perfectly, the baseball-capped Adonis giving Barry Bannan a hardened stare and the threat of a naked headbutt, meaning he immediately scored. As an aside, it's worth remembering that Gerard Houllier once described Bannan in the following terms: "Xavi, Iniesta, Messi. You can watch and wonder if they are playing in the youth team sometimes. They have fast technique and young Barry has all of that."

Palace may have been woeful for large parts of this season, but there is an argument to suggest that they now have a manager better than at least five other clubs in the bottom half of the table, and certainly a manager more adept to a Premier League relegation dogfight.

Given that they are just three points of safety, is there any reason why Palace couldn't survive given an intelligent use of the January transfer window aided by the presence of Iain Moody, recruited from Cardiff?

NB - Did you know that in December 2012 Stoke City gave a trial to Kei Kamara and not one paper did a 'Pulis, Kamara, Action!' headline. The state of this country.


Liverpool's away defence
One win in six away games for Liverpool in a run stretching back to August, as draws against Everton, Newcastle and Swansea have hampered their progress and dampened expectations somewhat. Almost akin to a Manchester City-lite, Brendan Rodgers' side look ruthless at home but the defence seems shaky on the road - ten goals conceded in their last five away league matches is a worrying trend.

Most concerning of all (and pertinent for this weekend's game) was the sloppiness in defending from set pieces demonstrated in last week's Merseyside derby, where all three goals resulted from free kicks or corners as defenders consistently failed to pick up their men or clear the ball effectively. Given Hull's pragmatism (that's fluffy speak for 'are prepared to play ugly football'), one would expect a number of set pieces to be played long into the box to test out Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.


Norwich
Chris Hughton completes our triumvirate of managers (Allardyce and Jol the other two) that should consider themselves fortunate to still be in employment and, like Jol at Fulham, Hughton's time at Carrow Road has always felt like something of a short-term fix. Even after having gained a stay of execution after the second-half show against West Ham, the numbers still don't make for happy reading. Three wins all season and just ten goals scored - supporters are rightly restless.

Norwich's biggest issue is not that Hughton chose to spend £17m on four attackers this summer (although neglecting the defence has had its own issues), but that he has then been completely unable to provide such players with any form of service with which to impress. Their attacks are slow and stuttering, and they seem unable to offer any counter attacking threat.

You will see Hughton described as 'one of the nice guys of the game', but while he might warm the cockles of your heart it does not excuse consistent underperformance. The suspicion must be that Norwich's manager is not up to the task, and with Malky Mackay's situation at Cardiff never appearing far from tenuous, a decision to twist rather than stick doesn't seem far away.

Beat Crystal Pulis on Saturday and Hughton will again be able to breathe slightly easier. Lose (or even draw) and it may be desk-clearing time at Carrow Road.


Artur Boruc
After presumably being forced by Mauricio Pochettino to write out 1000 times 'I must not attempt Cruyff turns in my own penalty area' at Southampton's training ground on Monday, one hopes that Artur Boruc has learnt his lesson for his side's trip to Stamford Bridge this weekend.


Christian Benteke
It's not that Benteke has been dreadful of late, it's just that... erm, well he has been a bit dreadful of late.

Not scoring for six games is not panic stations, but when those six games include fixtures against Cardiff (h), West Ham (a), Norwich (a) and Everton (h), there is a reason for concern, and one goal since August (in defeat to Newcastle) doesn't make for much more pleasant reading.

Of course Benteke has proven perfectly capable of impressing on this stage, and therefore there is no reason to be sure that he cannot again, but as the drought continues one does wonder whether Paul Lambert is wishing back those summer rumours of £30million bids from the likes of Liverpool or Spurs?


Swansea's Defence
After a home assignment against Valencia, Swansea become the latest club to take the Manchester City Etihad test. Just the 22 in four matches and 41 all season scored by their opponents at home, so it shouldn't be an issue.

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