Monday, 8 December 2014

Calm Before The Storm

As we trundle towards Christmas, there is no manager whom you could safely predict is one game away from the sack. In an age where trigger-happy chairmen have been vilified by sections of the media as impatient and clueless, and the awful ‘look how much time Fergie was given’ cliché is wheeled out every few weeks, the only managerial departure so far is Tony Pulis and that was very much of his own volition.

Alan Pardew, dead man walking eight weeks ago, is now man of the hour, if not quite manager of any months. Big Sam Allardyce rides high in third place after showing a previously unfathomable ability to play something other than hoof-ball. It is great to see, managers adapting even in their later years. Not every personality is as fixed as some people like to paint. It’s easy for anyone writing about a football manager to revert to a character, as if sport is a sitcom with a satisfying narrative where no one ever changes. I can imagine Pardew and Allardyce had a chuckle over the very same points last week after the match. Well, maybe Allardyce was a bit more in the mood for a joke having stolen the points.

Football being an extremely political game, any manager with half a chance of surviving longer than two minutes must surely develop the thickest of skins. If you make the wrong subs, you’re clueless. If a sub works wonders, why didn’t he start the game? Win all your games and it’s all down to the players. Lose all your games and you’re the worst person ever, let alone manager. Brendan Rodgers is being hounded closer to the exit door after the Luis Suarez departure, yet wasn’t there a stat floating around last season which showed Liverpool had a higher points average without the hungry Uruguayan? Perhaps Daniel Sturridge was equally as essential to the Anfield attack? The 3-0 drubbing of Tottenham with Sturridge in the team and playing with ten men (well, Balotelli WAS playing) is Liverpool’s sole bright spot this season. Yes, the Suarez money could have been spent better, but that’s just it. It’s not the lack of Suarez, it’s the poor transfer window and inability to get the best out of what players are there which is costing Rodgers. He may get the time to turn it around and he probably will eventually, even if this season ends up a write-off.

Unfortunately, some managers don’t seem to help themselves. Arsene Wenger thought he had ridden out the storm after fending off Hull in May’s FA Cup final but he merely raised expectations one last and possibly fatal time. January will be Wenger’s last throw of the dice for some Arsenal fans. As a Newcastle supporter, I hate to say this but Moussa Sissoko is a must-buy for the ailing Londoners. You can buy all the forward flair in the world but if you’ve lost the battle in the centre then what’s the point? On second thoughts, Yohan Cabaye please. He’s already ex-Newcastle and he can put a foot in rightly!

As for Paul Lambert, Alan Irvine, Harry Redknapp, and all the other bottom-half dwellers, they will bounce from crisis to crisis, hopefully learn a thing or two along the way, and reach that point where the pressure becomes second-nature. This season is becoming one of managerial resilience. Cue the inevitable mass-sacking which renders this article as useful  as a chocolate teapot.

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