17 mars 2009

Managerial Issues

(även publicerad på Vital Chelsea).

I intend to interfere with the top teams manager issues right now.

Much speculation has occurred the last couple of weeks and we are all very much aware of the events at Chelsea. One thing is very obvious, the managers matter.

Let us take it in table order.

Manchester United. Alex Ferguson, the Govan bully is so firmly entrenched within the club that he is synomous and not even the Glazer family dare whisper about replacements. Still, some debate about his eventual replacement is popping up.

A few years ago Ferguson was close to retiring, but along came a certain cocky person that annoyed him so much that he simply had to stay on and prove himself once again. I think had José Mourinho not set foot on English soil Sir Alex would have been retired today, sitting in a comfortable chair, betting on horses and sipping that gift from Scotland to the world, whisky. Interspersed by a good bottle of wine or a dozen or so. Bored out of his skull and probably a grateful target for any sensationalistic sportswriter that wanted a good quote.

He did not, instead he set out to once again build a formidable Manchester United (yes it hurts to say, but it is true). I am in ways much more impressed with United this year than last year. Last year they had the diva-diver in improbably great form that carried the team. This year he has been much more the player he really is, that is - not the best in the world, and not awarded an incredible high number of penalties. United is a team the way Chelsea was a true team 2004-05. It is the team that mauls the opposition and the parts are quite interchangeable. Whatever you think of him, and I certainly do, you have to admire the crafty old scot.

Ferguson recently admitted that he fears retirement today. He thinks he will lose purpose and shrivel up without yelling at the refs, dominating their decisions and playing mind games. It is obvious he misses the mind games with JM, and as Wenger has retired from the mind game business he has had to contend with a not very witty Benitez. A challenge Ferguson hardly even noticed a couple of weeks ago.

He will go down in history as one of the absolutely best managers ever, and as with most great managers his own footballing career was not much to brag about. Another reason why the English fondness for making players managers is very hard to understand. The last great player making a good manager must have been Bobby Robson.

I think despite all speculation that Sir Red-Nose will be around at least another five years. He is unsackable, half the value of the United stock will plummet if he were to leave suddenly. Glazers can not afford that and they are savvy enough to understand that. After all they were savvy enough to buy the club for its own money and they are not about to kill off the goose that lays the golden egg.

The thing I admire more than anything with Sir Red-Nose is his ability to reinvent himself and to always grow. He has never stopped learning, trying and proving new things. He has even become a decent game coach in old days. Dislike him, but never disregard him.

JM is supposedly fishing for his seat, and of course that would be a formidable set-up. JM will never be the Man U manager. His profile is too controversial and though they support Ferguson`s diatribes and outbursts, that is not what United want. No, the United hot spot will go to someone with a background in the club, that is my firm belief. They have learned the lesson of continuity and background. Who, I do not know. Maybe Bruce, hardly Hughes. Scholes?

Chelsea. Well, we just changed to my dream manager and though I truly believe his intentions to return to the Russian job, all of me hopes that he will stay. I will not speculate on this. Nor will I speculate on his possible, eventual successor. Only to say this, I hope there is none, and if there is may the god Zola protect us all if it is Rijkaard, Ancelotti or an Englishman.

Liverpool. Tubby Benitez has raised his profile a lot. His relationship with the owners, duelling in between them, is not easy. The other week speculation was ripe that he had gone over the line, then they beat Real Madrid, something everyone thinks is a major accomplishment. Which only proves that tradition means more than fact in football. Juventus beat Real soundly in two games in the group play and went out smoking by Chelsea. Does that not prove that Chelsea is the better team?!

Benitez has started to play a game of higher stakes. Full of confidence by the fact that poo was not out ot the title race in November as usual. This week he went away boasting about the Liverpool record in the CL under his tutelage. No one can take away from him the fact that he won the luckiest game in football history, nor reaching the final twice. BUT that is all he has accomplished.

I do not belong to the sport journalists that think the CL is the most important league/cup ever. To me the league is always more important. I want the CL more than anything today, but that is only because we proved ourselves in the Premier League twice recently. Poo has never won the Premier League, not even been close under Benitez.

Personally I detest Benitez as I see him as a destroyer of football. His tactics are the most boring this side Catenacci anno 1961. His gameplan is always to destroy for the other team first, then hope for individual performances by Gerrard that in Liverpoo gets all the glory and the credit. Most of Benitez signings have been duds, Keane maybe the biggest mystery signing of all times. Torres, to my surprise was awesome last year, less awesome this year. The shwredest signing Tubby has made in my eyes is Benayoun, almost always underrated but to me the reason why Liverpool still, kind of, are in the race. Benitez might not have invented the notion of parking the bus in front of the goal, but no one masters it as he does. Yet you rarely hear of boring Liverpool.

Considering what he really has accomplished at Poo, I can not understand his popularity with supporters and club management? Though I think that if Benitez really thinks he can challenge the owners, he will find himself back in Spain sooner than later. Whatever his support is.

Aston Villa. I have the utmost respect for Martin O`Neill whom I consider being the most intelligent and talented of the British managers after the Glasgow icon. He is doing a great job at Villa with less resources but great owner support. Lately they have faltered but I do hope that they can salvage that fourth spot. Had he had some more loyal players than the likes of Gareth Barry his Villa will be a force to reckoned with. O`Neill built a Celtic that was awesome, mainly from players that were not at all stars when they came under his spell. He made Henrik Larsson into a world class star, though it took the world a long time to understand that as he played in the Scottish league.

If Chelsea ever goes British I hope that it is an Irishman that gets the nod. O`Neill is developing a young and very vital Villa lead by Agbonlahore and Ashley Young. He needs some more talent, but mainly more experience to succeed. But the skills of O`Neill impresses me.

Arsenal. The days of Arsene Wenger`s are gone. I think Wenger shows every sign of two things; burn out and over confidence in his own image. Arsenal needs a new manager, Wenger will not get them any more titles. His work and his results at Arsenal speaks volumes, but everything has a last-before-date. And as milk, his has passed as I see it.

Wenger has bought into his own image in a bad way. He sees himself as a magician when it comes to developing talent and his background supports that high opinion. As a game coach he is quite weak and the way Arsenal played in Rome almost made them undeserving to go through. Tactically he brings nothing to the game. Cowardly and without the necessary defensive skills.

Defending is an unnecessary evil to Wenger. He has no interest in it. Neither has he interest in building resilient teams that can win the United or Chelsea or Liverpool way. One gets the feeling that if Arsenal can not win by beautiful (inefficient) football then he simply does not care.

He has let go of the backbone of the team almost every year the last seasons. And has not bothered to get the necessary players, the water carriers some try to call them derogatively (the Makeleles, the Carricks, the Diarras, Scholes of football). He wants the crowd pleaser like Arshavin. Arshaving is great footballer, but hardly the one Arsenal really need.

Wenger`s ability to bring along new, young players is second to none in the world. Still, I have the feeling that the big nose of the Frenchman is not really what it used to be, despite Eduardo. Or is it just that the competition is bigger, Wenger`s days as a cradle robber (of French talent) are gone.

I think Wenger lost interest in winning. He is out to prove his theories about football. I also think he would be better suited doing that as the headmaster at Laclairefontaine, the French Academy he so often has looted. It is an art form to know when to stop, and Wenger should stop as he himself is not developing in context with the game of football.

Everton. Moyes. Another Scot that has worked hard and in my eyes successfully with very little money and resources. He had to sell a Rooney that deserted the ship and afterwards trashed it (and had to pay restitution for lying about it). Moyes remind me a lot about O`Neill. He has not the temperament and side line passion of the Villan, but he is a person that works really hard to develop his team. Considering that Everton might have had more injuries than even Chelsea this year his 6th place is sensational in my eyes. My only question mark is how he works with big names, but that is only because he never had any big names to work with. He has made Lescott into the most promising defender behind JT, Arteta was a find and Cahill means the world to them. And as stated, their injury situation in mind, it is very impressive that Moyes despite a horrendous start have steered the Liverpool blue into an European spot.

Hopefully he will get some resources to build a better team, the results he has accomplished what he has been dealt should earn him the opportunity.






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