Leicester

Times Are Changing In The Premier League

As I write this, December 30th 2015, a simple look at the Premier League table will provide plenty of shocks to football fans across the world.  At the halfway point of the season, you would expect the traditional top four teams to occupy the lucrative Champions League places.

The traditional top four consisting of Arsenal,Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have barely changed since the Premier League era began in 1992. The only change has been the emergence of Manchester City and it’s Middle Eastern mega rich backers. Their money have allowed them to usurp Liverpool in the traditional top four. These traditional super powers of English football have dominated for over two decades. Until this season.

This season has been hugely unpredictable, with the traditional ‘big’ clubs dropping off slightly as those below them have risen up. This perfect storm has manifested itself into a current Premier League table which no one could have predicted before the season.

Yes, Arsenal may currently be top of the league, but after years of ridicule thanks to a recent lack of success, their accession to the top of the league has been slightly surprising.  The London’s clubs fortunes this season pale into insignificance thanks to the sterling performances of lowly Leicester City. The team that produced a miracle to stay up last season have been Premier League leaders for a huge portion of the season, currently sitting second in the league, level on points with Arsenal.

What is remarkable is that at this point Leicester were bottom of the league and looking certain to be relegated. Their survival was a fairy tale, but under new manager Claudio Ranieri, words cannot describe the unexpected success the team has had so far this season.

With a first team bought for less than £20 million pounds, Leicester have matched and beaten the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. The team’s transfer policy has been rewarded massively with bargains such as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in particular stealing the headlines. Costing a combined £1.4 million, the pair have linked up beautifully this season to devastating effect.

jamie-vardy-riyad-mahrez-leicester-city_3375357Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez celebrate one of the dynamic duo’s many goals for Leicester this season. Photo copyright Sky Sports.

Vardy has taken most of the plaudits thanks to setting a new Premier League record of scoring in eleven consecutive games, and currently sits joint top of the goalscorers list with 15 goals in 16 games. Mahrez is not far behind his team mate, with 13 goals in 17 games so far in the league.

Below Leicester there are plenty more surprises. Pre-season favorites Manchester City’s struggling away form limits them to third currently, with Tottenham the current form team in the league sitting pretty in fourth.

They have rose steadily up the league, and this season finally looks to be the season they can break through into the top four and the all important Champions League, after years of just missing out in fifth.

Crystal Palace are another high flying team, who have gone from lower mid-table to fifth in just over a season under Alan Pardew. In any other season their performances would have garnered plenty of press attention, but amongst the struggles of others and the rise of Leicester they have been regrettably been overlooked so far.

One team who have certainly not been overlooked by the press have been Manchester United. Arguably the world’s most famous club are floundering in sixth, with a under fire Louis Van Gaal the most likely manager to be next sacked. Since the Sir Alex Ferguson era ended, the clubs management and transfers have not been up to scratch. Their traditional role as a perennial top four side is seriously under threat for the future if something does not change at the club soon.

3118074087Louis Van Gaal feeling the strain after their defeat to Stoke on Boxing Day. Will he still be in charge next season? Photo copyright PA.

Throughout the league there are shocks, with the newly promoted Watford surprising everyone by sitting in eighth, led by top scorer Odion Ighalo and his 13 goals. Liverpool are suffering from a turbulent season and currently sit tenth in the league, giving new manager Jurgen Klopp a lot to think about with the January transfer window coming up.

Liverpool are currently in the final stages of the steady declining process bitter rivals Manchester United are just entering into now. The club needs to adjust it’s transfer policy, which in recent years has been laughable in comparison with the likes of Leicester.

In the bottom half of the table, there is one glaringly obvious surprise. Chelsea. The current Premier League champions have suffered the kind of awful season rarely experienced in the top European leagues. Everyone has been wondering quite simply how can a team that won the league seven moths ago retain the same squad and yet be 14th in the league going into 2016.

Whilst many pinned the blame on top players turning on Jose Mourinho. Whilst the unthinkable happened several weeks ago and the special one was sacked from his beloved Chelsea, even under interim boss Guus Hiddink results have not dramatically improved.

This season is not likely to get any easier for Chelsea, and realistically they would be happy with a top ten finish to the season, something laughable before the season started in August.

2C3849B000000578-0-image-a-26_1442147035612This expression from Jose Mourinho perfectly sums up their season. The look of disbelief and regret is shared amongst Chelsea fans. Photo copyright Reuters.

With the consistent increases in TV money giving every team a lot more money to spend, it becoming clear the traditionally vast differences between the budgets of the top four and the rest is closing at a gradual pace. Whilst the likes of Man City and Man Utd of course have huge resources to spend, their performances relative to that of the likes of Leicester and Watford show that top ten teams can be assembled for a fraction of what the big clubs spend.

With increasing pressure amongst the traditional top four as to their current future’s, could this season mark a turning point in the traditional balance of power with the Premier League. With question marks over the manager’s positions at Man City,Man Utd and Chelsea for next season could we see the likes of Crystal Palace and Leicester consistently challenging the top four in years to come?

In the past it appears there was a certain fright factor associated with playing the top four clubs, but this season has consistently shown that any club in the league can beat the top four on their day. With this new found confidence, perfectly illustrated by Stoke’s recent demolition of Man City 2-0 a few weeks ago, I hope this season will become the norm as the Premier League seemingly becomes more competitive every week. I’m sure you will join me in eagerly anticipating the second half of this season.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Premier League? Please give your thoughts below and most importantly thank you for reading.

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Should Chelsea have sacked Jose Mourinho?

The special one returns. On the 10th June 2013 Chelsea fans across the world celebrated like they had just won the Premier League. The special one was returning to Stamford Bridge. Two and a half years later and history has repeated itself. Mourinho and Chelsea have parted ways. But should Chelsea have stuck by Mourinho this time?

Based purely on the results of this season, Chelsea should have sacked Mourinho weeks ago. The club have gone from being Premier League champions to sitting 16th in six quick months. They have lost nine of their 16 games in the league, and sit only a precarious point away from the relegation places.

jose-mour_2584957iJose Mourinho smiling as he is announced as the Chelsea manager for the second time. Little did he or the fans know about how his second reign would end. Photo copyright Andrew Matthews/The Telegraph.

However, Jose Mourinho isn’t any old manager. Especially at Chelsea. He has been embraced by everyone at the club, especially the fans. His instant success in his first stint between 2004 and 2007 guaranteed him a place in Chelsea folklore. He led them towards back to back title triumphs and various domestic trophies.

Everywhere he has gone an increasing mystique has surround the Portugese manager. Initial success with Porto announced his name to the world, yet since then he has become the highest profile manager in football.

Successful stints at Inter Milan and Real Madrid have ensured he will always been known as one of the best managers there ever was in football. So when it was announced his was returning home to Chelsea in June 2013 the future seemed bright for the club and it’s fans.

He navigated through a trophy less first season in charge, before returning the Premier League trophy to Stamford Bridge in his second season. A new long term contract was signed and the club returned for a new season expecting plenty of the same success.

290b1e8c00000578-0-image-a-85_1432539502288Mourinho celebrating leading Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2014. This was his third league title whilst at Chelsea. The next six months would be a lot less successful for him and the club. Photo copyright Getty Images.

See, this is where the difficult reality set in. Chelsea started the season poorly. A bad start quickly snowballed into a bad first six, then eight games, ten games, fifteen games to the point that after their latest defeat to Leicester on Monday Night football 2-1 crisis meetings were held. The funny thing is, the roles of the two clubs on Monday night have been completely reversed this season.

Leicester have shocked everyone as they currently sit two points clear at the top of the table heading towards Christmas, whilst Chelsea have become the club fighting to stay in the Premier League this season.

It’s clear that if Jose Mourinho were any other manager Chelsea would of sacked him a long time ago. Yet his reputation and influence at the club kept him in the hot seat as he dug Chelsea into an even deeper hole every week.

There have been the usual outbursts against referee’s this season, yet on Monday he finally turned on his players. He publicly called out his players for not following the pre-match game plan. He claimed this was the reasons behind their defeat to Leicester.

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This expression sums up the season Chelsea and Mourinho have had so far. The search begins for the right man to rectify it. Photo copyright unknown sourced from Squawka.com .

With key players playing well under their best season it was becoming clear with every defeat that tensions were going to rise in the dressing room . The pressure simply became too much for the club and after holding a emergency meeting, agreed to part with Mourinho under “mutual terms”.

Now for Chelsea fans this must feel similar to his first departure in September 2007, but this time Chelsea are in a much bigger mess. They are in a very real fight for survival in the Premier League, and whoever they get in to replace Mourinho faces a very difficult task in recovering their season.

Their only bright spot this season has been their Champions League progression, although they face PSG and will be hoping the French club don’t knock them out of the tournament again. For now the club will have to find a decent replacement for Mourinho, whose future in unclear after his reputation has taken a hit with the struggles Chelsea have endured this season. The optimism shown by Mourinho’s appointment in June 2013 couldn’t seem further away this time.