With the Premier League going past the half-way mark I’ll share my review of the season so far after the 3rd FA Cup matches this weekend. In the meantime The Independent looks at the grave fortunes of managers like Hodgson including Ancelotti, Houllier and Grant. Here is my opinion for what it’s worth.
Carlo Ancelotti – I can recall him going on about a bad moment for some time now as if he’s a broken record which does not instil me with much confidence about his future. Much has been made about the power of Abramovich, but seriously who will take the poisoned chalice if the manager who took the club to the Double in May is unceremoniously dumped amidst rancour of higher level manipulations that plagued his last days.
Put that in the context of a club who have had more managers to paraphrase Glenn Hoddle recently than babies have had nappies, then you can tell it is not in anyone’s best interests to make drastic changes at the top. Chelsea are out of the running to win the league this season – that’s a fact. That’s a fact not so much because of the coach’s inability to motivate his squad, although that has to be a contributing factor, but because now the age factor and quality factor are catching up with Chelsea. Bad enough Lampard being out for a while but the loss of form and injury to Terry, Essien and Drogba have exposed the lack of strength in depth at the squad. It’s also exposed the lack of quality in the youth set-up to produce players capable of stepping up to the plate at times like this.
So it’s not the time to sack the manager, but it is the time to review where the club is now and how it can progress to retain its position as the top club in the country. That’s a process that starts now and leads to the larger changes if any in the Summer as part of a plan, rather than just pinning hopes on two or three players and a canny manager.
Gerard Houllier – the difference between Houllier and Hodgson is that Lerner brought in Houllier. It’s his own man. It’s his own selection. No one would have guessed how bad things would have got for Villa when he joined because of the calibre of the man. The hope is that they will get better in this second half of the season and play their way into the mid-table position they are good for now.
As someone selected by the incumbent owner, the manager knows the onus is on the owner to back him as he makes his changes. However that is not to take the mick out of that situation. If the run of poor results and performances continue, questions should be asked about what’s going on. That again though is a decision not to be made now when the guy’s hardly been in for long. That’s a decision for the end of the season.
Avram Grant – he finds himself in between the Houllier syndrome and the Hodgson scenario. On the one hand, he is the one hand-selected by the new owners. They make a noise about backing their manager and now is as much a time to do that as any. However Grant has been at the club for half the season and it is patently obvious for anyone to see that progress has not been made.
I was of the opinion at Portsmouth that Grant showed he was a fighter capable of adopting a siege mentality which won him the plaudits even during the inevitable nightmare season for Pompey. I can’t see any of that fighting spirit in the West Ham side despite the best efforts of Scott Parker.
At present and on their current course, I have the Hammers as virtual dead certs for the drop. I have no idea where the spark and sparkle will come from, or the dogged determination will arise to get the club grittily gaining the points necessary to stay in the Premier League. There is no sign that Grant has what it takes to produce that and therefore it is up to the owners whether they want to stand by their man and give him the time he needs to build the squad and system in his own image – even if that job takes a stint in the Championship – or whether they want to cut their losses and bring in someone who will know what to do to keep the Hammers in the Premier League or go down fighting.
It is interesting to note the climate for instant dismissals that has arisen promoted by the media, but also insistent in the reactions of the fans to the plights of their teams. It goes to show there’s a fine balance between bringing in change for your own ends and not having the wherewithal to manage when things go wrong and managing transition carefully so that everyone can maintain some level of positive consistency whilst movement is made to a different way of football.
Time is not on anyone’s side to be able to do that anymore it appears – you can imagine how long Fergie would be in a job if he applied his early form to a club today! Speaking of Fergie – look out for the blog entry reviewing the state of the Premier League and his team in particular coming soon!