It’s that time of the year again.
The time where managers look over their shoulders and wonder if the axe man is preparing to swing. Phil Brown was the first to know the wrath of the P45, better known as the Pink Slip on the left side of the pond. His successor, Iain Dowie, probably will find a similar note in his mailbox come the end of his (brief) term. Juventus sacked Ciro Ferrara midseason while his replacement also looks to hit the road. Vallencia’s Manolo Jimenez found himself out yesterday, while Gianfranco Zola looks set to be next on the block.
And who knows what the end of the term brings? Brian Laws surely cannot be asked back to Turf Moor, while Avram Grant, despite the fight his side have shown, maybe inclined to get back into the Premier League…maybe at Liverpool? Certainly Rafa Benitez is under the gun after predicting Champions League football but now looking more and more the third or fourth team in a four horse race for spot number 4. Carlo Ancelotti is not safe at Chelsea by any stretch. Roberto Martinez might be sweating a bit at Wigan. Jose Mourinho isn’t secure at Inter Milan. Manuel Pellegrini better win La Liga lest he be on his hind end on the street. Lorenz-Gunther Kostner might be getting booted from Wolfsburg. And I’m sure there are more to come in the following weeks.
Makes you think that management is located somewhere in between the 4th and 5th levels of hell in Dante’s Inferno.
I have to say, if Villa are off a couple of points in the race for 4th, they can look back at this match and curse there inability to put Wolves to the sword. In fact, it took some pathetic defending just to find a point in a match that Wolves looked like stealing for long stretches. While many found Wolves to be the biggest underdog story of the week, watching Pompey rise up and haul down Hull at the death was inspirational at the weakest. I can’t imagine what Hull fans and players must be thinking now that Iain Dowie is supposed to keep them afloat. Apparently, his job at doing it last year (by getting Newcastle dumped) worked so well that management wanted a repeat performance of Hull staying up. Likely, it will be a second act of the great Northeastern collapse.
Elsewhere, Everton seem to be lacking something without Landon Donovan in the lineup, but, if they get more free kicks from Mikel Arteta like they got against Bolton in the 2-0 win, they might well try and sneak above Liverpool in the standings (and wouldn’t that be insult on injury). Spurs kept the pace moving, though if you recognized anyone on the bench past Eidur Gudjohnson, give yourself a pat on the back. Also, find the nearest women’s institute in London, because maybe Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Vedran Corluka might be throwing down there. Birmingham have certainly earned another term in the Premier League, though you wonder if the inconsistent play of late won’t bleed into next season as they were hammered by a suddenly confident Sunderland side 3-1. Wigan nipped Burnley at the death 1-0, while Arsenal let West Ham hang around for a while before finally spotkicking them out of the way at 2-0.
Despite the lack of quality at times, there were certainly no complaints from the Red home side as United drove a large spike into the Liverpool coffin, with Park Ji-Sung’s head as the hammer in the 2-1 win. Chelsea couldn’t keep the pace as Blackburn hung around long enough to get a late draw while watching Chelsesa’s defense further fall apart through injury. City killed the hungover Fulham side who were also thinking about Spurs midweek 1-2.
What’s this “Confidence” thing that Wolves have found and where can I buy some of it? West Ham may have expended energy against Arsenal but for crying out loud, they were atrocious against a Wolves side that had six shots in the game and three goals on the scoresheet. Sure, West Ham could fire Zola, but what would that do, outside of cement their relegation threatened season? If it weren’t for Hull and Burnley being as bad as they are and Pompey 14 points adrift, I’d be worried for the Hammers. Then again, whose to say that maybe Pompey couldn’t find enough points to still stay alive…? It’s not like Hull or Burnley are going anywhere any time soon….
The New Week
Most eyes today will contend themselves with the F.A. Cup replay between Fulham and Spurs at White Hart Lane. Others will find City/Everton more to their liking, a game which could certainly shake up the fourth place race. Villa/Sunderland could do likewise, while Pompey will look to be the little engine that could, though Chelsea would rather they not. Blackburn and Birmingham will fight out to see who is a better “longball” team also.
Saturday grants us a key crunch between Chelsea and Villa, one that will have multiple impacts on both top tier races. Birmingham/Arsenal, Spurs/Pompey and Bolton/United will also shape up those two races. Hull/Fulham and West Ham/Stoke feature matches with bottom dwellers needing points from tough opponents, while Wolves and Everton could be the most exciting game of the bunch on current form.
Sunday might be make or break day for Liverpool, who must contend with Sunderland. Burnley get a Blackburn side that probably needs one more win to keep themselves out of the relegation scrap and would love nothing better than to hasten the exodus of Burnley to the Championship. City host Wigan on Monday to close out the week, needing three points rather than to pull a Liverpool and drop a costly decision.
Tags: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Premier League, Soccer, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers