Tag Archives: chelsea

It’s Great That Liverpool Didn’t Win the League

So on Sunday, after a fantastic season of twists and huge upsets, Manchester City wrapped up their second Premier League title in just three seasons. And, even as a Chelsea fan, I’m quite happy about that. Because despite being upset that The Blues let the title slip against the ‘small’ teams, Liverpool winning the EPL would have made our competition look weak. Here’s why…

Put simply, Liverpool are shocking at the back. Of course, I support ‘boring’ old Chelsea, so I would put strong defence before an exciting attack on most occasions. But the stats tell the story – Liverpool kept just 10 clean sheets all year compared to Manchester City’s 16 and Chelsea’s 18.

They even conceded 50 goals, nearly double that of Chelsea and 13 more than City. Even Southampton and Manchester United conceded less, and both also had more clean sheets than the Scousers. For god’s sake, Norwich had more clean sheets than Liverpool and they’ve been relegated.

ImagePhoto Credit: nydailynews.com

For context, no Premier League Champion between 2001-2012 has conceded more than 37 goals. And no champion ever has conceded Liverpool’s 50 (even when the league had 42 games).

That’s why it’s good Liverpool didn’t win the league, they would have made it look weak. A team that ships half a century of goals, and wins just two games against their top four rivals will never make good ambassadors of your competition. And talking about The Reds record against the top four…

POS

1

TEAM

Chelsea

P

6

W

5

D

1

L

0

CS

4

FtS

1

GF

13

GA

2

GD

+11

Pts

16

PPG

2.67

2 Manchester City 6 2 1 3 0 1 12 11 +1 7

1.17

3 Liverpool 6 2 0 4 0 2 10 11 -1 6

1.00

4 Arsenal 6 1 2 3 2 2 7 18 -11 5

0.83

Top Four 2013/2014 Head-to-Head. The less usual stats are clean sheets, failed-to-score and points per game.

The proof is in the pudding – Liverpool didn’t have enough against the big teams. Fine, their potent attack scored 10 goals in 6 big games, but 5 of those goals came in one match against Arsenal in February. City and Chelsea both scored more, and the Pensioners conceded an absurd nine fewer goals in these 6 games.

It comes down to this; Liverpool only scraped 6 points from these half-dozen games because they didn’t keep a single clean sheet , and these are the lost points that cost ‘Pool the title.

Most fans were quick to think that ‘sexy’ Liverpool winning the League would have shown the world the exciting brand of football that England can offer. But they fail to remember most overseas fans only see the big games, so they usually see Liverpool lose.

What’s more, how strong would the EPL look if The Reds, as champions, went to Real Madrid next year and got bulldozed? In my eyes that’s a very real possibility. I’ve respected and admired Brendan Rodgers for years, but if he wants to see domestic success over a 38-game season, he may just have to tone down his style.

I really enjoy watching the Red side of the Mersey play, and watching attractive football is a big draw for a lot of fans. But even more important is success. And success needs more than flashy style; It needs ‘big game’ nerves and an ability to win when not at your best i.e. grinding out a 1-0 win away from home. Liverpool will also need to re-adapt to being in the Champions League, and a plethora of strong squad players is an absolute necessity if they wan’t to keep up with fixtures and remain in the top four next season.

Liverpool may come back even stronger next year, and for the sake of the Premier League I hope they do, but for now it’s best that they remain an entertaining runner-up.

Whatever Happened to the Player-Manager?

So Swansea have sacked Michael Laudrup, and placed long time club captain Garry Monk in temporary charge of the Swans. This got me thinking, what’s happened to the once popular trend of player-managers?

I’m sure Monk will never put a Swansea shirt on again, but he’s still contracted as a player at the South-Wales side. But other notable examples before this are few and far between. Nicolas Anelka’s short-lived stint as a striker and a coach at Shanghai Shenhua? Edgar Davids at my local club Barnet? Whatever happened to the player-manager?

Whilst on paper it seems an odd idea, ‘playagers’ actually have a strong history of success. Few have been more successful than Kenny Dalglish. Becoming Liverpool’s player manager in ’85/’86, Dalglish immediately led the Reds to the double, including scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final over Chelsea. He won another League title in ’87/’88, and groomed a plethora of young talent into a title winning side. Dalglish went against the common thought that a player-manager would simply select themselves for every game. Instead he made just 21 appearances in his first season and slowly let a new generation take over.

Grahame Souness was equally as successful in the same time frame, when in 1986-87 he joined Glasgow Rangers (ironically leaving Liverpool to join the Scottish side). In his initial season he won the League and League Cup double, beating Old Firm rivals Celtic in the cup final. Back to back championships followed in 1989 and 1990, not to mention two more cup victories in ’89 and ’91.

Image: liverpoolfc.wikia.com

Whereas Dalglish’s success came through cultivating a team mixed with veterans and young blood alike, Souness’ strategy focused on attracting quality players back to the Scottish league. The ‘Souness Revolution’ revolved around signing players like Ray Wilkins, Terry Butcher and Trevor Francis. If Kenny wasn’t afraid to let the kids take his place, Souness didn’t mind sharing the limelight with established footballing stars.

The point I’m trying to make is the player side of being a player manager actually rarely gets in the way of managerial duties. It can in fact make things like team selection and tactical changes easier; playagers have first hand experience playing with their team mates and a hands-on view of the tactical battle on the pitch.

“Being a player manager actually rarely gets in the way of managerial duties. It can in fact make things like team selection and tactical changes easier”

But probably the most famous examples of playagers in the Premier League was the trio of appointments at Chelsea in the ’90’s.

In Summer 1993, Chelsea made Glenn Hoddle player-manager, and he didn’t do a bad job. The Blue’s had a few years of mid-table finishes, but highlighted with impressive cup runs including the FA Cup Final during Hoddle’s first season with managerial duties. He also signed Ruud Gullit, who would take Hoddle’s place as player-manager in summer 1996 when The Hod left to become England manager. Gullit went one step better than Hoddle, and actually won the FA Cup in his first year in charge – Chelsea’s first major silverware for 26 years.

Gullit was the first foreign manager to win a trophy in England, but soon fell out with the Board during the ‘97/’98 season. As a tangent, this began Chelsea’s history of sacking successful managers, as the West London outfit were second in the League and in two cup quarter-finals. In a strange case of things coming full circle, Gullit was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, someone he helped bring in to The Pensioners.

SOCCER N'castle v Chelsea5

Image: thefootballweek.net

Vialli was hugely successful, winning a League Cup, Cup Winner’s Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup and coming just 4 points behind eventual champions Manchester United in the Premier League Season ending in ’99.

What does all this mean? It means player-managers, even when given relatively short stints in charge, can be massively successful. Chelsea had not seen this type of success, barring some cup wins in the early 1970’s, for 40 years. And they’ve grown ever bigger since.

So if player-managers can positively affect the management of the team, and be a success, why have they died a slow death? I think the perceived notion that they’re bad for business wins out over the actual facts – player-managers can be brilliant. Of course there are flops (Lombardo, Romario and Gascoigne come to mind), but also many success stories.

And perhaps even more importantly for us fans, they can be hugely entertaining. Football often needs more personalities, and a manager putting himself on and scoring a 87th minute winner is the stuff footballing dreams are made of.

After years of being a footballing joke, it’s time. Bring back the player-manager!

What are your thoughts about player-managers? Did you think you could possibly read an article that says ‘player-manager’ so many times? Sound off in the comments!