Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blackpool latest in a long line of heartbreak?

Are Blackpool about to join the long list of newly promoted clubs who announce themselves with a bang, before eventually slipping out of the Premier League, never to return? As I will find out, the dreaded second season syndrome has turned into the second HALF of season syndrome! Oh the joys of a tighter league..

Ipswich Town – from 5th one season to 18th the next. In 2000-01, the temporarily red-hot Marcus Stewart scored 18 goals, leading the Tractor Boys to Europe. Not only this, but Ipswich were only 4 points off 2nd place, amassing an incredible 66 points. George Burley was named Manager of The Year. The following season, relegation was the punishment for such a stunning introduction. A start of 1 win in 18 games really killed the club’s hopes, and the club has never seriously threatened a return to the country’s top division.

Reading – from 8th one season to 18th the next. Reading almost exactly mirrored Ipswich’s unfortunate situation. They share the blue strip, although Reading were unable to match their Uefa Cup ambitions, falling a missed penalty short on the last day of the 2006-07 season. However, even without the distraction of Europe, Reading proved ill-prepared for the harsh realities of 2007-08. Their attractive attacking style was nullified somewhat, as teams managed to work them out, and 36 points was not enough to spare their top-flight status, as they dropped into the Championship on goal difference. Since then, Reading have never really managed to form a serious promotion push.

Hull City – from 3rd at the end of October 2008 to 17th in May 2009. 19th the season after. Hull took the league by storm, with Phil Brown’s antics initially delighting the media and fans alike. After winning 3-0 at West Brom they had amassed 20 points from their first 10 games, only kept off the top of the pile by goal difference. The long slide from that point ensured Hull only just avoided the drop that year. 2008-09 was viewed by many as a depressingly inevitable relegation season for Hull, and so it proved. Jimmy Bullard was bought in an attempt to arrest this slump, but his intermittent injuries were befitting of the stop-start nature of the Tigers’ form. After returning to the second tier, they have done well to halt this freefall, and are currently relatively stable in mid-table.

Burnley – Not quite as dramatic a fall from grace as was by Hull, but impressive nonetheless. The Clarets started off with an invincible home record, remaining in the top 10 well into the autumn. However, results began to slide, Owen Coyle made the controversial decision to switch to Bolton, and Brian Laws proved out of his depth, as Burnley’s top flight party was cut short even sooner than their predecessors.

Blackpool – 4th in September, 9th in January, 15th in March… 18th or worse in May perhaps?

Oh Arsenal..

Another year, another Arsenal side that supposedly flatters to deceive. Or perhaps next year the media will not pile so much expectation on a side that always punches above its weight. This is a side that lacks a truly dominant central defender, a commanding goalkeeper, and a tough-tackling midfielder, yet Arsene Wenger manages to paper over these cracks, and get closer each year to delivering major silverware. While Man United will take some stopping, Arsenal are best placed to do just that.

There are many valid reasons why Arsenal have not splashed out, and brought in another tough Viera-esque midfielder. One important issue is that the whole world is aware of this problem. What is Wenger supposed to do…beg Milan to let Gattuso go? The age-old problem of having an obvious position to address in the transfer market is that clubs can smell desperation a mile off. It is why Newcastle will struggle to buy a quality striker this summer (or at least what Mike Ashley will claim). And it is why Arsenal will continue to toil in their attempts to buy proven warriors in their key positions. Unless you are Man City – where money is no object, you can always be priced out of the market. Perhaps the Gunners’ best hope is to wait on Nigel de Jong inevitably becoming unsettled at Eastlands and slapping in a cheeky £10m bid.

Having said all that, this current Arsenal side remind me of an impressively assembled Football Manager team, which goes close in all competitions, but somehow contrives to lose the biggest matches in winnable circumstances. I’ve been there so many times – getting to a cup final against opposition such as Birmingham, playing them off the park, and getting beaten by a sucker punch goal. The problem here is not mentality – simply attitude. What I would suggest is getting the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour and Patrick Viera in as coaching staff. Perhaps even David Seaman? Well I’m done telling Wenger how to manage.