Chelsea suffered a third straight defeat in the Premier League away to Mark Hughes’ Stoke City yesterday, leaving them in 16th position, just three points off the relegation places. It’s the first time they have lost three consecutive Premier League matches since 1999, when Mark Hughes was leading the line for Chelsea. How they could have done with a little ‘Sparky’ magic yesterday, as by all accounts they played well but failed to convert several chances.
Each week someone says the situation at Chelsea is shocking, believing Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will turn it around and start an ascent up the table and finish in the top four. But with each week and each defeat the pressure grows and the questions mount. Chelsea have now lost more games in the Premier League than Manchester City, Arsenal and Man Utd combined.
The no-nonsense hiring and firing brand of leadership shown by Roman Abramovich in the past has been put on hold to give Mourinho more time than any other Chelsea manager has endured since his reign. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked months after winning the Premier League Title & FA Cup double, and Roberto Di Matteo suffered a similar fate after guiding the club to its only ever Champions League victory. But Mourinho’s return, a ‘second coming’ for many Blues fans, appeared to be somewhat of a longer term commitment by both club and manager when Chelsea offered a four-year contract to lure Jose Mourinho back, for what was deemed ‘unfinished business’; and his return to English football was greeted with open arms by the media and football fans alike; and with Sir Alex Ferguson retiring, the Premier League needed more characters.
Last season Chelsea romped home to win the Premier League, while bagging the Carling (League) Cup along the way. With a new spine to the team consisting of Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, added to a new lease of life from an ageing John Terry, Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea were head and shoulders above an average list of under performing teams; and that for me, is where the problem started. They were crowned Premier League Champions and unlike previous summers, appeared to rest on their laurels somewhat by not strengthening the first team. A summer long tussle with Everton to sign the young, promising John Stones at least highlighted where Mourinho saw a weakness. But a last minute scramble to sign Pedro ahead of Liverpool appeared somewhat more in desperation than commitment. Poor results in pre-season, an extra week off and then being beaten by Arsenal in the Charity Shield was surely enough to shake the champions from their slumber. I wasn’t the only one who thought Swansea City were going to feel the brunt of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s thunder on the opening day of the new season. The game ended 1-1 though Swansea were very unlucky not to take all three points at Stamford Bridge.
Now, 12 games into the 2015/16 Premier League season and Chelsea have lost no less than seven matches; and where over the past two seasons they have averaged over two points a game, this season it is less than one. Though it sounds ridiculous, the fact is Chelsea are currently showing relegation form. So is Jose Mourinho going to be given a further stay of execution as we head into the international break? At least until the end of the season. Or is this the right time
to consider all the issues and baggage that Mourinho is now carrying and once again sack the two faces of Mourinho – happy and special when he’s winning and an indignant, immature and bad tempered sulky pants, when he loses.
Roman Abramovich said, of all the managers he has sacked, he only regrets Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti is currently available. But believing he was ‘disappointed’ by the sacking, I feel it will take more than an excessive amount of money to bring Ancelotti back to Stamford Bridge. There’s the possibility of a caretaker manager until the end of the season when it may be easier to prize a top manager away from their current position. This worked out well previously for Chelsea when they appointed Rafa Benitez, who not only steadied the ship but also had Chelsea playing exciting, expansive football with Oscar, Eden Hazard & Juan Mata offering Abramovich a taste of the Barcelona style he so adores; and it’s no secret that he has previously attempted to woo Pep Guardiola, whose contract with Bayern Munich ends this summer.
So is there any other big names that would be able to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around? One comes to mind. A manager who has had success both in Europe and La Liga over the past few seasons, who already knows Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa & Radamel Falcao. Diego Simeone – the Argentina player known to England fans for getting a young David Beckham sent off for ‘that’ flailing leg in the World Cup.
What Diego Simeone has acheived with Atletico Madrid has been nothing less than amazing. His teams play an exciting, attack-minded style of football that would please both Chelsea fans and Roman Abramovich; and though there are many factors to Chelsea not performing on the pitch, it is clear they are distinctly missing the goals of Diego Costa.
So, the question I believe will answer the dilemma Chelsea face right now is, can Jose Mourinho deliver a top four finish this season, and if not, do they write the season off and start afresh with a new manager, one that could steer Chelsea back to winning ways and be a major force in Europe. For what it’s worth, my money is on Jose Mourinho being sacked this week and replaced by Diego Simeone.
In February 2015 Tim Sherwood was appointed manager of Aston Villa, his second managerial position after a short but not unsuccessful spell at Tottenham Hotspur from December 2013 to his dismissal in May 2014. As a player Sherwood was feisty, hard but honest. But more than anything, he was a winner. Most notably he was Kenny Dalglish‘s captain when Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League in 1995.
Last season, Aston Villa was for the sixth season on the trot, embroiled in a relegation battle. Randy Learner had previously proclaimed he was looking to sell the midlands club for the right price. It was therefore a surprise to some critics that Tim Sherwood, a relatively inexperienced manager, was given the job. Crudely speaking, Aston Villa are worth a lot more on the open market as a member of the Premier League – the richest league in the world.
In the next three months Tim Sherwood not only kept Aston Villa in the Premier League, due in part to his man-management skills and a return to form of striker Christian Benteke, he steered them to an FA Cup final. Unfortunately for Sherwood he was completely outclassed on the day by the master tactician, Arsene Wenger, who’s Arsenal team ripped Villa apart in one of the most one-sided FA Cup finals for many years.
In the summer Aston Villa lost their two best players in Benteke (Liverpool) and club captain & England international Fabian Delph (Manchester City). The latter for a surprisingly low transfer fee of £6 million, one year before his contract expired. Other experienced players also left the club, making it clear Villa needed to rebuild. So the arrival of 13 new players in the summer transfer window was inevitable. But without any star signings, and only three of the 13 speaking English, it was clear before a ball was kicked, that this season was going to be a tough one for Villa and Tim Sherwood.
In an interview for BBC Radio 5 Live this week, Tim Sherwood attempted to brush aside the question asking how he felt about Villa appointing a Director of Football after his own appointment and whether he had much control on the buying and selling of players by diplomatically stating that the club needs to bring in more experienced players in the January Transfer Window to continue playing in the Premier League next season. Betway currently have Aston Villa 3/1 to finish bottom of the Premier League, and unless Aston Villa go on a winning run, starting today with a home match against Swansea City, it’s odds on that Tim Sherwood won’t be the manager of Aston Villa come January.
There are two major issues here. Since Martin O’Neill walked out in 2010 after achieving three consecutive Top 6 finishes, allegedly over, among other things, the clubs’ transfer policy, Aston Villa have continually found themselves at the other end of the table fighting relegation, unable to attract an experienced top drawer manager. The second is, like the criticism that is given to Premier League teams wanting instant success, Tim Sherwood is a case in point proving that young English managers need to learn their trade out and make their mistakes away from the 24/7 glare of the Premier League. I have no doubt that Tim Sherwood is a motivational manager, good at man management, but appears to fall short as a tactician, especially in games where a Plan B is necessary.
In the short term, it looks like Tim Sherwood will lose his job sooner rather than later. Hopefully he will swallow his pride and his next managerial position will be for a lower league club where he will be given more time and less expectations. As for Aston Villa, I see them attempting to carry on ignoring the real problems at the club, which appear to be more with its hierarchy and how the club is run, rather than individual managers and under-performing players.
So Wayne Rooney has become the all-time leading goalscorer for England.
In the process, he has overtaken Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker who for different reasons, fell just short of reaching 50 international goals when they decided to hang up their England boots. Bobby Charlton was never played as an orthodox striker. Instead, he built a reputation as an attacking midfielder and hitting 30 yard net-ripping screamers (though I’m not actually sure how many of these he actually scored!).
In the case of Gary Lineker, one can only assume his announcement to retire from international football was not taken lightly by then England manager, Graeme ‘Swede Head’ ‘Turnip’ Taylor who decided to substitute him on his final appearance in a crucial European Championship qualifier, where England needed to score… , for Alan Smith!
I remember watching the match. Lineker couldn’t believe it. The look on his face and the slow walk, head bowed, said it all. Lineker needed just one more goal to set a new record; and as penalty-taker would have had the chance to break the England goalscoring record, had still been on the pitch. That said, it must have been a very difficult decision for Graeme ‘Swede Head’ ‘Turnip’ Taylor to make as the England team of 1992 were awash with World Class talent. What with the likes of Tony Daley, Andy Sinton, David Batty and Carlton Palmer.
Unlike Charlton, Lineker was a striker, ‘a poacher’, ‘a goal hanger’. Whatever he was, his record for England is an impressive one. But comparing goals to games ratio, no one comes close to goal scoring legends Jimmy Greaves and Nat Lofthouse. Lofthouse played for England 33 times between 1950 and 1958 and scored 30 goals. A remarkable feat, even if goalkeepers were crap in those days!
Jimmy Greaves, often cited as ‘the greatest England striker‘ scored 37 in 41 games for England, including no less than six hat-tricks – back of the net! Greaves was the First Division’s top scorer in six seasons and if it weren’t for an injury would have been first choice striker for England in the 1966 World Cup. Instead, when Jimmy Greaves returned from injury in time for the later stages of the tournament, Alf Ramsey decided to stick with the young debutant Geoff Hurst. The rest is history, though Greaves probably didn’t do his England career any favours after the World Cup by allegedly telling Ramsey to piss off!
When Wayne Rooney burst into the England team as a very exciting and naturally talented 17 year old (becoming the youngest England player of all-time) in 2003 he was surrounded by other great goalscoring players. Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and David Beckham scored their fair share of England goals, too. But Rooney’s outstanding natural talent and ability to read the game led me to believe that as he matured he would take on a deeper role so as to control the game, rather than waiting for the ball to be played to him. In this, I saw him carving out a midfield general role and become the new Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne. The fiery character was there, as was his ability. But for both club and country, he has been pushed further forward, and often played as a lone striker; a role that I still believe is not his best. Furthermore, in the past few seasons England and Manchester United have relied on Rooney to perform in less than convincing teams.
With all the aforementioned taken into consideration, it is an amazing feat for Wayne Rooney to have scored 50 goals in 107 games for England, aged just 29; and while there is a dearth in World Class England players, he looks likely to play many more games and probably become the most capped for England player, too. All of this, and still too many critics and fans alike are ready to argue against Rooney’s achievements. Whether you like it or not, Nat Lofthouse, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker … and Wayne Rooney is pretty much how you get from the 1950s to 2015, if you want to discuss England’s top goal scorers of all-time.
Following a poor pre-season in North America, losing for the first time to Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in the Community Shield, and collecting only one from six points in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho has blamed the club doctor and John Terry. Does he have any more toys to throw out of his pram before Roman Abramovich once again sacks the self-named ‘special one’?
Before kick off I had no reason to doubt that Jose Mourinho and Chelsea would right the wrongs of their opening draw at home to Swansea, and ‘turn up’ chomping at the bit as they so often do, when faced with a big game against one of the ‘big four’. But from the first kick, Manchester City were on the front foot. Manuel Pellegrini had said how his team would attack! attack! attack!… and that’s exactly what they did. Sergio Aguero was on fire, and fortunately for Chelsea, so was the stand-in goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who with several great saves managed to keep the half-time score down to 1-0.
But master tactician that Mourinho is, he realised the speed of Man City’s forward line – the likes and speed of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Jesus Navas and David Silva – Mourinho took the ‘brave’ decision to substitute his captain, leader and still his talisman, John Terry at half-time for the younger, spritely, Wilfred Zuma. A young man with plenty of enthusiasm, but nowhere near the awareness or big game experience that Terry gives the Chelsea defence.
Now, if Chelsea managed a draw or better by scoring in the second half without conceding more goals, Mourinho would have been praised for making such a contentious, brave decision. Instead, Man City went on to out-play Chelsea on every level and eventually ran out easy winners, 3-0.
There’s no denying the media have shown more interest in Jose Mourinho’s public outburst at team doctor and physio because Eva Carneiro is a woman. She actually followed ‘the other one’ into the pitch. But how many column inches have been written about him?
That said, his outburst that in someway was set as a distraction to, what in essence was, an appalling display by Chelsea on the opening day of the new Premier League season, is seriously looking like once more, Chelsea are imploding… again!
On the other hand, Manchester City have been the only team to come out of the traps at full pelt. Two games, two wins, six goals and none conceded. City look back to their very best, as the spine of their team – Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero are all on fire. Wolfsburg, former Chelsea and Belgium international Kevin De Bryune has officially stated he will not be moving to Man City, possibly to the relief of the other 19 teams in the league.
Other teams with 100% records in the Premier League are Man Utd and Liverpool. Both with two 1-0 victories have been less than convincing. Last night Liverpool were a little fortunate as a perfectly good Bournemouth goal was disallowed; while Christian Benteke‘s goal highlighted the new offside law that come into play this season stating that ‘if a player in an offside position moves towards or away from the ball, he is interfering with play; and is therefore deemed to be offside.’ Coutinho was clearly in an offside position when Benteke scored.
The big surprise of the season so far is Claudio Ranieri‘s Leicester City. They have not only started the season with a 100% record, but the manner of the exciting, fast-flowing football has been a joy to watch.
The only other two unbeaten teams in the Premier League are Everton and Swansea. Both followed opening match draws with convincing wins over Southampton and Newcastle, respectively. While the other end of the table is propped up by two of the pre-season favourites for relegation, Sunderland and Bournemouth, still without a point.