Archive for December 31st, 2010

What We Learned From Prem So Far

End Of The Year Report

I have to say it’s hard to think of any genuine highlights this season as most of the memorable moments seem to relate to teams falling below their expected standards or failing to live up to expectations and that’s no way to really remember a season. The way the table looks at the moment, there are no clear gaps until you get to the four point separation between fifth and sixth. From sixth down appears to be an increasingly inseparable dirge of midtable relegation mediocrity. Even West Ham, comfortably propping up the table are a mere 12 points from sixth place and have every reason to believe they could be safe by the season’s end.

Join Us On The Good Ship Woebegotten

Aside from the World Cup, which was utterly forgettable, the team whose exploits best summed up this year is Liverpool. Their spectacular fall from grace allowed them to lose both their fact-obsessed manager and their parsimonious yankee owners only to replace them with an even less inspiring combo of managerial ineffectiveness and American make do and mend philosophy.

Their summer transfers illustrate the decline in quality in the Prem itself. Out goes Argentine captain Mascherano, merely the latest in a line of quality leakages from Anfield, in come Morieles, Poulson and Konchelsky, three players of such overwhelming averageness that even when combined they cannot match what has been sacrificed. As a result, they’ve been playing football of such a tedious quality that their opening day draw against Arsenal is starting to look like a moment from their golden age in the 1970’s.

Manager Uncle Wroy’s seeming acceptance of their situation and his apparent lack of anything approaching ambition provides a grim counterpoint to Liverpool’s abject performances. You sense he feels that his real triumph this year has been the psychological victory of keeping Gerrard and Torres at Anfield for another season. The sight of Wroy wrubbing his face in disbelief, as if doing so will somehow wake him from his deep layers of slumber and end the Liverpool nightmare, merely reinforces the depths to which his team has plummeted. The only solution may be a complete overhaul of the entire Liverpool system. Left without a decent team, in need of a new stadium to seriously compete and with owners who don’t look like they want to invest the £300 million or more that this will require, the future doesn’t look good. It will take the likes of Owen Coyle or another manager who can encourage low cost players to play beyond their means to get Liverpool back to their former level. But with all the problems at the club, would any manager like that actually want to take the job?

Or The Good Ship Woebegone

The flipside to this descent into mediocrity, is an illusion of opportunity. All it takes is a minor step up in form for teams to be catapulted into the big time. Ready or not, here they come. Both Man City and Tottingham have benefitted from forays into the transfer market, even if Tottingham have been wandering the aisles of Asda gazing whistfully at the own brand bargains, while Man City have simply gone out and bought the whole of Harrods.

Both teams have benefitted from the additional class offered by their incoming talent. Van Der Vaart appears to have singlehandedly dragged Spurs to the next level, encouraging positive performances from the likes of Bale and Crouch, even if he hasn’t quite managed to tame Offside Decision’s tendencies to stray into inappropriate positions. City, meanwhile, can afford to have expensive signings like Ballotelli spend an entire season bedding in, while the likes of YaYa Gigante and David Silva add to the performances of Leetle Carlito. Joint top at the end of the year is way more than they had expected, even if they have played two more games.

While The Other Teams Just Flounder

City and Spurs aside, I can’t think of a team that has genuinely improved over the season. Man U could possibly go an entire season unbeaten fielding their weakest team since the Prem began. Arsenal continue to flatter to deceive, playing beautiful football with the ball without any concept of how to defend when the other team has possession. In a perfect world Arsenal would do the unthinkable and hire Fat Sam Allerdiché (the anti-Wenger) to deal with their defensive and set piece play. That way they’d have all their bases covered.

Chelski have been the big losers. Ever since Abramovitch appeared as Putin’s miniMe during the 2018 World Cup bidding, he’s diverted his energies away from West London and gazed further east. His team has been crumbling ever since. They’ve lost the same number of games as Arsenal, Bolton and Sunderland, more than Man U, Man City and Tottingham. Even in this poorest of leagues, you’ve got to feel that this puts the championship beyond them.

The rest just appear to be vaguely interchangeable interminable stodge. Sure they may be capable of occasionally putting together an interesting game and Blackpool will always be worth watching, but far too many are simply makeweights stuffed full of tedious journeymen and could be kids who probably won’t amount to anything and have been for far too long.

Players Of The Year

  • Joe Hart – has really stepped up this year. So much so that it’s hard to see him not being the Engerland keeper for the next decade at least.
  • Samir Nasri – has matured nicely and seems to have benefitted from both being left out of the disgraced French World Cup team and included in the revised France Begins side. Apparently doesn’t get on with Franck Ribery, which may affect Ribery’s international career more than Nasri’s
  • Gareth Bale – announced himself to the world with a phyrric hattrick against Inter Milan, only to find that he could be marked out of a game by Phil Neville. Chances are he will do for Engerland’s Euro 2012 hopes when Engerland meet Wales in 2011.
  • Andy Carroll – not quite in the same league yet as Hart, Nasri or Bale, Carroll shows potential. He’s got good attacking instincts, great feet and is a world apart from the standard hoof-n-hope English centre forward like Heskey, Crouch or Shearer. Although it’s touch and go whether he will achieve greatness or spend the next few years in jail.
  • Nani – still a world away from replacing Christiano Ronaldo, he’s shaped up in a variety of ways, both physically and in terms of his overall game.
  • Van Der Vaart – the millstone around the Dutch neck during the World Cup (he seemed to hold back Sneijder and slow down the team), he’s transformed Tottingham. Without him, they look terminally vulnerable.

I can’t think of a defender who has exceeded expectations and only a few who have lived up to their reputations – Ashley Cole, HisNameIsRio, Vidic and er that’s it.

Onwards To 2011

If this carries on I think I might just give up on the whole thing…