The direction of the Backlays English Premier League is a hard one to predict for an ordinary fan. For fortune tellers, it is the easiest. Unfortunately, coaches do not predict, we study the game. While you fret and curse as Arsenal lose or Manchester draw, it is no surprise if one is more objective. Through away your supporters tag and follow me only for this moment.
If walk into a new job today, say you have to coach, one thing for you to know and for players to digest, is that good teams win home and away. This must be over emphasised at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson has hammered on this point time and again, but players forget these things as soon as Chelsea walk into the stadium. This must be followed by training meant to unlock a defeatist mentality of saying Anfield is home ground and then Blackpool come to teach a lesson. Never learn that way.
Arsenal have been a personal favourite for a long time until they passed their sell-by-date. I stuck with them a year extra and wasted my energies. Arsene Wenger is one to know that the championship hopefuls must beat fellow contenders. Those handshakes after the weekend fixture were meant to say ‘well done champions, we will be contenders once more next year.’ Honestly, if you are not beating the team that want your title, you are in the wrong league.
Good performance with results boosts morale and is a message greater than any known therapy. Teams beating fellow contenders sends shivers down the spines of smaller teams. These smaller teams lay down a red carpet for great performers. They will also fight to beat their peers for you. The next time Chelsea play the next league match, that team will leave it to the Blues’ ability. Drogba’s troops will have to exercise their will to win. When it comes to Arsenal, teams will accept bribes and go on to win the match nonetheless. This is all the Emirates’ fault.
Things do not get worse for Arsenal. Nigel De Jong has broken a bone. His crunching tackle revives sad and unsightly memories the Gunners are now familiar with. Very hard tackles which usually turn to be bad terrifies them to death. Any small teams will have their knees knocking against each other. Remember Viny Jones of Wimbledon FC of the 1980s, who went on to create a very controvential movie of the ‘Hard Men Of Soccer’? His ‘take no prisoners tackles’ are something we must never witness in football, but the competence of the referees these days is horrendous, because De Jong was unpunished for breaking a leg.
Small teams like Stoke City have been accused by the Professor-turned -nutter of rough and tough tackles. Like Wimbledon FC of old, they are usually driven by nothing but team spirit. Their budgets are tiny and their salaries shameful. All they to do is played for each other and hope for bigger contracts by impressing the likes of Wenger, and of course, it goes horribly wrong more often than not. This is regardless of a poor paying habit of the Gunners. Of course they are aware Manchester City and Roman Abramovic are watching.
Talking of Manchester City, the premiership teams are creating a monster they might fail to destroy in the next decade. The Man City victory over Chelsea last week may engrave an air of arrogance and intimidation in their character that they will go around bullying smaller teams to the detriment of the traditional big 4. As soon as City find their rhythm, they will be uncontainable. They are getting that scarce confidence at an alarming rate. A charismatic coach in the mould of Jose Mourinho and Frank Rikjaard will be necessary to elevate them to another energy level shell for better bonding. City are the best talent with man-like character and well paid such that their second position on the log will set them to believe they are worth a second look by the rest of the Premiership.
Before we forget the traditional top 4 issue, Liverpool are gone and walking alone. Even in alphabetical order, they have never sunk that deep. They are fading with lighting speed as evidenced by their relegation zone position. Actually because we do not know much about Albert Einstein’s relativity theories, so let’s keep it within footballing terms. They sink only just slower that Tottenham Hotspur are claiming the number 4 slot. Spurs are accelerating at a fast paced progression while being hammered left, right and centre by both the injuries to key personnel and inexperience in dealing with Champions League pressure. Under any standards, they would be justified to lay back and relax, and start counting their achievements of having reached the FA final last season, their UEFA Champions League progress and a decent start to the current campaign.
Keeping heads cool under those conditions needs a cool coach. There is no better guy that Harry Redknapp. Arry is a very practical Manager with a rare ability to use the players’ strengths to rub off onto each other’s confidence. He is quite conservative when it comes to buying and his salaries are not crazy. It is one area he does better than Wenger. Before we leave Wenger, he has some work to do. The Gunners keep checking the fixtures list and medical records of other teams to see who is likely to kick them. That focus loss cost them the consistency of a good team. They are remanufacturing themselves into a substandard product. That, however, becomes the difference between the boys and men, i.e. themselves and Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
The Premiership story cannot conclude without mention of the big story of Stoke City. Small minds think it is a fluke they are 7th. They are the best team in the league by far and I said it before, if you remember. They are a team with a potential to retrieve tha ball from anyone earlier than any team in the Premiership. They had to sort out the details of dealing with the balls they win. Their biggest fault was surrendering it with the same consistency, following by lack of support for Kenwyne Jones when the ball landed forward. Stoke took leaps and bounds addressing that and are being rewarded by the points they pick. If they do not regress, Arsenal may find themselves on 6th position in May 2011.
Manchester United are hoping to welcome Owen Hargreaves from injury. The great English midfielder arrived from Germany amid media revs and as the man Man U needed to cement their authority as the kings of English football, a few seasons back. Solid as he is, he has spent almost his entire stay since then with the doctors and surgeons than with Sir Alex. How the long lay-off will help United will be seen the day he finally arrives. How much impact he will have playing against footballers who have been on the pitch since he arrived in England is yet another issue. All we can do, is wish him and Man U the best.
Other players in dire need of our prayers are Robin van Persie and Fernando Torres. RVP had a long spell out last season and the Gunners felt they had no better excuse for letting the championship go than blame his injury. Justified but still very few will remember that. van Persie is a sharp shooter who scores less than one thinks he should. He appears dangerous and scores great goals. His scoring rate is far lower than a man in his class. However, he is so valuable and his presence is something Wenger will do with and now. Personally, I would trade him at the soonest possible window, not because of the injuries, but to protect the Gunner machine. His presence at this point will dwarf the growth and confidence of youngsters finding their feet at the Emirates, the way Thierry Henry did with Emmanuel Adebayour. Talking of these two, Henry went away a little too late while Adebayour went a little too early for Arsenal to harvest their full potential.
With Torres, Liverpool are regretting not sell this top marks man. He has been a victim of injuries largely due to the way The Reds play. It is no longer his style. Torres does not win the ball neither does he track down and fetch the ball. He is a pure finisher. Unfortunately, all the teams that wanted his signature were not ideal for him. Torres is a Barcelona type of player. There is a class of midfielders and fellow strikers to do all the donkey work before they can lay it along the goal-line for him to tap in. As for now, both parties will go on, one of them both injured and frustrated, and the other frustrated and broke, and looking for a buyer.
Theo Walcott is one player injuries will have to excuse. His red-hot the beginning of this season will suffer the break, and finding the rhythm to be in sync with players who are consistently playing will draw him miles back. I genuinely wish him well and now. Arsenal would really do with his scoring and the threat of his speed. If he could have a consistent comeback, the Gunners may have a shout next season, provided they get Itumeleng Khune as their goalkeeper. Fabianski is a good goalie and may actually prove the goalie Wenger needs, not matter how much he mistrust him. At the end of the day, it is too early to say, as you would like me to believe. I will agree with you for now, but believe you me, teams must make hay while the sun shines and it is almost getting cloudy.