Argh is all I can say when I look in here. I so want to be good about updating this blog but sadly, I’m not doing the job.
I guess that’s just it too: it’s not a job, it’s supposed to be a fun thing. The Greenest Pitch is supposed to be my fun blog. I think it still is, and I suppose if I get to a point where it’s no longer fun, I’ll stop. For the more serious stuff, I can always update my other blog, theconstantnow.com. Maybe you, gentle reader, could have a look at it, too. After reading this entry, of course.
And now for a brief and utterly incomplete assessment of some of the main talking points of the 2016 Prem, some other bits of football news, some thoughts and what have you.
The 2015-2016 English Premier League season must, must, must go down as the best ever. SO much to be thankful for this year. The real story is, of course, the extremely unlikely ascent of humble Leicester City to the summit of the League. 5,000 to 1 outsiders on the first day of the season, this club comprised largely of bargain-basement transfers and also-rans rightfully earned their very first top-league trophy in their 132 year history. The sense of vindication for manager Claudio Ranieri, who came in last summer with some sizable question marks on his reputation, nevertheless engineered a winning side. This was done by being content to give the ball to the opposition for the most part and hit teams on the counter with the blistering pace of striker Jamie Vardy, and the speed and intelligence on the wings of Riyad Mahrez and Mark Albrighton. To stop the analysis at this point is a tad disingenuous, as there were so many heroes on the team (Huth, Fuchs, Kante, Schmeichel et al) but there’s not point bogging this down now. So many others have said it better than I could, and so I will leave it to them.
Perhaps the other big story is of the epic, astounding meltdown at Chelsea. From taking the Prem at a canter last season to utter implosion this has been a sight to behold. Mourinho, who appeared to have the freedom of the city at Stamford Bridge, so to speak, was unceremoniously dumped in mid-December after a 2-1 loss to eventual champions, Leicester. The Portuguese schemer, who’d sunk to the depths of accusing his players of sabotaging his work, lost the locker room somehow, this man so touted for his man-management skills. The big story of the off-season so far is Mourinho’s latest gig at Manchester United. It is still unclear whether he’s able to overcome doubts over what some have considered to be a manager with a serious reputation problem. For my part, I think it’s a solid signing. The man practically guarantees silverware, which United desperately need in order to get their mojo back. Maybe more on that in a future entry…
To my utter disgust, Liverpool appear to be on a serious rebound under Teutonic troglodyte Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage. Two cup finals in just under eight months is not bad for a manager on his maiden voyage in the English footballing structure, but it could likely never have been otherwise for a man with his CV. Borussia Dortmund, the proud, massive club he managed for seven years and subsequently led to back-to-back Bundesliga titles (in 2011 and 2012) gave this young, passionate coach his chance back in 2008, and he did not let them down. His vigor, enthusiasm for the game and motivational skills are legendary, and is just the shot in the arm the loathsome Reds need to recover some of their pride. It’s enough to make any decent Toffeeman sick to his stomach. I’ve been mopping up vomit for months.
Another sore point this season has been the rapid ascent of the perfectly vile north Londoners Tottenham Hotspur. A club that up until a few seasons ago was on a par with Everton has, since then, mushroomed like an out of control bacterial infection, overwhelming its host. This season they pushed Leicester all the way to the finish line, and finished in a comfortable second place, above their hated neighbors Arsenal. That Spurs have continued to evolve and truly excel while my beloved Blues languish away and mutate into the new Wigan has been a bitter pill to swallow indeed.
Just to make to bile rise in the throat for sure, let’s have a gander at my beloved Toffees, who will see a massive walkout of talent this summer without any doubt. Roberto Martinez, a manager whose tenure seemed to get off to such a good start in the 2013-2014 season, succeeded in replicating his style of team management that saw him craft a capable cup-winning side at Wigan that also contrived to get relegated in the same season. This is when Martinez absconded from Everton’s north-west neighbors and set up camp at Goodison. A fifth-placed finish in the first season, coupled with an attractive, possession and attacking style of play had the Gwladys Street End faithful crowing about a return of the School of Science, with visions of silverware clouding their better judgment.
In the end, that first season only turned out to be as successful as it was due to the defensive solidity the players still possessed from years under David Moyes. A staunch defense coupled with that sort of passing play can deliver results. It’s just that Martinez hasn’t a clue of how to marshal a defense. And as such, we saw the first evidence of just what a leaky defense gets you if you’re unable to outscore your opponents in 2014-2015, and this season, without a European campaign to distract us, we managed only 11th in the League, which was about right for the abject performances throughout a season that promised so much.
It is hard to justify us holding on the likes of Romelu Lukaku, John Stones or even the likes of Seamus Coleman, Gerard Deulofeu or died-in-the-wool Blue Ross Barkley with the sort of philosophy that was on employ there. Everton lost more games from winning positions than any other team in the top flight, a statistic that, as the season wore interminably on, clearly ate away at the players’ confidence and belief in their manager. By the end, the terminally optimistic Martinez admitted that his players had let him down, something you’d never heard from him in the preceding three years. My guess is they simply gave up. There’d been too many empty superlatives used for poor performances to convince the players any longer. There’d been too much talk and no substance. A team that, on paper at least, ought to be pushing for the top four went out with a whimper. Like captain Phil Jagielka said, we will likely see a massive clearout this summer. It breaks my heart. Yes, there’s new ownership. But I don’t think Farhad Moshiri was necessarily looking to rebuild a squad from the ground up.
It will likely be a busy summer, not just for Everton but for all Prem teams. The bumper TV deal has kicked out more dough than most clubs in the top flight have ever come across, which could see the migration of some serious talent to the rainy isle.