The Weekend In Review
Losses for Liverpool and Chelsea, the Manchester City machine rumbling on and their dominance being under threat from Leicester City: it’s just another weekend in the Premier League. Here we’re having a look at the major stories from the weekend and what it all means moving forward. Read it all or just go straight to the story that interests you the most, it’s entirely up to you. But get involved in the comments, tweet us or share the article on social media so we can all be part of the conversation.
Jose Mourinho’s Third Season Nightmare Continues
Jose Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge for his second spell in charge of the London club in 2013 and told the press he was no longer the Special One, he was now the Happy One. Having never lasted more than three seasons at any club in his managerial career the Portuguese boss said in May that it would be a “dream” to be Chelsea manager for the next ten years.
It seems unlikely that that’s going to happen, though. There is a reason that Jose Mourinho has never lasted more than three seasons at any one club. Perhaps it’s because by year three the players have heard everything you’ve got to say and you need to change things to keep it fresh. Maybe it’s because the players he relies on the most are three years older and can’t react in the same way any more (see Branislav Ivanovic this time around). Or it could be because his ego can’t handle the idea of losing and as soon as things look like they’re going to be tough he moves on?
Whatever the reasons for his decisions to move on, move on he has. Are we starting to see the unravelling of the Portuguese maestro in season number three of spell number two in London? Here’s a look at his record since his days as the number one of Porto:
|Facts||Porto||Porto||Chelsea||Chelsea||Chelsea||Inter||Inter||Real Madrid||Real Madrid||Real Madrid||Chelsea||Chelsea||Chelsea|
|Season||2002 – 2003||2003 – 2004||2004 – 2005||2005 – 2006||2006 – 2007||2008 – 2009||2009 – 2010||2010 – 2011||2011 – 2012||2012 – 2013||2013 – 2014||2014 – 2015||2015 – 2016|
|Points||86||82||95||91||83||84||82||92||100||85||82||87||4 so far|
|Win Percentage||73.50||73.50||76.30||76.30||63.20||65.80||63.20||76.30||84.20||68.40||65.80||68.40||20.00 so far|
|Final League Position||1||1||1||1||2||1||1||2||1||2||3||1||?|
Whichever way you look at it there is no question that when Mourinho has spent three seasons at a club there is a distinct drop of in the third campaign. His win percentage at Chelsea took a 13% dip in year three, it dropped by 16% in year three at Real Madrid and is on course to drop significantly in year three at Stamford Bridge Mark II.
The other key thing that links his final phase at the different clubs is his combustibility. The first time he managed Chelsea there were definite frictions that developed between the manager and the ower, Roman Abramovich, seemingly revolving around the latters desire to see Andre Schevchenko slotted into the squad. Mourinho has never been one to allow his team or player selection be dictated to him and he may have felt, having won back to back titles at Stamford Bridge, that he was the best judge of the players he should use moving forward.
Things came to a head when Chelsea missed out on three titles in a row to Manchester United and Abramovich brought in Avram Grant as director of football – despite objections from the Portuguese manager. He did make it into the start of a fourth season at Chelsea, which is sometimes forgotten. But a home victory over Birmingham City on the opening day was followed by defeat to Aston Villa and a draw at home with Blackburn Rovers. A 1-1 home draw to Rosenborg BK was the final match before Mourinho’s shock departure from the club by mutual consent. A disappointing league campaign followed by a poor start in the Champion’s League? Doesn’t tomorrow’s match seem to have taken on added significance now?
At Real Madrid Mourinho’s success came in the middle season of his time at the club when the Spanish team not only finished as La Liga champions but also claimed a league record points haul. Just before the start of his third season with El Blanco Mourinho signed a new four year contract. Not long after the season kicked off, however, things started to unravel.
The win percentage dropped off, as you can see in the table, and Mourinho began to endure combustible relationships with some of the club’s top players. He treated Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos poorly, had public fueds with Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe and attempted to gouge out the eye of Tito Vilanova during a stormy touchline brawl in an El Classico match.
Given he’s already dropped John Terry and suggested the defender owes him his career, had a very public row with Eva Carneiro, the Chelsea club doctor who was castigated for daring to give medical treatment to a player that was lying on the floor seemingly injured and once more attacked Arsene Wenger, the thing that will be worrying Chelsea fans the most is the manager’s relationship with the press.
Mourinho has always been given an easy ride by the British press who never pick him up on his nonsense statements, presumably because he gives them such excellent copy for their newspapers. Yet he endured a fractious relationship with the Spanish press who are not keen on someone as arrogant, confrontational and explosive as the self proclaimed Special One. Having signed a new four year deal at the club – just like at Real – Mourinho is now starting to fall out slightly with the papers who previously helped to elevate him to a position of unimpeachable power.
Last week the Chelsea manager threatened to walk out of a press conference in response to repeated questions about the situation regarding Eva Carneiro, and in his pre-match press conference for the opening game of the Champion’s League group stages he called a reporter ‘stupid’ for asking questions about the possibility of a third season syndrome. He said, “…Click Google instead of making stupid questions and try to find. You spoke about the third season, and I’m telling you the question was stupid. I know the point, and the point is the question was stupid”.
Roman Abromovich isn’t slow to sack managers who don’t look as if they’ll be able to bring trophies to the club and he may not last much longer before he gets trigger happy. He wants Chelsea to become a force in Europe, though, and if Mourinho can give the impression that he knows how to win the Russian oligarch another Champion’s League trophy then he might yet be able to save his season – it’s a big ‘if’, though.
Brendan Rodgers Should Have Gone In The Summer
Liverpool fans used to be known as the most intelligent fans in football. This idea was based on the notion that the supporters of England’s most successful ever club side recognised good football when they saw it and understood the patience needed when things weren’t going your way.
Banners flying over Anfield demanding that Brendan Rodgers is sacked; an online campaign trying to raise the €10 million needed to be able to pay for the Northern Irishman’s dismissal; supporters taking to Twitter to send messages to John W. Henry, the de facto owner of the club. These are just some of the reasons that Liverpool fans don’t deserve the moniker of ‘intelligent’ any more.
The trouble that Fenway Sports Group and John Henry now face is that it’s going to cost them a lot of money to remove Rodgers from the Anfield hot seat. The man himself will be owed a rumoured £8.7 million if he’s sacked and Gary McCallister and Sean O’Driscoll, both of whom the club brought in in the summer, won’t be cheap to sack either. They also invested heavily in Rodgers’ vision for the first team this summer and may find the next manager they bring in isn’t that keen on some of the signings the club made. The January transfer window, then, will end up being an expensive one if Rodgers goes to be replaced by Ancelotti or Klopp.
The question is, then, why didn’t they get rid of the manager in the summer? They were clearly prepared to invest in the squad, had a chance to clean out some of the dross that has been sitting in the squad happily collecting wages for doing nothing (hello Jose Enrique) and were happy to bring in some new members of the backroom team. On top of that they would have faced zero opposition from Liverpool fans who had just watched their team ship four goals against Arsenal at The Emirates, get knocked out of the FA Cup to a poor Aston Villa side and concede six goals away to Stoke.
Reports from Merseyside suggest that FSG felt Rodgers was fighting against a lot last season and deserved a chance to show that he could return them to the playing style that made them the most exciting club to watch in the Premier League in 2013 -2014. Steven Gerrard was still around and was still the club captain, yet he clearly didn’t have the legs for the Premier League any more and had made his decision to move on. The end of last season seemed to be more like a series of matches dedicated to the captain than an attempt to get the club higher up the domestic league.Add to that the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to injury, combined with the arrival of the overtly disruptive Mario Balotelli, and there is certainly something in the idea that Rodgers had a lot to cope with in his third season in charge at Anfield. Whatever the mitigating factors, though, Liverpool were absolute dross for most of the campaign last season and the blame for that has to lie at the door of the manager. There’s an admirableness to FSG’s desire to give him all of the tools he needed to succeed and then give it a damn good go. It doesn’t look it’s going to work out, though, and now the American owners are faced with either footing a big bill to get rid of him or else a season of mediocrity, failure and a crowd that is becoming more and more poisonous.
Leicester Are Looking Unstoppable
When Leicester City went 2-0 down at home to Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa on Tuesday it looked as though the bubble had finally burst on Claudio Ranieri’s remarkable start to the season. There were still 27 minutes left on the clock when Carles Gil’s sweet volley struck the back of Kasper Schmeichel’s net to double the vistor’s lead, but in truth the Foxes had never really looked like threatening their Midland rivals.
Then something quite remarkable happened; Ritchie de Laet smashed a volley past Brad Guzan and the home crowd developed a little bit of belief. With 8 minutes left Jamie Vardy, still on a high after finding himself in the starting line up for England’s game against San Marino, slotted home a cross to make things level. Villa were on the ropes and Leicester had blood in their nostrils so when the ball fell to Riyad Mahrez in the 89th minute it seemed like a goal was a foregone conclusion. The Algerian has been in sensational form so far this season, scoring four goals in four games and was the catalyst behind the Foxes’ strong second half performance, yet he chose not to shoot and instead lifted a wonderful through ball to Nathan Dyer who took a punch to the head as he nodded the ball past Guzan for the winner.
Leicester 3 – Villa 2 was the final score, ensuring Claudio Ranieri’s team joined Manchester City as the only two clubs in the league yet to be defeated after the opening five fixtures. They sit four points behind the Champion’s elect and already have a quarter of their entire points total from the last campaign. Leicester fans might be forgiven for forgetting the worries about relegation that they had at the start of the year and instead turning their eyes towards the possibility of a European place.
Plenty of people will see such thinking as laughable given we’re only five games into the season, and there can be no doubt that there are far sterner tests ahead for the Foxes. Yet if you drop back into last season and go back as far as the 4th of April then there form is WWWWLWWDW WWDDW. That’s one defeat in fourteen games, ten wins and three draws. It means they’re currently operating on an average of 2.36 points per game – or title winning form.
Of course it seems extraordinarily unlikely that they’ll be able to maintain such form, but given the disappointing start to the season both Liverpool and Chelsea have endured and the fact that no team seems to be able to string together a decent run of form apart from Manchester City, why shouldn’t the Leicester fans be allowed to dream? On top of that, it’s not as if the Foxes have a poor squad for the demands of the Premier League (with Tinkerman Ranieri knowing how to get the best out of a large squad) and they also don’t have the distraction of European competition to worry about.
We’re not for one second suggesting that Leicester are destined to gain a Champion’s League spot, but if you like a flutter then it may be worth looking at the odds for the Foxes to win the League Cup or gain a slot in the Europa League come the end of the season. If they can keep hold of Riyad Mahrez in January and add to their ranks then it wouldn’t be out of the realms of the possible that they could finish in the top ten and after that? Well the world is their oyster.
West Ham Are Fun To Watch And Newcastle Could Go Down
In Arsenal’s opening game of the season there weren’t many people thinking that the Gunners would drop points at home to West Ham. Admittedly the Emirates isn’t always a happy hunting ground for the home team in their first game of new campaigns, leading some of their more negative fans to thinking that they might stutter to a draw against their London rivals. A 2-0 loss to the Hammers was unforeseeable, but it’s exactly what happened to send Slaven Bilic’s men home in a dream like haze.
Two home fixtures followed for the Londoners before a tricky tie against Liverpool at Anfield– a team they hadn’t beaten away from Upton Park since 1963. Surely two home wins against a newly promoted side and a team that nearly got relegated last time out would be followed by a respectable loss away to the Merseysiders? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Only in actual fact the opposite happened and Leicester beat the Hammers 2-1 before Bournemouth turned them over 4-3, leaving them with three points from the first nine available. Three from twelve would be problematic for Bilic and would leave many feeling that it was likely to be a long old season. West Ham duly beat Liverpool convincingly at Anfield and went into the international break having won two, lost two.
Admittedly Newcastle didn’t get off to the brightest of starts when they headed to the Boleyn Ground as traffic problems in London meant that the players had to walk the last mile to the stadium. Steve McClaren’s men have surely had better opportunities to prepare for matches but even still the newly appointed Magpies boss might have expected them to last at least ten minutes before conceding a goal.
As it happened, though, Dmitri Payet netted his first within nine minutes of the match getting under way and his second three minutes into the second half to give the Hammers a 2-0 win over the Geordies. What’s even more exciting for West Ham fans is that have managed to pick up their points this season by playing good football, something they could only dream of when Sam Allardyce was their manager.
The journeyman from Dudley who is known as ‘Big Sam’ has thrashed out a career by gaining the reputation of someone whose teams are hard to beat and that may have something in it. After all, his clubs tend to lose around one in three of their games and draw about one in four. Yet the flip side of that is that they also only win between 30 and 40 & of their games. At West Ham Big Sam was in charge for 181 games, winning 68 of them to give himself a win percentage of 37.57%, reasonably close to his career average of 39.31%.
West Ham fans were sick of rocking up to the stadium and watching the attritional style of play that Allardyce specialises in and at the start of last season David Gold, the co-owner of the Hammers, made it clear that they expected a type of football that was easier on the eye. For a while they got it, too, but in the end Big Sam reverted to type and a mutually agreeable departure was arranged at the conclusion to the season.
How relieved both Gold and the West Ham faithful will be, then, to see the Hammers playing some genuinely good football so far this season. Their victories over Arsenal and Liverpool weren’t done by playing the type of long ball that Allardyce made famous but were instead the result of intelligent play and quick, counter-attacking football.
In the other dugout, however, Steve McClaren must be wondering what he’s let himself in for. Despite a 4-1 victory over Northampton the Magpies are yet to get a league win under their belts this season. The campaign kicked off with a two all home draw against Southampton before a 2-0 loss away to Swansea. A respectable 0-0 draw at Old Trafford was followed by a fiery 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal and all of that has been followed by this 2-0 loss to the Hammers.
Dip back into last season, as we did with Leicester earlier, and Newcastle’s form for the calendar year is DLLWDDLWLLLLLLLLDLW DLDLL. That’s three wins in 24 games during which time the Magpies have lost twelve. Sufficed to say that nine points from the 72 available is relegation form in the extreme.
Many people assumed that Newcastle’s malaise was due mostly to the fact that the club seemed safe from relegation by the new year and that John Carver wasn’t the right man for the job. There was a presumption that the appointment of Steve McClaren combined with the new signings brought in during the summer would be enough for the Magpies to get themselves back into the mix in the middle of the table. Yet it seems as though the problems at St. James’ Park run far deeper than just about who is sat in the dugout issuing instructions. Many Newcastle fans are determined to get Mike Ashley out of the club but if something isn’t done soon they could be heading for a (Sports) Direct exit from the Premier League come May.