post

Are Everton a stronger outfit than rivals Liverpool?

Liverpool and Everton has both always been huge clubs in English football history. Liverpool can always boast about the amount of success they have in terms of trophies, including five Champions League titles, but Everton have won their fair share of domestic trophies and are currently the longest reigning team in the Premier League. Liverpool last won the league title in 1990 and that seems a very long time ago now, but have come a close 2nd on a couple of occasions in the last decade.

The most recent was in the 2008/2009 season where Liverpool finished four points behind Manchester United. Since then, Liverpool has been on a decline and finds themselves further and further behind first place. Last season they finished in 8th position, even behind rivals Everton.


Going into this season, Liverpool first hopes and perhaps even remaining hopes was to finish in the top four, and reach Champions League football once again. In their first 5 matches, they have yet to find a win. They have had three home games, albeit against top sides, they have picked up just one point. In their two away games, they have picked up another point, as they sit in the relegation zone one month after the Premier League has started. Everton on the other hand have had a flying start to the season.

If you ignore their recent exit in the Capital One Cup to Leeds, they have been almost flawless in the league. They started their campaign by beating Manchester United, before cruising to victory at Aston Villa one week later. They had lost to West Brom, but bounced back with two decent performances and find themselves on 10 points, 8 more than Liverpool, and sit 3rd place in the table.

Who will finish higher between these two clubs this season then? Liverpool can’t buy a win at the moment, and struggling to find goals at the moment. Suarez is their only out and out forward, so they have no back up if he was to get injured. Everton have always had little funds, and even more so in recent seasons. David Moyes has done a splendid task but assembling a great squad at Everton this year. Jelavic starts his first full season, and has Belgium players Fellaini, one of the players of the season so far, and new signing Mirallas to support a dangerous looking front line. Stephen Pienarr’s return to Goodison Park looks a great one for the fans, as he continues to look impressive with fantastic vision and passion, and the ability to carry the ball. Everton have been solid defensively, and Baines at left back looks a top player at the moment.

It’s hard to say they have a better squad than Liverpool, but there seems a lot more positive energy in the Everton side than there is in the Liverpool side. Everton lost to Liverpool in all three matches last season, including the FA Cup semi, but it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the head to head this year, and who will be leading the biggest challenge for the European places in the league this year.

post

Wayne Rooney’s back! A problem for United?

One of the biggest names in world football makes his return soon, how can that be a problem? If Rooney was missing for any of the season’s since Ronaldo left Manchester United then you’d have been right in thinking that the majority of United fans would be desperate for his return. He was top scorer in two of the last three seasons for the club with 34 goals each time and a key figure in the year in between. As of now though, there isn’t that sense of relief that he’s coming back, even his injury and layoff was met with a ‘oh well’ reaction.

Of course, the reason for this is that Rooney just doesn’t seem to be as needed as much as he has been in previous seasons. Even in the year where Dimitar Berbatov outscored him, it was Rooney who would play the big games with the Bulgarian normally watching from the bench. The reason for this current indifference to his return? Robin van Persie of course. Since the Dutchman’s introduction and Rooney’s injury caused by the studs of Hugo Rodallega, the Red Devils have won all four league games with Van Persie topping the Premier League scoring charts.


So what happens now? There are a few options for Ferguson. He can continue his one up front system, with Kagawa playing behind either Rooney or Van Persie or he can try them together. My personal opinion is that this is going to be a frustrating season for the English striker. With Van Persie already settled I can’t see Ferguson dropping him any time soon, and in the big games when Ferguson prefers his 4-5-1 formation, it’s going to be Van Persie leading the line, with Rooney either reverting to the wing like he did during Ronaldo’s last season (especially with Nani’s recent regression to the frustrating force he was before a couple of seasons ago), or, even finding himself on the bench.

Ferguson can quite happily play Rooney up front on his own, or pair him with Van Persie in the games United expect to win. However, when the blue half come visiting or they face a trip to the Emirates, I’d fully expect Van Persie to be the striker with his name at the point of United’s attack. Where does this leave Rooney? He is still an excellent player and 30+ goals last season is not to be sniffed at.

Ferguson can’t really leave one of the highest paid players in world football to kick his heels on the bench, but unless Van Persie gets injured, or they hit off such a partnership that Ferguson is happy to employ a 4-4-2 away at Stamford Bridge, then Rooney runs the risk of missing out on the big games. Hernandez and Welbeck may be reasonably happy to play bit-part roles from the bench and against the lesser teams, but Rooney happy with that? I don’t think so. Intriguing times ahead at Old Trafford.

post

Are long contracts the way forward for managers?

This week Alan Pardew, manager of Newcastle United, and his management team have joined chief scout Graham Carr in signing contracts with the club until 2020. That is a massive eight-year contract. Is that the way forward? Newcastle’s thoughts behind this are that Manchester United and Arsenal, arguably the two most successful clubs of the Premier League era, have been able to achieve what they have due to the stability gained by keeping a manager and his back-room staff for significant periods of time.

Ferguson has been at the Old Trafford club for nearly 26 years, during this time Newcastle United have had 23 managers (including caretaker managers), nearly one for each year. In this period Newcastle have won nothing, well, they have won the Championship (or First Division) twice, but to have done that, they’ve needed to be relegated, and a club of Newcastle’s size should not be playing outside of the top league in English football. So you can see the logic behind the decision. Newcastle have not been the most stable club, and you can applaud Mike Ashley and his board for trying to provide the continuity for success.


However, is this going to work? Or is it just going to result in Newcastle having to give Pardew a massive pay-off when Newcastle aren’t doing as well as expected in a couple of years time?

The average length of tenure for a manager is around two years, so arguably Pardew is almost at the time when other managers are beginning to lose their jobs, yet, he has just been given a contract four times the length of this average. Surely just giving a manager a long contract is not enough to guarantee success? If Newcastle were to tie me to an 8 year contract, then I’m pretty sure it’d end in disaster. Now, admittedly, they have more hope with Pardew and based on his previous season in which Newcastle finished a very credible 5th they will be hopeful of improvement.

However, just a quick look through the history books sees that George Burley achieved this with Ipswich Town. Would an 8 year contract have made Ipswich a force to be reckoned with? It’s hard to say, but it’s doubtful. Admittedly, Newcastle are a bigger club with more money, but my point is that for success, you don’t only need to have belief and faith in a manager, but you also need a very talented guy in charge. Ferguson is arguably the greatest manager of all time and before he came to Old Trafford he’d already won the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup with Aberdeen and beaten Celtic and Rangers to three Scottish Premier Division titles. Alan Pardew has won the F.A. Trophy with Southampton. Is he the right man for the job?

The key here is not to be too quick to judge. Ferguson was in charge for nearly four years before he won anything, and nearly seven years before his first league title. Pardew has yet to be in charge for 2 full years, and just a season (albeit a successful season) and a half prior to this one. This means Pardew should be given until at least the end of the 2013-2014 season until he can start to be judged, and probably longer. Whether he is the man for the job remains to be seen, but he needs Ashley and Llambias et al to give him the support such a large contract warrants. If they do, Pardew could surprise us and rival Ferguson and Wenger with a Newcastle United dynasty, or, he could be sacked in a year or two with the Magpies mid-table. Interesting times ahead in the North-East.