The Foxes have embarrassed us all
As great as it is for Leicester (though not necessarily for ‘football’ despite the narrative) it’s an embarrassment for every other team in the league.
An embarrassment for the Big Sam’s and Pulis’s who think that keeping a club up is the sole ambition that can or should be aimed for and that fans should be grateful and compliant for watching their eye-bleeding awful brand of football if that goal is achieved.
An embarrassment for the little Englanders/Britainers that frequent the media here who universally derided and mocked the appointment of Ranieri at the start of the year and now throw themselves to declare what a great guy he is.
An embarrassment to Geoff Stelling and his rant as to why Aston Villa got relegated – ‘you sack a good, young English manager, you appoint a foreign manager out of his depth, and you end up signing a bunch of Frenchmen no one has ever heard of’. No doubt Geoff had done a lot of scouting of Kante and Mahrez.
An embarrassment to Liverpool and Arsenal in particular as you say given their failures to win a title. No Moneybags Blackburn excuse for this one. Years of mismanagement and failure to take opportunities that have presented themselves.
Mainly though it’s an embarrassment for every ‘big’ team in the EPL.
Years of throwing good money after bad on evermore mediocre players.
City have barely improved since their first title.
Utd have spent £300m+ with no sales the last two years to still rely on long balls to Fellaini.
Chelsea have been an embarrassment of egos and self serving interests and their best two players this year play for City and Everton.
Arsenal have astonishingly been the only team in Europe not to sign a single outfield player in the summer and then complained about an injury crisis and fixture congestion.
And Liverpool have been a basket case in the transfer market for 30 years and only gotten worse the past two and are a decade behind off the pitch.
Only Tottenham deserve credit belatedly.
So well done Leicester, well earned rather than simply deserved as other clubs seem to think these things are win. But in particular for pointing out the deficiencies of others and shame on the rest of the good ship EPL and all who sail in her.
And next season normal service will resume as this does not herald a brave new dawn.
Lindsay Bell, Dublin.
More Foxy thoughts
*You brilliant foxy b#stards! A deserved title and one that has rightly got just about every other team in the league taking a good look at themselves: the underachieving big teams asking why this upstart side has got the better of them (short answer: because they’re very good); everyone else is daring to dream that it could have been them, or could be next season.
*The comparison between City and Nottingham Forest has been worn out, but while the two managers could not be much more different in terms of personality, one of the keys to both successes was the approach to recruitment: neither team had the “best” players, they had the “right” players and moulded them into the best team. While Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy won player of the year awards, several of their teammates garnered votes as well, a testament to how good the team was.
*Last week I mentioned City becoming a big club because of how touchy some of their fans were on F365. The transformation into big club was arguably completed on Sunday, when the BBC’s preview carried quotes from someone who grew up supporting Arsenal but recently switched his allegiance to City.
*John Nicholson is a long-time critic of people who insist on detracting from Claudio Ranieri by giving credit to Nigel Pearson, but he came up with the killer line this week. It’s telling that despite the good run he set his City side on at the end of last season, Pearson has not found employment since leaving the King Power Stadium, despite being linked with several vacancies in the top two divisions.
*A word of commiseration for Tottenham Hotspur. Their best season in a long time and they will still be seen as losers in a lot of people’s eyes. Their players and manager seem refreshingly un-c##tish, and anyone who is willing to spend 90 minutes kicking lumps out of Chelsea players is all right by me.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Leicester ain’t no fairytale
As an Arsenal fan, and not too bitter a Gooner it must be said about Leicester’s title win, good on them, I sat there chortling to myself watching Tottenham utterly implode after Eden Hazard did his first truly great bit of play all season. Oh come on, Spurs fans, once the dust has settled even you will see it was an extremely Spurs’y thing that happened.
But what happened next was what I knew would happen next – the media’s insistence that everyone loves Leicester and buys avidly in to this so-called “fairytale”. Now, just to confirm to the baying F365 mailboxers before I’m dragged through the next mailbox kicking and screaming, I’m thrilled for Leicester I really am. I think it’s brilliant that, despite what I’m going to write next, that little Leicester City with their top 4 cast-offs and their charming manager and their non-league striker have stuck together, played fabulously simple yet difficult to stop football, and have surely won over the vast majority of football fans to some degree. They’ve largely won me over.
BUT – I’m sorry but I’m not just buying the fairytale. It’s a hell of a yarn, but it’s no fairytale.
I’ll only mention here, without going in to detail, what nasty pieces of work Jamie Vardy and Danny Simpson are. Let’s not also forget that Leicester are in the middle of a Financial Fair Play investigation, with the Football League investigating a very odd, FFP-circumventing sponsorship deal the season they got promoted to the Premier League. For those who may not know, Leicester’s owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha owns King Power, their biggest sponsor (stadium named after them and primary shirt sponsors). David and Lisa Richards, the children of former Premier League Chairman, Sir Dave Richards, formed a company called Trestellar Limited who, four days after forming, bought the rights to the shirt sponsorship deal before promptly selling the rights straight back to King Power. Trestellar Limited, it should be noted, cannot be found physically at their listed address. Nor do they have a telephone number or website. What it did mean is that Leicester’s accounts – they claim – complied with FFP after they’d spent £100m on new players and their hefty (for the Championship) wages.
So as it stands, I’m genuinely going to enjoy the remarkable success story that has been Leicester City, but I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite
I’ll be honest, I feel like something is missing inside of me. Pretty much everyone I know and everyone who writes on here is really happy that Leicester won the league. It’s a fairytale. It’s re-written the rule book.
I feel really numb to all of it. It’s not my team that’s won it so why should I care? I know some of you probably are really happy for them but it honestly feels like cheap, plastic platitudes to me (maybe that says more about me).
The only funny part is that Spurs had their best chance ever of a league and fell short of Leicester. If you ever wanted a reminder of how irrelevant Spurs are, there you go.
£20 of Leicester to go down next season.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Is Leicester’s success the best thing for the future?
First off, let me extend my heartiest congratulations to them. They are deserved winners of the league and their victory against the odds is an astonishing achievement that has rightly been lauded across the board.
The broader point I want to address is whether a more regular occurrence of an underdog winning the title would actually be good for the game. I don’t think so because a large part of the allure of sport, to me at least, is witnessing epic battles of giants.
For example, mens’ tennis just wouldn’t have the same appeal it has if a different player from the top 50 won Wimbledon each year instead of a ten-year period dominated by ridiculously talented superstars such as Federer and Djokovic. Similarly, I think it’s far more interesting to see Barcelona and the two Madrids battling it out at the sharp end of each season instead of it being a crapshoot where any of the top twenty teams could win.
Why? Because the reason that Federer, Djokovic, Barcelona and Bayern are at the top is because they have vastly better talent than the rest of the field and put in their utmost to manifest that talent. As a spectator, I’d rather watch them perform at their peak instead of plucky underdogs outwork or out-think them on a regular basis.
I say let’s cherish Leicester’s victory for what it is, a heroic one-off achievement and let’s hope, for the sake of the sport, that it remains a rare event.
Getting giddy with it
Everything we knew was wrong. All our wisdom was received damaged. Teamwork, dedication, good players playing great football, a little luck, some sparks of genius and the title is delivered.
No multi-million pound transfers, no manager mind games, no post-season tour planned to pick up more official noodle partners.
It’s wonderful. Of course, it’s wonderful primarily for Leicester supporters. Joy unsurpassed for them. But also for the rest of us, this season gives us all a little bit of hope. I support Colchester United. I know we can’t be Man United, but we could, perhaps, to a lesser extent be Leicester. 8 years ago we were relegated to league one. Alongside us were Leicester, at one time, our peers. It’s unlikely, it’s improbable, but I no longer believe it’s impossible, that we could follow their lead and achieve more than any fan had dared to dream.
Thanks Leicester. For all of us, for whom football is regularly a parade of disappointment, you have allowed us, just a little, to dream of something better. I’m off to the bookies for a little flutter on a Leicester/CL, Newcastle/PL double.
Jeremy (turns out Cambiasso was holding them back all this time) Aves
What does this all mean for Arsene?
Leicester’s win shows what can happen if you reframe success.
The conventional wisdom had it that a relatively newly promoted team could not win the league and should be happy with a few seasons consolidating their Premier League status before winning the odd cup and enjoying a jaunt in Europe.
What Ranieri did was throw all of that out and got his players to believe anything was possible, that everyone could be beaten, and he managed to do that over a whole season.
The great irony is the only team to do the double of Fosse was a team that reframed success in a completely different way.
Wenger apologists will tell you Arsenal’s average league position is 2.8 since 1996, that we’re the only English club to have spent almost two continuous decades “competing” in the Champions League, that Wenger’s win ratio makes him the equal of Fergie.
The problem is while Wenger may value each of these metrics of success – most right thinking fans do not.
Success should only be measured in silverware and this season Wenger has had no excuses for not landing the title because it was his call we didn’t sign a striker.
To those that have a pop at Kroenke – I say Stan has done precisely what he promised to do – which is nothing. People forget that Stan was originally lauded for his tendency not to interfere with the running of the club, while Gazidis has pulled into some pretty big commercial deals. Of the three power players at Arsenal, it’s Wenger that’s most a fault for this season’s failure but no-one will hold him to account.
Arsenal fans don’t like singing so expecting any to hold up placards calling for change was always a forlorn hope.
I’m not sure at all Saturday was any vote of confidence, rather t
But change must happen at the Emirates and the most important change must be a reframing of success. We should look to Leicester as the perfect example of how to do it.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Sure you’ve got many emails from Leicester fans like me saying how awesome us winning the league is and it is (my hangover will lay testament to that!) So I’d like to say something a little different. There has been a lot of positive feeling from people all over the world (special mention to the Man Utd and Chelsea fans the a last 2 games really appreciate it). There has also been a lot of negative things said mainly centering around one player (no need to mention who he is) but there seems to be one man who week on week really didn’t seem to want us to win. He’s a member of one of the greatest ever English club sides, won multiple trophies, been working for the BBC since the dawn of time it seems, can grow a great mustache, can you guess who it is yet?
Yes it’s f***ing Mark Lawrenson! His BBC Premier League Predictions seem to be a one man war on all the positivity and excitement surrounding Leicester (has us currently 11th in his table, West Brom are 7th, Liverpool 4th??????), no matter what we did the week before he always seemed to want us to slip up the following week regardless of form and who we were playing. Even if we’d beaten Man City 24-0 the week before he’d still say we’d lose to Watford in the next match most likely.
Honestly there is no one involved in English football bar Wayne Rooney that gets overpaid for regularly delivering such dross. He appeared to be demoted from being a Match of the Day pundit because Lineker and Hansen seemed to despise working with him so much so no idea why he’s still employed, he doesn’t even appear to actually like football. He’s just a sad bitter old man out of time that needs to be put to pasture!
A response to the ‘fraud’ claims
I was trying to avoid the mailbox today but had a glance on my lunch and was surprised to see Spurs failure being enjoyed, not by Chelsea or Arsenal fans, but bizarrely, by Liverpool fans.
It’s a strange phenomenon, but let’s look at these points
Frauds – we will most likely finish the season with the best defence and highest goals scored. We have consistently played to a high standard and from the top teams have only lost to Leicester and Utd (an unfortunate own goal on the opening day)
Wins – whereas Leicester have shown the relentless single goal wins that are the hallmark of title winning sides, Spurs have won 14 of their 19 wins by more than one goal. On nine occasions we have won by 3 goals or more.
As a team we’ve struggled with a lack of depth in the forward area which hasn’t allowed us to have much impact with our substitutions.
‘Benefitted from big teams underperforming’ – this is a bugbear. It is not Tottenhams responsibility to create quality opposition for Tottenham. We have been consistent and at times excellent. We haven’t lost to Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City this year, four of the five clubs with a bigger budget than us. Often these were tight games that we controlled but didn’t have extra quality to kill off the game. This is something we’ll be able to address now we have additional TV and Champions League income.
Liverpool comparison – a few years ago, in the most uncompetitive Premier League to date, based on average points of the top 4, Liverpool had a good season and were close to the title. This however was done under optimal conditions. Barely any injuries, only a couple of suspensions (your own fault) and most importantly, only playing 66% of games your title rivals did. Spurs have had to play in Europe and domestic cups with 1 striker in their squad all season. 1. All season. Last night was our 56th game. Leicester have played 41.
You really don’t have anything to shout about at the moment. You’re barely scraping into Europe with ridiculous expenditure over the past few years.
Probably best to belt up and come back when you’re a genuine rival of Tottenham, as you’ve finished behind us 7 times in 8 years with a bigger budget every year. That must make you extremely Gegendepressed.
All the best for next years failed title bid.
In respond to Shane (Already nervous about Thursday), calling the side which is currently second with a +39 goal difference a ‘fraud’ is quite the stretch! When we’ve been good, we’ve been very, very good, and have dished out a greater number of thrashings than anyone this season. Witness the tonkings given to Man U, City and West Ham, among others, of what happens when we’ve clicked, and if you’d given any Spurs fan top 3 and +40 GD after our 0 wins from four matches in August, well, give me your hand…
However this is a young team with a number of weaknesses. We can play at 100 miles an hour, but struggle to play at 80 when tiring and with a slender lead. This season against Stoke, Arsenal (twice), Newcastle, West Brom and now Chelsea we’ve held leads and been comfortable, but not been able to lock down the game. A big reason is the lack of match control and passing ability of both Dier and Dembele, who have some great attributes but lack the game nous of someone like Carrick. Bentaleb hasn’t come on as hoped. Aside from some striker support this should be a priority summer target.
Last night though I loved us getting stuck in and giving them a good kicking. The league was all but gone, so watching Pedro and Fabregas rolling around crying, Costa being out Costa-d (bar Dembele who went too far), Terry trying in vain to be noticed and important when it kicked off, etc, a great spectacle and not in line with our soft touch past. With Alli, Kane and Poch on long-term contracts and CL next year, the future is here! Congratulations to Leicester.
Graham (there is still a St Totteringham’s day to avoid), THFC
Ok Shane (Already nervous about Thursday), Ireland, LFC I’ll bite…
You’re right, they were unable to beat Liverpool in either meeting this season, that well worn yardstick by which all success should be measured. FRAUDS. EXPOSED.
Lets ignore the 6-2 aggregate score over Man City this season, the 3-0 thumping of Man United, the league high 6 match winning run, the fact they have conceded 28 goals in 36 league games, (6 less than any other team) the fact they have only been outscored by Man City this season. If we ignore the 4 players in the PFA team of the year, the PFA young player of the year, the leagues top scorer, Pochettino’s 2 manager of the month awards and the 13 clean sheets we come to the truly rotten “DNA” of a fraudulent club, your instincts have been proven right.
I’m sure you’ll agree that we should call for Leicester to also be labelled as frauds, their current points total being enough for only 5th place in 2013/14.
Yes, Spurs players were dirty last night, goaded by both Chelsea players and fans, if anything this side should be lauded for their part in the greatest Premier League season to date. A young side and manager who will go on to bigger and better things. Oh and of course Dembele should get a bigger ban than Suarez did for his third biting incident on a football pitch, the comparisons are uncanny.
Maybe channel your bitterness into something more constructive, like those nerves about your own team on Thursday.
In response to shane lfc, Spurs have been that good this season and in my opinion, albeit biased, they have played better football than Leicester for the most part. We fully deserve to be where we are, 2nd. I never for one moment expected us to win the league and as most spurs fans will testify it has just been a pleasure to be involved in the race. We have far exceeded expectations.
What we don’t need however is morons like yourself talking nonsense – spurs being frauds?! What tripe. (shame on you f365 for actually posting his mail).
As an aside wasn’t it just typical that Hazard’s one meaningful contribution this season was a super equaliser was night!
I must say though, ignoring the result, it was just lovely to see Chelsea getting stamped on, kicked and bullied for a change. Poor little fabregas.
Dave THFC. (It was fun while it lasted)
The Liverpool v Spurs battle continues
Last night I experienced the full sense of schadenfreude. Watching Spurs spurs it up in the spursiest way possible just filled my heart with joy. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no playoffs and that every game matters. Or how vitrol supporters are to each other. Any Tottenham fans looking for relief should just stay away from the internet for a few days. It’s something every fan takes part in, and when your team is the team that screws the Poch you’ve just got to take it on the chin.
It makes me literally laugh out loud when I hear Spurs fans being optimistic about next year. It’s like they have had their heads in the sand for the past 10 months. In one year Chelsea went from champions to 9th place while Leicester went from relegation fodder to Champions, yet the mighty Spurs are going to break that mold and stay consistent. Next year is your year guys!
As it currently stands Spurs may be without (at least) Rose, Alli, Dembele and Lamela for the rest of the season and the latter two will miss the first game next season. St. Totteringhams day may yet be upon us.
I am as elated for Leicester winning the league as I am for Spurs to through away their best ever chance with both hands. The only thing that would make this season better is if Liverpool go all the way in Europa and grab that Champions League spot.
If Liverpool don’t at least we have a young squad and our future is bright 😉
Brian (Troll of the year must go to Hazard) LFC
Spurs and the Europa
So that went well for Spurs then.
When they effectively “threw” the tie against Dortmund to focus on the league, they were 5 points behind Leicester. Today they are 7 points being and have lost the title. Did putting out a reserve team in that competition make any difference to where they ended up? Would a full strength team have actually turned over Dortmund over two legs like a much weaker Liverpool team managed to do.
I will never understand why a team will suddenly decide to effective through a tournament, it never actually seems to have any real impact on the results in their main target. Surely it’s better to keep that momentum going – if you don’t want to be in a competition, throw it early, fail to get out of the group otherwise go for it, wouldn’t all Spurs fans rather have a semi-final to look forward to now on Thursday rather that looking over their shoulders wondering if their suspension riddled side can hold off Arsenal over the last 2 games. Imagine how that will feel if they sneak past you at the end!
Paul (congrats Leicester), Germany
Shame?! Joy, you mean?
Some Tottenham fans acting like we should be embarrassed about celebrating last night. The only one’s who should be embarrassed are Tottenham for putting in that performance.
It’s no NLD, but it’s still a big rivalry. We’re well aware we’ve been pants this season, are we supposed to go “oh well last season we were champions so guess we shouldn’t celebrate anything not on par with that.”? Any team would be equally jubilant if you had just come back from 2-0 down to end a rival’s title hopes.
Jimmy (roll on next season) Sham
Why the surprise about how dirty that game was?
On the one hand you had Chelsea’s players and manager vocally banging the drum about how important this game was to their otherwise disappointing season (as Hiddink and Hazard/Pedro/Fabregas did) whilst eagerly playing up their rivalry and home record against Spurs, coming up against a club in Spurs who were still going for a title and have endured many years of jibes about being a soft touch.
Was the reaction by Spurs in particular as the game ebbed away over the top? Yes, but given the tidal wave of genuine ill feeling Chelsea showed towards them throughout (plenty of niggly fouls of their own by the way) as well as in the build up to the game itself alongside everyone else willing Leicester to win the title it was hardly surprising such a young team led by such a fierce competitor in Pochettino wasn’t going to go down swinging. It was a gloriously entertaining game to see two sides want it so badly. Obvious congrats to Leicester their title fully deserved, but let’s not kid ourselves they had to play a comparable game of such ferocious intensity. Nobody has learned to hate them yet in the Premier League, as of about March they have been swept along on a wave of good will. They would need Forest to get promoted to possibly deal with a similar scenario.
My real interest is that now half that Spurs team will be traveling to the Euros with England this summer, and perhaps this game will be an excellent lesson. Nobody wants England to succeed outside England fans at a National Level, just like Spurs have had to deal with this season in the PL. A great experience and I won’t have complaints if they refuse to be a soft touch in a similar manner for England. Not sure how they will feel though seeing all the same people who couldn’t wait to see them fail at Spurs now urge them on at international level.
I was one of the very few Chelsea supporters who wanted Spurs to win last night. My Dad is a Spurs fan, so they are my second team, and I wanted him to experience them winning the league for the first time in 55 years. I must admit that I wobbled a bit when they were 2-0 up and an undeserved thrashing looked possible, but went back to supporting Spurs when Chelsea pulled one back. It was the first time that I have ever supported the other side against Chelsea, but I don’t regret it and still wish that Spurs had won the game.
Having said that I must disagree with the Spurs fans complaining about how Chelsea took too much glee in ruining Spurs’ hopes. They don’t realise just how much most of the Stamford Bridge regulars hate Spurs. It’s on a par with the Spurs-Arsenal rivalry, but so one-sided that Spurs fans probably aren’t aware just how strong the feeling is. There is the usual London rivalry of course but, for some reason, most Chelsea fans have always hated Spurs more than any other London club.
So I’d say to Spurs fans, how would they react if they came back from 2-0 down against Arsenal, and managed to prevent them winning the league, whilst simultaneously finishing off possibly the greatest fairytale in global sporting history? Especially if said fairytale involved a cherished ex-manager of theirs?
One of the best things about football is that even the most meaningless match can inspire great emotions. And last night’s game was far from meaningless. Even to Chelsea.
Chelsea should not get away with this season
A few people have mentioned this on F365, but I’m talking about everywhere in general (even in my friendship group), but are Chelsea getting away with what is one of the biggest underperformances in a season… ever? Borussia Dortmund had a meltdown of a season last year but still managed to claw their way back into a European place. Manchester United under Moyseh finished 7th, their lowest finish in god knows how long and as a Man Utd fan I didn’t hear the end of it. Arsenal, who continually get a top 4 finish every season don’t stop getting grief because of this (rightly so).
But this season for Chelsea, especially since Mourinho got sacked, has almost gone completely under the radar. This is a team that won the league at a cantar last season, not so long ago won the Champions League, and has an abundance of wealth and talent on their books. They are finishing mid-table. Currently 29 points off league leaders (and winners… so odd) Leicester City. Not even going to scrape a European place and have failed in all competitions entered this season.
What really angered me was the way their fans and players celebrated yesterday for a draw against Spurs, their usual whipping boys. Not just that, they played out the game for a draw and couldn’t care less about going for the win.
I just want the world to be right and fair. For as much plaudits Leicester are getting for their incredible season, shouldn’t we stop and pay some attention to the dross and failure that Chelsea have had this season? Please?
Ranieri is loved at the Bridge
Can I just set the record straight slightly on Chelsea fans with regards us celebrating Leicester’s and Ranieri’s success? Chelsea fans LOVED Ranieri when he was at the club. He brought through John terry, brought in players that would go on to become club legends like Lampard and Makelele. He was instrumental in us signing Petr Cech and Roben, though they would arrive after he had departed. He also had us playing some wonderful attacking football with Hasslebaink and Gudjohnson up front and had Zola playing arguably his finest football of his career despite being in his mid-thirties.
He was sacked because he had a great chance at winning there champions league and made serious tactical mistakes vs Monaco which he himself acknowledged. The board / owners sacked him, not the fans and even those fans who felt it was time for him to move on (and I was one of them) loved him for what he achieved and delivered at the club and we recognise the role he played in laying the foundations for our recent success.
He is – and has always been – a manager who is highly thought of among Chelsea fans for what he achieved while there and we’re not in any way revisionist when we’re celebrating his amazing achievement this year. I am delighted for him – a likeable man who has defied expectations and created a highly effective Leicester team against all the odds. I am as shocked as anyone and it hurts us being so uncompetitive this year but let’s be clear, many Chelsea fans are celebrating the success of a well-liked former manager as much (if not more than) seeing Spurs miss out.
From the point I knew that Chelsea couldn’t win the league, I have been fully behind Leicester’s unlikely charge, not least of all because of the affection I’ve held for Ranieri.
Half full or half empty?
Cortez asked in the bank holiday mailbox whether the United glass was half full or half empty; personally, I’d err on the side of half empty at this very moment, but that could change depending on the outcome of the final 4 games of our season. Overall though, I think it’s safe to say that the United glass is at 50% capacity right now.
I absolutely do not subscribe to the notion that van Gaal has been anything even approaching “fantastic”. I’d classify this season as: generally passable with patches of awfulness and brilliance interspersed. The problem I have with van Gaal is the duplicity of it all; he seems capable of being both excellent and awful in equal measure. I’ll try and sum this up with some pros and cons.
Young player development
Pro: he’s given debuts to a lot of young players, many of whom appear to have a bright future with the club (Martial, Rashford, Fosu-Mensah, Varela, Borthwick-Jackson in particular).
Con: he had no choice but to use so many of the young, untested players from the under 21s because he deliberately left gaps in his squad. Then, many of the encouraging prospects lost their places as soon as the seniors returned, Rashford being the main exception.
Pro: he cleared a lot of high earning and older players from the books and signed Martial and Schneiderlin, both of whom have been pretty good in their first season.
Con: he sold a few players who could still have played a part in the team – especially during our injury crisis – without really replacing them, left certain positions without adequate cover (centre-back, right-wing, striker at least), and made some questionable signings (Romero – did we need another ‘keeper?, Schweinsteiger – fitness problems and high wages).
Pro: we’re in the FA Cup final for the first time in ages and we’ve had a few good unbeaten runs in the league at good times, while it’s still mathematically possible to reach the top four.
Con: we were eliminated from the Champions League proper and League Cup at the first and second hurdles respectively, were eliminated from the Europa League with a whimper at the hands of Liverpool, have a good chance of missing out on the top four and went on our longest ever winless run in the Premier League.
Pro: he found a way to beat the bigger league teams quite regularly, and moved away from the 3-at-the-back experiment he tried initially. We haven’t conceded very many goals in the league this season either.
Con: We struggle to score goals with any regularity, have dropped far too many points against the lower-placed teams and many players have been either marginalised (Depay, Januzaj, Herrera, Valdes), overused (Fellaini, Rooney) or played out of position (Mata, Blind, Rojo, Martial to a point).
The injuries are a concern because most of them have been non-contact, which suggests to me that there’s an underlying problem in the training or the amount of exertion being required during matches. Van Gaal also seems incredibly stubborn, with an apparent unwillingness to be flexible with his approach; once he’s decided his method it seems that he sticks to it pretty rigidly, with the majority of his changes like-for-like. And while I appreciate the increased use of our younger players, you really can’t base a genuine four-competition challenge on such an experienced squad.
This summer we still need a pretty big overhaul, despite the work already done. There are a few extra players we can add to the ranks from the debutants this year, but there are a number of players who I would move on: Phil Jones, Valdes, Rojo, Carrick and Fellaini for definite, and I wouldn’t be sad to see Rooney and Schweinsteiger move on either (purely from a financial point of view – I don’t think they offer value for money). We also need to bring in at least four more first-team-ready players, even if most of the above stay: centre-back, centre-midfield, right-wing and striker would be my priorities.
It’s not all doom and gloom but the opportunities to do better have been there this season and we’ve let most of them pass us by. I do believe that we’ll be better off when van Gaal does leave the club than we he started, but (and especially if it’s this summer) the next guy will still have a lot to do to make us successful again.
The end of the Messiah manager
At this stage I’m guessing everything that can be said about Leicester’s miracle has been said, so I won’t go there. Hats off to them, though. They’ve been brilliant.
It’s been a colossal season. One of the myths I think this season has finally put to bed is that of the messiah manager. In the last few years a number of managers seem to have attained a kind of superstar status, at least in the media. The most obvious examples are Guardiola and Mourinho, but Klopp is up there too. The current darling is Simeone. If only Arsenal could get him, all their problems would be solved. Really? Heck I’d even put SAF in that list, though his achievements were over such a long period it’s harder to disprove.
Ultimately, I think it’s just a question of the right place at the right time. A perfect storm if you like. SAF was on the verge of the getting the boot from Utd, then in came a group of hungry, supremely talented youngsters that complemented the senior players perfectly. How many times will we see that happen again? Maybe never. Of course, they had to keep it going and they did. They built a legacy over a long period, but it all started with that perfect storm.
As for Mourinho, I would argue he has always gone to a team with the best (or equal) chance of success in the respective league. Porto, Chelsea (who let’s not forget came second in the league and reached the semis of the Champions League the season before), Inter, Real Madrid, and Chelsea again. He broke Barca’s hegemony, according to the media. Did he really? One La Liga title in a season when Barca had to contend with the departure of their own God (Guardiola) and the news that his replacement had got cancer. On paper, that Madrid side were just as good as Barca. If he was as good as he likes to think, he should have won more.
And finally Guardiola himself. Does anyone really think he’s been a success at Bayern? It’s a mystery that he even chose to go there. He inherited a sublime side that had just won the treble. And what has he done with it? OK, we don’t yet know the outcome of this year’s Champions League (second leg vs. Atletico tonight) but surely a messiah like him could have been expected to achieve more with that side. Is that what Citeh are expecting?
So can we finally agree that a side’s success is more a question of a host of factors coming together, and not just the workings of a superstar manager. Had Brendan Rodgers won the league with Liverpool in 13/14, he’d probably have attained guru status. Instead, after the Gerrard slip, he became an object of derision.
So thanks Claudio Ranieri for proving that you don’t need a media darling manager to win the league. Funny really how nobody in the media has declared Ranieri a genius or messiah. He’s just a nice gentleman who got there with hard work.
All the best
Mick, LFC, Basel