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I am gonna look into my crystal ball and make a bold claim.
This is what I think will happen in terms of the relegation battle:
Brighton and/or Huddersfield won’t get another point for the rest of the season. Their respected fixtures are quite honestly, rock hard (old term, thought I would use it) so will be stranded on 35 points. (I repeat at least one of them. maybe both)
Southampton will manage to get themselves a couple of wins and a draw in the coming weeks, most likely against Leicester away, Bournemouth at home and Swansea away. This would also put them on 35 points also heading into Man City at home on the final day.
Now, Swansea are on 33 at the moment with Man City away, Chelsea at home and Bournemouth away. At best I think they can get a point or two from these games but it’s also likely they won’t get anything.
Then they have that Southampton game and given my prediction above, they will only draw this game at best. so they will be somewhere around the 35 point mark themselves heading into their showdown with Stoke (who I think will be already gone)
So, going into the last game of the season, we could have a situation where all four of these teams are sat on 35 points and we could have a goal difference decider on who gets dumped into the Championship. With all that being said here is who I think it will be:
15th – Swansea
16th – Huddersfield
17th – Southampton
18th – Brighton
19th – Stoke
20th – West Brom
Saints survive an onslaught from Man City and keep the score down to stay up on goal difference. Sorry, Brighton.
The Ginger Pirlo
Arsenal: Double winners 18/19
Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forrest. They lost the League Cup Final.
They finished SIXTH in the league… the year? 1988.
12 months later, they won their first league title IN OVER A DECADE.
Its happening. Season ticket renewed.
Manager of the season
As a Newcastle fan I think the manager of the season award is a 4 horse race and depends on what happens in the last 4-5 games. It’s a complex argument and it irks me when it’s reduced to ‘Could Pep win it with Tranmere?’ or ‘I could win the league with that group of players!’
Here is my shortlist, in order, with an explanation and conditions for the award:
1. Guardiola – If City win the league with a record points tally, record goals scored, etc., then they are undoubtedly one of the greatest sides in Premier League history. Nothing should be taken away from their achievement. People talk about a gulf in class between the top and bottom however I believe the quality and strength in depth across the league has never been better. This is highlighted by Guardiola’s admiration of players like Evans and Bertrand, who he’d like in his squad. Would Sir Alex have wanted Rob Page, Watford captain in the 99/00 season, in his treble winning squad? I think not.
2. Dyche – if Burnley finish on 60+ points and/or above Arsenal then the Burnley manager deserves the award (provided that city do not break all records, as mentioned previously). It would be Burnley’s finest season since the early 60’s and Dychiola should be allowed to celebrate with some freshly cut, crude-oil cigars or whatever it is that he enjoys so much that makes his voice so gravelly.
3. Benitez – If Newcastle finish on 50+ points and in the top 8 it will be a monumental achievement with huge credit going to Rafa. 3-4 more wins could do it and if, for whatever reason, City and Burnley have slightly underwhelming finishes the award should go to Tyneside. In this case it will be shared between himself and his coaching staff, as Rafa’s done previously, because he really is that nice a bloke.
4. Wagner – if Huddersfield finish on 40+ points and remain a premier league side next year then the terrier’s manager deserves as many hugs, high fives and bum smacks as the Liverpool Squad have received in recent weeks. We’re talking about a team who were promoted with negative goal difference, and written off by almost every pundit. I feel like little has been said about Town’s impressive season, perhaps since they’re not quite safe yet, if for whatever reason, City, Burnley AND Newcastle finish poorly then the trophy will belong with the current footballing pride of Yorkshire!
Success is paramount in football and there is nothing more difficult than winning consistently and comprehensively. It’s why Liverpool are the greatest British side in European football history. It’s why Man U are the greatest side in English League Football history. Why Brazil… Ronaldo/Messi… Yes, we all love a footballing overachievement or a classic underdog story but we have to prioritise success, especially when’s its achieved in unprecedented terms.
Hottest ticket in town
Last Friday night, Man City and Man Utd met in the under 23’s. The Etihad and there academy stadium are only up the road from where I live, and at £3 a ticket it seemed like it might be quite a good way to spend an evening. Having looked on the city ticket website it was made pretty clear you had to have previous ticket purchase history in order to buy tickets to this match. Pretty harsh I thought given its only the under 23’s or reserve team. Anyway I contacted Man City via their official twitter help account and asked if there was any way of still getting tickets, and was categorically told No! Being pretty annoyed at this I decided to word my reply to them and ask “so even if the stadium is half empty, I still cannot purchase a ticket at the gate and come in” their reply again was no.
So that was that, I didn’t go. I happened to see a few pictures from the game, and to my shock it was visibly clear that the stadium was not even half full. It just seems crazy to me to think that they would deny members of the public, willing to pay, entry to a game where there are lots of empty seats. I don’t know if this is the case for other teams or if its purely due to this being a slightly more glamorous game for the reserve teams. Either way I wanted to vent a little about it and would feel great if people could agree that Man City were being stupidly stubborn about this.
The problem with United
So it’s time for yet another bout of Manchester United navel gazing, lamenting, the pouring of ashes over heads and shirt ripping at the unknowable tragedy of coming second in the league and probably winning the FA Cup.
Secondly, it’s really not hard to identify your problem. You don’t have a team.
And the reason you don’t have a team is that since well before Sir Alex left you haven’t bothered building one.
Moyes was always a catastrophe, his air of overwhelmed confused terror at finding himself at United putting one rather in mind of watching a horse being asked to fill in a tax return. He did however have at least some long term planning, asking for Kroos, Fabregas and or/Thiago to be signed to build a long term midfield around. Panicking once those targets were missed and signing Fellaini was his first team building disaster, as there is no way to build a long term team around the Belgian. Signing a faded Rooney to a long term contract was his second. Juan Mata in January was far too late.
So no team was built.
Then it was Van Gaal. United at least signed players for him, but he decided to completely change the way United played meaning the team he inherited was de facto not designed to play the way he was forcing them to. Martial, Depay, Shaw and Herrera were exactly the kind of long term team building players United needed, but Van Gaal was absolutely not the manager needed for that due to his completely alien to United playing style and the signing of Di Maria, Falcao and most egregiously Schweinstieger as short-term attempts to cover cracks, blocking any chance of allowing a group of first choice young players to grow and build a team together.
So no team was built.
Now it’s Mourinho. Another manager with a playing style alien to United, though at this point the majority of the squad haven’t had a playing style (or a team to build on) of any sort for 3 seasons. The majority of his key signings are again based on covering short term cracks rather than building a team, as throughout his entire career.
None of those players are going to improve. None of those players are going to adapt to a team philosophy. None of those players are going to become part of a greater whole.
Pogba and Lukaku are the possible exceptions to this, though again they were signed as finished articles rather than as players designed to grow and develop with others into a cohesive team. A team could potentially be built AROUND them as constants, but they are not going to adapt into parts of an evolving team.
Bailly and Lindelof are exactly the right kind of signings.
The signings are only half of the problem when it comes to Mourinho and building a team. The other half is team selection.
Shaw, 22. Behind Young, 32. Destroyed mentally by Mourinho.
Rashford, 20; Martial, 22; behind Sanchez, 29 and Mata, 29. Both losing patience.
A midfield that is a constantly changing momentum destroying flux, apart from the 29 year old Matic.
A 32 year old right back. A 32 year old left back.
A playing style that relies entirely on stifling the opponent and hoping someone up front does something individual and special rather than creating a playstyle that actually CREATES team chances.
So no team is being built.
Mourinho’s management reeks of short-termism and a complete disinterest in building a team or a style that will grow over two or three seasons into a better whole.
Which is, I suppose, why he is currently the perfect fit for United as a club.
So yep. The reason you don’t have a team, United fans, is that your club aren’t interested in building one.
But you can always go down the road and watch the one being built at City
Tim Sutton (Fulham are a team)
Top six predictions
Great email from Adeel, shedding light on some issues that haven’t been covered over and over again in the mailbox and media. In summary, Man City, Liverpool and Spurs are doing well and will continue to do so next season while the rest of the top 6 aren’t, especially Chelsea and Arsenal, who if they continue like this might not get CL next year again!!
In other news rain is wet and Peter Crouch is tall.
Moving on though, here’s my answer to Lauro’s challenge…
Ryan Bertrand – Will go back to Chelsea to reclaim his spot at full back with crazy Conte having been replaced by a crazier Simeone. Alonso has left back sown up, so Ryan will be shunted to the right back graveyard shift. Victor Moses will be immediately sent to Swansea on loan.
Dusan Tadic – With Allardyce having left Everton and Thierry Henry now in charge of the Toffees, fresh from helping Belgium to a first round exit at the WC, Tadic will be high on their list of priorities to add to the list of attacking centre midfielders who struggle with consistency.
Mame Diouf – Having made a negligible impact during his career in the English top flight, Diouf will given a chance to the lead the line at newly promoted Fulham owing to his PL experience and knowledge in a relegation battle.
Peter Crouch – Still banging in goals at this stage of his career, he’ll be worth a punt from Huddersfield or whomever comes up as play off winners. He’ll once again be relegated but will earn a friendly recall to the English team in August having netted 3 in 2.
James McClean – His all action style will endear him to his new fans, possibly at Crystal Palace, however as October turns to November, fans remember to hate him again and he focuses on sub appearances, putting in crunching tackles and playing decent for Ireland.
Jay Rodriguez – This is probably the most obvious move of the lot, Southampton commit to bringing back their academy players and after a failed move for Gareth Bale, they do tempt Walcott and Rodriguez back to the dell for one last swansong. Walcott starts August in supreme form and gets re-called to the English team while Rodriguez ends the season as the Championship top scorer.
Or something like that.
Follow rugby’s lead
Mr J Nicholson’s piece on the abuse of referees had this line: “It’s often the same lads who play in both the soccer and rugby teams. When they’re playing rugby they always respect every decision and never argue. They even call me sir. But when they’re playing football, it’s the exact opposite”.
There is a very simple reason for this: the rules. In rugby, if you argue with the ref, get in his face, swear at him, look at him funny…well, almost, he can move the penalty he’s just awarded against your team ten metres closer to your goal posts / try line. And send you to the sin bin for 10 minutes. So guess what happens? Players learn very quickly that disrespecting the ref is a bad idea, so abusing the ref and linesmen is very much the exception rather than the rule. You accept the referees decisions and just get on with game. Imagine that. No, seriously, imagine that, happening in football. I’ve been to many a rugby game where the fans have abused their own player for abusing – or even questioning – the ref! “F**king idiot! Shut your mouth and get on with it!”
I’ve refereed at junior and youth level, and been told on the reffing courses that I’ve done that I just have to put up with abuse and swearing directed at me; it’s just common, everyday language innit, and you can’t send players off for using common, everyday language, right? Maybe, but I guarantee if I could march the screaming, frothing manic who’s just a few inches from my face 10 yards back every time he opened his gob he’d stop, or his coach and teammates would make him stop. How do I make him stop now? By not giving decisions against him and his team? And that’s assuming there’s not a clone on the other team (there always is). The nub of the problem is that there is no consequence, at any point and at any level of the game, for abuse and outright disrespect of the referee and assistants. Start marching teams back 10 yards (turning some free kicks into penalties) and sending players to the sin bin for 10 minutes, and the abuse and disrespect will end overnight. Wouldn’t the game be vastly improved if that happened? What negatives would there be to taking a leaf out of rugby’s rulebook? Allowing the current situation to continue is a blight on the game, much worse than a 48 team World Cup.
Colin M (not worried about Roma at all, in the least, honest, really) NZ
Premier League or Champions League?
Pep Gaurdiola recently stated that it was more important to win the Premier League rather than the Champions League. I’m not sure it is as simple as that. I believe that each club out of the top 6 clubs in the land would benefit from different trophies out of the two. Obviously neither would harm any club but I my thoughts below are on which I think would be most beneficial….
Man City – Champions League would be more important mainly due to the fact they have never won it and it would do wonders for their reputation as a big club across Europe.
Man Utd – The Premier League, they need to try and get back on that perch domestically. They used to run this town, you know!
Liverpool – Despite being in the semi-finals I think most would agree that a league title would do them the world of good. It’s been too long.
Spurs – I think a league trophy would be more beneficial out of the two options, for Spurs to top the league with all the talent above it would really stamp some authority on the league where people question them (and their bottle).
Chelsea – The Champions League would be more beneficial here due to winning the league most recently and it would also give them a chance to hold on to some of their top players.
Burnley – Start with the league title and see where that takes them.
As Brent once said something like “Different trophies for different needs”.
Postcard from Dubai
This mail is not about football, not really. But I hope that it will get published anyway as it’s a sort of rebuttal to Tanya’s mail this morning. As Tanya said, you can’t separate football from politics. Tanya echoed the sentiments of many over the last few years, being highly critical of the Abu Dhabi regime. Some of these criticisms may be valid but I think it’s really import that if we’re going to be critical of someone that we get the facts right. I have lived in the UAE for 3 years and it has defied my own expectations in many ways. The vast majority of people who criticise the UAE have never set foot here and clearly have not educated themselves properly about the realities of the country.
It’s very important not to lump all Middle Eastern countries together. Iran, Iraq, the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. are all different in a vast number of ways. Just because something is happening the the Middle East doesn’t mean it’s true in the UAE. Tanya made a number of accusations, so I’ll try to address them one by one.
Women are treated like second class citizens. This is patently untrue. Under the UAE constitution women have the exact same legal rights as men. In fact, the US embassy names the UAE as one of the regions pioneers in the terms of women’s rights. There are female ministers in the government and females in all professions in society. There is also no requirement for women to cover up, as there is in some parts of the Middle East. Women often get preferential treatment to men. When I queued for my visa I waited outside in 45C heat while the women waited in an AC cooled building. The term “second class citizens” has no basis in reality.
“torturing their rivals.” I don’t really know what this means. I’ve never seen, read or heard about a news story involving this. Again, I feel Tanya may be confusing the UAE with other countries in the region.
Corruption: I’ve really not heard many stories involving corruption in the UAE but I don’t doubt it goes on. However, corruption happens in every country in the world so a bit harsh to single out the UAE for this.
“warmongering” Another confusing one. The only war the UAE is currently involved in is in Yemen, where they are fighting against ISIS (I’m OK with that). In the past, they’ve fought alongside the UK in Libya and in Iraq. They are heavily involved in fighting terrorism and currently have a blockade in place against Qatar because they feel Qatar is not doing enough in this battle.
LGBT discrimination. While it’s true that homosexuality is illegal, the truth is, it is never prosecuted. There is a large LGBT community and hotels don’t even look twice when same sex couples share a room. No, people don’t live freely but it’s more complex than you might think.
“Tax haven accounts” Yup, because no one in the UK does this.
It’s also important to remember the UAE is less than 50 years old and 100 years ago was little more than towns in the desert. To expect them to hold the same standards as us is simply not rational. Every year, progress is made and making false accusations will not help that progress. If this seems like a passionate defence of the UAE, it’s not. It’s a defence of truth. There are genuine criticisms of the UAE that you can make, but before you make them, do some research and make sure you know what you’re talking about. The Man City situation may make some people uncomfortable and fair enough, but at least make sure the things you’re uncomfortable about are actually true.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…Great mail by Tanya B, GFC and I applaud 365 for posting it as this really needed to be highlighted. The fact that club in England can be owned by the rulers of any Middle Eastern country makes the FA’s fit and proper persons test look like a joke.
More from the Evo-Stik Prem
Thanks to Ed for the Northern League retrospective and great to see Altrincham heading up the winners again. The 4-0 home win against Barwell may look like a stroll on the face of it but there were chances galore at both ends, but it just so happened that the Robins took a few of them and then took charge of the game. The third strike from John Johnston was a peach of a 70-yard run and finish. Like George Weah all those years ago on Football Italia.
Looking forward, I’ll be on an away day tonight at Buxton hoping to see the Alty seal promotion. Slight correction to Ed’s details; unless my maths have let me down, their league win will be confirmed if the Robins win, Warrington lose and Grantham fail to win (rather than lose). So it’s unlikely we’ll be celebrating promotion tonight – besides the fact that Buxton are no pushover, Grantham face a Hednesford team in atrocious form but safe from the drop, whilst Warrington play host to Shaw Lane, who are also in a spot of indifferent form albeit fighting to achieve a playoff spot as noted this morning.
Should Alty achieve promotion this season, it will be a shame that Salford City look like they’ll be promoted out of the National League North, and Stockport could also go up through the playoffs. But there will be plenty of other local fixtures thrown up, including FC United.
Chris (Zigger Zagger), Silverlands
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