In English football there is an obsession with analysing everything from the manager's point of view—ignoring, in the process, the budget, the behaviour of the board and that other minor detail: the form of the players.
So, down to the capital now for the second part of my 15-game progress report on the Premiership's major players and managers this season.
Arsenal: Arsene Wenger
At the time of writing, Arsenal have gone eight years, six months and 21 days since they lifted a trophy.
What are the chances of Arsene Wenger getting his hands of a piece of silverware this season? If he does, it will be the first to make it into the Emirates trophy room.
Aaron Ramsey has been a revelation for the Gunners this season, and in Mesut Ozil the Gunners have a playmaker of real quality—although, historically, he has shown that he does not always have a full 90 minutes per game in him, nor when playing at the highest level, for a full season.
But on the plus side, Ozil is enjoying his new hero status, and although the team is not at their absolute best, they are still irregular at times and failed to raise their levels in midweek against Napoli.
Is that what we are going to get from Arsenal in the next big games? The following three weeks will define their real level.
I suspect they will not be five points ahead at the end of the Christmas period, but they show a healthy defensive structure which eventually takes teams to win titles (City are still my favourites to win the league).
And while Arsenal may end up ruing the day they failed to win their Champions League group, it’s also fair to say that none of the group winners they could face in the last 16 will particularly relish the prospect of meeting them, either.
"Of course to finish second makes the potential draw more difficult," Wenger said, per Arsenal.com, following his side's 2-0 loss at Napoli this week. "In the last four or five years we have had very difficult draws, so maybe this time we will be more lucky. But if you look at the teams who are potentially there, at least we know we will have a difficult draw."
Chelsea: Jose Mourinho
Down at Stamford Bridge, people in the know close to Jose Mourinho are suggesting that it wasn’t perhaps the greatest idea in the world for The Special One to return to Chelsea.
He was of course always the fans' first choice, but originally not first choice on the Abramovich shopping list.
Unfortunately, and this is quite clear by the way he talks at his press conferences, there were certain limitations put on the Portuguese coach before he was appointed. Certainly, Mourinho would like to move the goal posts and see his employer pull out his chequebook.
But, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing what his renowned coaching skills can do with basically the same team as left to him by a previous manager.
At the moment the team are as good—or depending on your point of view—as bad as it was last season and are not showing many signs of improvement.
Tottenham: Andre Villas-Boas
There was no reluctance to splash the cash at White Hart Lane, where the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid allowed for massive investment for Spurs.
But the embarrassment of riches enjoyed by Andre Villas-Boas has brought problems, and while the coach knows he has to rotate, that methodology will have a bigger return when players improve their performances.
Villas-Boas believes that is the way to find his team, something he would probably admit he hasn't found yet.
He would hope for more games to create the necessary interplay that defines a team. Players want to play regularly, but they need to claim their place.
It is too easy to blame it all on the manager.
I’m sure that when he does finally work it out, he’ll make the necessary changes—which will probably be minimal—and stick by the players that respond to the biggest challenges. In the meantime, it is up to the players to step up to the plate and make their position their own personal property.
Just blaming the coach is facile, and despite rumours, I’m pretty sure Spurs realise that what AVB needs is a bit of time.
Part I can be found here.
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