One week in and already subject to a rebranding. Such is the cut and thrust world of the Premier League that even the articles that cover it need to change with the times and what was last week’s Top 5 Conclusions becomes this week’s Top 5 Talking Points. After all, it’s never too early in the season to make changes…… as certain people may find out to their detriment all too soon…..
1. Sack race off to a flier….
Just in case my seemlessly linked intro went over your head, the fact that the season is only two weekend’s old will be no comfort to managers whose chairmen’s trigger fingers may already be starting to itch. Smart money is on Wigan boss Roberto Martinez whose stuttering end to last season has plunged into full on disgrace this term, a fact clearly recognised by bookmakers who have slashed his odds down to evens to be the first man out of a job this season. Having received the dreaded vote of confidence just a matter of hours ago, Martinez won’t be sleeping easily over the next couple of nights. Given the drubbings handed out to his team so far this season, the sack may be come as sweet relief for the Spaniard.
It should be noted however that its not only the Latics boss who should be feeling the pressure right now. Having spent a small fortune last summer, Steve Bruce will be looking anxiously over his shoulder should Sunderland take much longer to get a win on the board and continue to under achieve this season while life at Upton Park isnt going to get any easier for Avram Grant with their next two fixtures against Manchester United and Chelsea.
Could the season’s first top-flight managerical casualty occur by September?
2. Reality bites….
Just as quickly as fortunes can improve at a club they can also turn sour. Kevin MacDonald was the toast of Villa Park last weekend, heartily hailed as the man who finally gave youth a chance and in doing so directed his team from a potentially catastrophic opening game to an excellent victory.
This week, after a 6-0 defeat to newly promoted Newcastle United, MacDonald was forced to come out and admit his team selection was naive ,with youngsters Ciaran Clarke and Marc Albrighton particularily off the pace. Having never claimed he wanted the full time position anyway, maybe the fact that his chance at is all but gone now anyway isn’t so hard for him to take. It may be a far tougher season for Villa than it seemed seven days ago.
A similar scenario can be adjudged to be taking place at Liverpool. Given the doom-like forecasts laid out for the Anfield club last season, Roy Hodgson seemed to be walking into a job where he could really do no wrong. With the club struggling financially and big name players rumoured to be wanting out, Reds fans throughout the world seemed resigned to watching their once proud club slip down the table this season, until that is, something very odd happened.
Out of nowhere they were given hope. Somehow, Hodgson persuaded star players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to stay put and even managed to convince Joe Cole to jump onboard. Finally, when interest in the purchase of the club took off it seemed like the dark days that many predicted were a little hyperbolic.
It’s perhaps this level of hope that began to take reign amongst Liverpool followers that will cause Hodgson his toughest managerial test to date as financial and footballing stability is again, no longer acceptable. Having watched Manchester City dismantle his categorically second-best side last night, Hodgson may have to hope that this optimism quells or else become subject to the same criticisms that ultimately led to the demise of his predecessor. With Javier Mascherano apparently having played his last game for the club, the honeymoon is decidedly over it seems.
3. Order established early up top?
After this weekend’s proceedings the top four reads as follows: 1. Chelsea 2. Arsenal 3. Manchester United 4. Manchester City.
Anyone fancy betting against a different line-up come the end of the season? While the order from 2nd-4th may change slightly, if Chelsea continue like they’re performing at the moment, the lowest position they may face all season will be the one held before they ever kicked a ball. The Blues have scored 30 goals since last conceding one and Jose Mourinho’s boring 1-o’s feel a long, long time ago.
4. City Clickin’….
While Manchester City were helped by a poor Liverpool performance last night, it was clear for all to see that they were heads and shoulders abover their opponents in terms of all round quality. The argument, of course, is that when a side is custom built with the smallest of concern for financial ramifications to the tune of what City have done, a strong performance against one of their main rivals is the minimum expectation.
Despite the pressures however, last night in front of their mega-endowed benefactor Sheikh Mansour (picture, right), City gave the clearest example yet that they may well have the ability to challenge for top honours this year. Indeed, such was the clear gulf in class between the two squads, it could be strongly argued that each of the City substitutes may well have found a place on their opponents side instead of sitting on the all too comfortable Eastland benches. After a summer of spending that topped £130m, City’s bench last night contained £90m worth of talent while injured new signings Mario Balotell and Aleksandar Kolarov (another £40m worth of playing staff) watched from the stands.
It is a common threat levelled at Roberto Mancini that unless he somehow keep them all happy his whole project will fail spectacularly, but what else better to keep a squad happy than winning games and challenging for silverware? Such is the depth of quality at his fingertips, Mancini seems content to leave those unwilling to put up and shut up find work elsewhere anyway. After the exit of Craig Bellamy last week, don’t be surprised if Emmanuel Adebayor makes his way from Manchester before the week is out.
5. Video Technology fires Stoke-d at the Brittania
Were you watching Sepp? Another goal that wasn’t and another media outcry aimed at FIFA’s bigwigs. Perhaps if Peter Crouch’s lengthy frame had denied a more glamorous and powerful side than Stoke a goal last Saturday the cry would have been a little louder, but surely it’s only a matter of time before football’s governing body realizes that its archaic regulations are costing clubs valuable goals and doing very little to further interest in the game. The time for change is now.