10 Teams That Haven't Lived Up to Fans' Expectations This Season
There is nothing worse than being the fan of a club whose season has been written off before the end of November. The weight of their fans' expectations can prove far too much of a burden for some pampered, modern-day footballers to carry.
Some players thrive on the pressure, some just crumble.
Every season there are casualties to this benchmark, some expected and some not so.
Here, Bleacher Report offers 10 teams which have failed to live up to their fans' hopes, dreams, no matter how big or small, and expectations this season.
Statistics from WhoScored.com unless stated.
Betting odds from Oddschescker.
10. AC Milan
At the start of the season, AC Milan were 4-1 second favorites to win Serie A behind the reigning champions Juventus.
Twelve games into the 2013-14 season and Milan are little more than a shadow in the rear-view mirrors of surprise leaders AS Roma and Juve in second.
Milan are currently in 12th position in Serie A with a miserable record that shows just three wins and four draws from 12 games. The former greats have already lost five matches. They only lost eight games in the entirety of last season.
As it stands, Massimiliano Allegri's side have not won in six matches, Mario Balotelli has been abject and has only really shown up in spurts, and they are rapidly sliding away from qualifying for the Champions League next season.
Milan fill all the criteria for a club in crisis and for a club not living up to expectations.
9. Manchester City
Manchester City are not having the worst of seasons.
They are, however, failing to live up to their fans' expectations.
City currently find themselves in eighth position in the Premier League on 19 points, some six points behind Arsenal. You'll agree, the London-based club hardly have an unassailable lead, and City are still the bookmakers' favorites to win the title at 11-4.
So why the cause for concern I hear you ask?
City's form on the road has been shocking to say the least. The Etihad Stadium has proved impregnable as City have won all five matches there to date. Away from home, however, the Citizens are showing relegation form and have only taken four points from a possible 18.
That simply needs to improve, and it is making their fans more than uneasy.
8. Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur are a little bit of a strange case.
On paper, Spurs have had a tremendous start to the season.
They sold their best player, Gareth Bale, to Real Madrid for €100 million and bought seven top-class players to replace him. They have gotten off to one of their best ever starts to a Premier League campaign with 20 points after 11 games.
They are the Premier League's top scorers in all competitions, leading the way, averaging the most shots on goal per game with 18.7, boasting the second-highest possession rate with 59.3 percent per game and having kept 13 clean sheets from 19 games.
But their fans just aren't happy.
Time and time again this season, they have booed Spurs off the field. Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, criticised the club's fans for the negative atmosphere at the club before, quite wisely, praising the fans just four days later.
To say that Spurs fans are fickle would be an understatement. Many of them feel AVB's team is not living up to the club's history and expectation of attacking football.
Are there problems at Spurs? Absolutely. Villas-Boas' insistence on the use of inverted wingers is causing huge problems for the strikers and supporting midfielders. It needs to be remedied if Spurs are to be considered as genuine title contenders. However, Spurs are very much a work in progress.
It would be true, therefore, to say that many Spurs fans simply don't know a good thing when they see it.
Fulham, Fulham, Fulham.
Or empty-ham as they are becoming known as this season.
Martin Jol deserves all the flak he gets for assembling this team of charlatans, prima donnas and sunny day footballers.
Fulham have, metaphorically speaking, rolled over this season.
Their fans are pulling their hair out by the roots at their contemptible efforts to date. They have only won four games from 14 in all competitions and are flirting with relegation with just 10 points from 11 games.
The Cottagers have lost their last four matches on the trot and conceded 13 goals into the bargain.
They are in serious trouble and will do well to avoid relegation. It comes as no surprise to see the club move to support Jol, or perhaps hire his replacement, by signing ex-Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen as per Sky Sports.
They need all the help they can get.
It says a lot about La Liga that Valencia were priced at 100-1 fourth favorites to win the league at the start of the season.
Barcelona's and Real Madrid's domination of football in Spain has made the league little more than a high-class Scottish Premier League in the sun, although that can hardly be said these days given Rangers' relegation following financial troubles.
But I digress.
Valencia started off the season as one of the most fancied teams in La Liga. They were expected to be guaranteed a place in the top four come May and reap the rewards of a return to the Champions League.
Miroslav Dukic's side finished fifth last season, sold Roberto Soldado to Spurs for £26 million, signed four players on free transfers including ex-Spurs man Helder Postiga and were widely expected to push on.
That simply hasn't happened. Valencia have lost seven games and won eight in all competitions and are currently mired in ninth place with just 17 points.
Barcelona, as expected, lead La Liga with 37 points, Atletico Madrid are just three points behind in second and Real Madrid have 31 in third. These three teams should finish in these three positions, although probably in a different order, come next May.
Valencia have to make up a seven-point difference between them and Villarreal to finish in fourth. It is the least their fans expect, and Dukic will pay with his job if it is not achieved.
Hamburger SV are having an awful season to put it mildly.
Die Rothausen finished seventh last season and were expected by many, least of all their fans, to challenge for a place in the Champions League next season.
It's fair to say, that will not happen now.
Twelve points from the opening 12 games of the Bundesliga season, including six defeats, have left Bert van Marwijk's team in all kinds of trouble.
Their cause has not been helped by Rafael van der Vaart's continued appearances in the Hamburg gossip magazines. According to the Daily Mail, the Dutch international split up with his Dutch supermodel wife Sylvie and then began dating her former best friend Sabia Boulahrouz, the ex-wife of ex-Chelsea star Khalid Boulahrouz.
Van der Vaart's form doesn't appear to have been affected. The same cannot be said of his teammates, however. Hamburg have been shocking at the back this season and have given up an astonishing 23 goals. They are slow and cumbersome and lack real leadership in defence, and van Maarwijk's reputation is seriously suffering from these failures.
Hamburg need to improve, and they need to do it rapidly.
Poor old Nurnberg.
Let's be honest here, Nurnberg were never expected to be world beaters this or any other season. In a Bundesliga rapidly becoming a two-team dominated league like La Liga, the best a club like Nurnberg can hope for is honesty, the odd shock result and a respectful finish.
Gertjan Verbeek's side finished an excellent 10th last term with a respectful 44 points and shocked many a pundit.
This season, however, Der Club are struggling beyond their wildest nightmares.
They have taken just seven points from their opening 12 games and have yet to win a single match.
It's fair to suggest their fans expected a little more.
Once upon a time, Olympique Lyonnais were the dominant force in French football. They were hailed across Europe as the intelligent model on how to run a moderately sized club successfully. Les Gones won the Ligue 1 title seven years in a row between 2002 and 2008.
Their halo has fallen slightly since then. Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco are now two of the richest clubs on the planet and little old Lyon just can't compete with them on a financial basis.
But that doesn't mean they shouldn't compete.
Since PSG became the big guns in Ligue 1, Lyon have changed their philosophy slightly and seem content to challenge for a place in the Champions League rather than challenging for the title.
That outlook has assisted in their fall from grace, and this term they are slugging it out in seventh place on 18 points, some 13 points behind PSG after 13 games.
Fans don't really expect Lyon to dominate French football like they did in the early years of the new century. They do, however, expect competitiveness and honesty, and they just aren't getting it.
Under the guidance of extravagant owner Louis Nicollin, Montpellier shocked the French football world in 2011-12 by winning the title in spectacular fashion.
The following summer, however, they began to dismantle their title-winning team and sold star players Olivier Giroud to Arsenal and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to Newcastle United.
Since then they have not competed in the slightest. Last season they finished ninth. This year they are currently in 16th with just 14 points. It is only for the fact that Sochaux and Ajaccio are so incredibly bad that Montpellier are not in the bottom three.
If their slide continues unabated, they will be relegated, sooner rather than later.
Do fans of the 2012 champions expect a little more? Damn right they do.
1. PSV Eindhoven
There was a time when PSV Eindhoven were one of the most feared teams in Europe and perennial Eredivisie champions. That, sadly for PSV's fans, is no longer the case.
Phillip Cocu's side finished second above Feyenoord on goal difference last season to Ajax who won the league for the third year in a row.
This term both Feyenoord and PSV have struggled with the Eindhoven-based team slumming it down in eighth place, some five points behind Vitesse in first place.
As one would expect, PSV are one of the best footballing sides in Holland. However, they are just too nice to their opponents and seem reluctant to do the uglier things in the game like harrying, tracking back and just being plain nasty. This is a little ironic because these are all the qualities one would have used to describe Cocu when he was patrolling midfield for PSV and FC Barcelona during his career.
PSV, because of their size and financial advantage over other Dutch clubs, will always be expected to challenge for the title and qualify for the Champions League.
This season they have fallen short and seem to be struggling with that weight.
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