Which Premier League manager will get fired first

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Up and Down

We are at the sharp end of the season again where the relegation and promotion spots tend to be in the mix and there are this season 4 teams who are running away with their league titles, a couple in strong positions and several in the play-off and relegation mix and I am going to stick my neck out and make my predictions as to who will go up and who will be back down a division.

The easiest place to start is the Blue Square Premier simply because Crawley Town are already champions. As for the play-offs the winners of Luton v Wrexham should decide the order and Fleetwood Town's meeting with Kidderminster who the 4th spot will go to. As for who will be promoted the smart money will be on AFC Wimbledon as they have an excellent squad and have been strong all season but the play-offs don't always go according to plan and all the play-off contenders have taken points off Wimbledon this season so I think Luton Town will be making a return to the Football League in the summer.

The Scottish Leagues are also up for grabs although Livingston's 21 point lead at the top of Division 2 is enough for them to win promotion, Arbroath have a 5 point lead and should win Division 3 but Division 1 is a tight race which Dunfermline are my bet to win simply because they have a 1 point lead and home advantage when the top 2 play each other at Easter. The SPL will see Hamilton relegated and Rangers are my bet for Champions due to sentimental reasons as it is Walter Smith's final season before retirement and it would be a lovely send-off for him.

League 2

Chesterfield are running away with the League 2 title but the places below them are still really tight. Only 5 points separate Wycombe in 2nd and Accrington in 8th and Port Vale have a chance at the play-offs still as they are only 3 points adrift of Stevenage in 6th. I actually think Bury & Wycombe will be promoted and Gillingham will drop out of the play-offs in favour of Accrington Stanley. Both Bury & Stanley have games against Barnet & Burton so they will be decisive when it comes to the relegation battle and it will be Burton's game in hand that saves them as it comes against an out of form Bradford City. Torquay are my vote to win the play-offs as they are on a decent run of form and will just pip Shrewsbury in the final.

League 1

Once again this is a division with runaway leaders in Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seasiders are making real progress under Gus Poyet and have led from start to finish needing only 1 more win to secure promotion and 3 more for the title with 6 games left. The play-off picture is close but Southampton's 2 games in hand should see them pip Huddersfield to 2nd although they have to play Rochdale and Brighton away with both teams hunting wins (Brighton to seal the title and Rochdale to sneak into the play-offs) but with games away at Plymouth and at home to Bristol Rovers both at the wrong end of the table they should have just enough to do it. I think Rochdale will beat Bournemouth to the last play-off spot as Bournemouth are struggling and Rochdale are coming into form at just the right time. It would be nice for them to win it and get higher than they have ever been but I think Darren Ferguson will repeat his promotion feats with Peterborough again this time. Relegation will be tight but the bottom 3 will be as they are now with Bristol Rovers surviving despite Notts County having 2 games in hand and a new boss in Martin Allen.

Championship A few weeks ago this looked cut and dried but 1 win for Swansea and an FA charge over player ownership has made it less so. QPR are 9 points clear at the top but allegations over 3rd party ownership of a player could see a 10 point deduction which shouldn't stop them going up but on current standings would put them in the play-offs. The fight for 2nd is intriguing with Swansea, Cardiff & Norwich fighting it out for the other promotion spot. All 3 have to play Portsmouth and Cardiff have to play QPR who will desperate to win so as to minimise the impact of any FA sanctions. I fancy Swansea to take 2nd as Norwich have a local derby which Ipswich will be desperate to win and a tough games against Forest. The play-offs will be won I believe by Cardiff as they have an excellent strike force with Chopra, Bothroyd & Bellamy. The bottom 3 will be as is with Sheffield United doomed and Scunthorpe and Preston finding form too late to escape.

Premier League.

Whilst many would like to pretend otherwise the Premier League title will be heading to Old Trafford for the 19th time barring a major collapse. Arsenal, Chelsea and City will make the Champions League with goal difference being City's saviour. Spurs will join Birmingham in the Europa League and I think Stoke City will make up the quartet after losing the FA Cup Final to Manchester United. Relegation is almost too close to call with everyone from Sunderland down in danger. If Blackpool beat Wigan on Saturday then the picture will become a lot clearer but a lot will ride on Wigan's game against West Ham. Wolves have an excellent chance to save themselves as West Ham have the hardest run in playing Chelsea, City and Villa. Add to that the probability that the Hammers and Wigan will cut each other's throats then they have a great chance to stay up but I still believe in the Tangerine dream so unfortunately every relegated club this season will start with the letter W and not be called Albion.

Champions League

I'd like to be biased and say Manchester United will win this season but while I think they will make the final I believe Cristiano Ronaldo will make the Special 1's year and make him the first manager to win Europe's Premier trophy for a 3rd time and with his 3rd different club cementing his reputation as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Something Special

I want it now, My chance has come and I will grab it I want to be something special

Wayne Rooney certainly delivered something special in a weekend that swung the title race firmly in the favour of Sir Alex Ferguson's team. at half-time it looked like 2 West Ham penalties and chaotic defending had thrown the doors open for Arsenal and Chelsea but Rooney's hat-trick coupled with the London clubs failure to overcome their opponents has slammed it shut in their faces as Manchester United extended their lead to 7 points at the top of the Premier League to close in on their 19th title. Whilst United have for many years mastered the art of the fight-back this one was special even by their standards although helped by Lee Mason inexplicably failing to send off Nemanja Vidic for a professional foul on Demba Ba. Rooney's goals were excellently taken and add a tidy finish from Hernandez and the Red Devils were happier ahead of their Champions League quarter final than Chelsea will be.

The question is where has it all gone wrong for the Blues. Double winners last season with a blistering start to this campaign it should have been all over in their favour but it hasn't worked out that way. Several factors have contributed to this, the injuries to Frank Lampard, Drogba's malaria and the strange dismissal of Ray Wilkins all destabilised the team at a time when the league seemed to be there for the taking. It hasn't helped that Fernando Torres has yet to justify his price tag and doesn't look like doing anytime soon for his new employers. In fact given the fact that he was under-performing at Liverpool makes you wonder why Ancelotti spent £50M on him. His only effect has been to alienate the other strikers who have regularly performed for the club and, as happened when Kevin Keegan signed Tino Asprilla halfway through the season, created uncertainty just as things are looking up.

At the weekend Stoke seemed to be warming up for their cup meeting with Bolton as they started brightly and took the lead. Chelsea responded well and could have won the game although a draw seemed a fair result on balance. The Blues do not look like they are firing on all cylinders and although it would take a 6 point swing in Tottenham's favour for them to fail to qualify for the Champions League I don't believe fourth place in the table is where they envisaged being at the end of the season.

The Arsenal experiment has failed and there is a real danger that Manchester City could overhaul them by the end of the campaign and finish in 2nd. On too many occasions the Gunners have failed to beat opposition that they would normally expect to beat comfortably. In the past the accusation has been that they are too soft away from home whereas this season their most damaging results have come at the Emirates. While United have only dropped 2 points at home all season Arsenal fans have endured draws with Blackburn, Sunderland and Man City, defeat to West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and add to this away draws at West Brom, Wigan and Newcastle (the latter after leading 4-0 at half-time) and this is where the damage has been done to their aspirations rather than defeats by Manchester United, Tottenham or Aston Villa.

It has been the same old story this season as Arsenal somehow contrived to lose any chance of winning a trophy. Outmuscled by Birmingham, Outplayed by Barcelona and undone by Manchester United they tumbled out of 3 cup competitions in a month and now their title ambitions have taken a fatal blow. Arsenal need to inject the steel and killer instinct into his side that Ferguson has into United, a belief that they can win every game regardless of how the opponents play. It is something that made Mourinho successful at Chelsea and that Wenger inherited from George Graham's players that he left behind at Arsenal.

Considering the fact that Manchester United drew 5 of their first 8 league games this season the fact that they are now 7 points clear is testament to the fact that unlike their challengers they have taken advantage of others slip-ups and if they win their 19th title (which is looking increasingly likely) take advantage of a good chance to lift the FA Cup (assuming they can see off Man City which won't be easy) and can achieve a 3rd Champions League for Ferguson that truly will be something special.