F365's Top Ten Conclusions After Ten Games

A vindicated chairman, a national team in some trouble, a man no longer special and another with the worst job in the world. Ten things we know after ten games...

Last Updated: 06/11/13 at 15:04 Post Comment

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10 - Some fans don't have their head in the sand
If any positives can be taken from the way Vincent Tan is putting his hand up Cardiff's collective bottom and making them dance like some sort of ludicrous puppet, it's heartening to see that not all fans are seduced by fleeting success. In their first season in the top flight for half a century, playing and winning their first game against Swansea in the top flight, there was still a 'Tan out' banner in the crowd, and demonstrations against their megalomaniacal owner after the game. It's a minor miracle that Malky Mackay hasn't been flipping tables all across South Wales, and the dignity with which he's reacted to this consistent undermining of his position has been remarkable. Winning games is nothing compared to your club still having a soul, and it's nice that some still know that.

9 - Nicola Cortese is vindicated
There was no little uproar from Southampton and elsewhere when Nicola Cortese decided to replace Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino in January. Adkins looked like he was turning the corner after a difficult start to the season for the newly promoted Saints, but Cortese decided that he had taken the team so far, and that was lovely, but now someone better was available. And, on the evidence of the first ten games of this season, he has been proved correct pretty emphatically, with Southampton sitting in sixth, with just one in the defeats column and the best defence in the Premier League. It was a crappy way to treat a decent man doing a decent job, but Cortese proved that one should not allow sentiment to cloud logic in football.

8 - Spending gazillions on some potent attackers does not guarantee a potent attack
Spurs spent some £70million on attacking talent in the summer. Spurs have taken the most shots at goal in the Premier League this season, with 175. Spurs have scored just nine goals, three from penalties. Trying to make sense of this game is sometimes like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a hill - baffling and pointless in equal measures.

7 - Turns out Roberto Martinez might know how to organise a defence
When most were declaring that Roberto Martinez was a great managerial talent, pointing to his FA Cup win and looking the other way when his relegation with Wigan was brought up, your correspondent could be found bawling 'BUT HE CAN'T ORGANISE A DEFENCE!' Wigan had the worst defensive record in the division last season, and didn't concede fewer than 60 goals in any of Martinez's four seasons with the Latics, so the numbers certainly pointed that way. However, Everton have kept five clean sheets and have let in fewer goals than at the same stage last season, suggesting that Martinez's leaky past could be put down more to Wigan's poor defenders, rather than the manager.

6 - England are in some trouble if Joe Hart doesn't win his place back
England frequently use players who are not first choice for their club sides. Gary Cahill would not be in Chelsea's best defence, Danny Welbeck is not one of Manchester United's best strikers or wingers, even Jack Wilshere might not, with everyone fit, play every week for Arsenal. There's something different about goalkeepers, though. We're frequently told they're a different breed, and perhaps cannot cope with the lack of match practice sitting on the increasingly elaborate benches of the Premier League. Joe Hart's demotion felt inevitable, the lack of confidence draining away the powers of a player whose game is built on confidence, but while Manchester City might be fine for a while with the perfectly adequate Costel Pantilimon, what of England? On the same weekend that Hart watched from behind Manuel Pellegrini, John Ruddy conceded seven, Fraser Forster fell like a 100-year-old oak as Celtic scraped a draw against Dundee United, Ben Foster returned from injury but not the West Brom first team and Jack Butland kept goal for Barnsley. Hart is still comfortably England's best option, which itself is a fairly panic-inducing statement for Roy Hodgson, and if he doesn't return to a) the City side and b) form, then the jaunt to Brazil might turn out to be pretty brief. Fortunately, with 28 games and seven months of the season remaining, he at least has time.

5 - Jose isn't that special anymore
He's still good, sure. Chelsea are second in the table, despite the Newcastle Embarrassment and the Everton Whoopsie, and they have a 100% record at home. However, he isn't special anymore. The force of his personality just isn't there these days; the twinkle in his eye is half-hidden with some very heavy lids; the insouciance has faded; he's around 9% less handsome than before; Jesus, he's even been wearing a tracksuit occasionally. Whither, 2005 Jose? We loved him. We loved his astonishing arrogance. We loved that he could back that arrogance up with a massive sack of trophies. We loved that, even though he generally managed a set of bastards, those bastards looked more like the members of a cult than a football team, greedily chugging the Kool-Aid disguised in Gatorade bottles. We loved that he referred to himself as winning the Champions League, rather than the team he managed. Actually, he still does that last one, but it doesn't carry the same weight. He (not they) might win things again, but it won't be the same. It will be a joyless victory, a functional insertion of Tab A into Slot B. Please Jose, think of the rest of us.

4 - Don't appoint an emotionally volatile lunatic as your manager
You would've thought they'd know from recent experience in the north-east that appointing a manager that we'll politely call 'emotionally volatile' inevitably ends in tears. Kevin Keegan left Newcastle twice before his time, Roy Keane proved too terrifying to stay at Sunderland - high emotion is fine in the stands, but in the dug-out a little more control is required. Those two men of course lasted a little longer and had more success than Paolo Di Canio, but history tells us that managers who live on the edge of sanity crash and burn, more often than not. Di Canio is an extreme example of this, seemingly unable to react to any situation in a rational manner, which made his demise as Sunderland manager not exactly the biggest shock in the world. Still, at least they rectified their error by bringing in a calm, sensible replacement...

3 - Learn from your mistakes
In 2011, Ian Holloway took Blackpool down having barely strengthened their defence, instead filling his squad with average attackers. In 2013, Ian Holloway started Crystal Palace's first season back in the Premier League by barely strengthening their defence, instead filling his squad with average attackers. Of course, he had to find some way to replace the departed Wilfried Zaha and the injured Glenn Murray, but Holloway tried to with a pool of inadequate stand-ins and at the expense of his backline. The result was a record of one win and seven defeats that saw him fall on his own sword, a tired and seemingly broken man who nonetheless did the right thing. Eventually, that is. While Palace fans will no doubt be grateful to Holloway for not sitting around and waiting to be sacked, stealing a living and potentially making their situation worse, one presumes that they would have been even more grateful if he'd built a squad fit for the purpose of staying in the Premier League.

2 - Liverpool aren't ready for the title. Yet
In some ways this season has come a year too early for Liverpool. When all the major contenders are in such flux, with changing managers and ending eras littering the top third of the Premier League, this was always going to be the most open title race in years. It might have been their time, their chance to challenge. However, it's clear from the opening ten games that, while Brendan Rodgers talks of Liverpool having a 'fighting chance' of challenging for the top spot (and, incidentally, there's nothing wrong with a positive mental attitude), they simply are not ready. There are too many holes in their squad, too many uncertainties about how Rodgers lines them up in certain games, too many fragilities. If this group was to stay together and be improved, then they might have a more robust unit in a year. The trouble is, everyone else may have gathered themselves by then, closing the shop once more. A shame, in many ways.

1 - David Moyes has the worst job in the world
It's a crime not to be ambitious these days. If a player chooses to move to a 'lesser' club he is derided as a whuss, someone who can't take the heat, not cut out for it etc. Ben Foster was a case in point - he didn't enjoy the pressure of playing for Manchester United, admitted as such, and is much happier in the quieter surrounds of West Brom. You're supposed to aim for the top, so by this logic managing the biggest club in the country is therefore the best job in the country.

Bollocks. As Manchester United manager, David Moyes cannot win. For every kind word after a solid decision, he receives ten spittle-flecked gales of abuse for a perceived error in judgement. This is of course true of any manager of a football club, with every fan thinking he or she can do better, but Moyes also has to deal with the spectre of Him looming over him, both figuratively and literally. Sitting in the Old Trafford dug-out, if Moyes looks ahead he can see a massive stand named after Him, turn around and He is in the directors' box, glowering and masticating, with a vaguely relieved look in his eyes that says 'I definitely left at the right time'. Moyes can't even escape him if he nips into Waterstones on Deansgate to look for a self-help book. Being the Guy After The Guy was not the gig you want - the Guy After The Guy After The Guy is the prime appointment. Wait for the inevitable crushing expectation and sun-blocking shadow to consign the post-Him era to failure, and with standards lowered you pick up the pieces. Following Him was always going to be a terrible job, but Moyes could never have turned it down, lest he be dismissed as that most terrible of things in football - the unambitious manager.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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