How to Get Out of the The Blocks Quickly in The Premier League
In October 2007, Tottenham Hotspur sacked Martin Jol after a disastrous opening to the season, culminating in a 3-1 defeat to Newcastle United.
In October 2008, Tottenham Hotspur sacked Juande Ramos after six defeats in their opening eight league games.
Both seasons, Tottenham managed to recover and secure a respectable league finish - but only gradually, and after heavy investment in the January transfer window.
Newcastle United started last season very slowly and paid the price as they endured a catastrophic relegation to the ignominity of the Football League.
Hull City raced out of the traps, and were second into November with 20 points from nine matches. Thereafter, their form and results went on a perpetual downward curve. It was only due to their fabulous start that they avoided relegation.
Manchester United took a while to hit top form, but eventually ran out Premier League champions for the second consecutive season.
So, are results in August and September essential to a strong season? Logic says yes, even if there have been one or two exceptions to the rule?
But which ingredients does a football club need to give itself the best chance of gaining early momentum?
Over the course of an nine-month season, a team can play anywhere between 40 and 65 matches. That's a lot of football. Charismatic ex-Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho emphasized the importance of having two good players for every position on the pitch. Players only have a four-week offseason, followed by a pre-season that lasts six weeks.
If a coaching team is not careful, players can start the season not fully prepared physically for the rigours of a modern-day season. Therefore, it is important that there are sufficient numbers of a good pedigree, should injuries occur to key first-team players. This is particularly important during the busy festive period.
The boss must have a clearly-defined Plan A. He must also have B,C and probably D. It is useless having a wealth of great players if there is no strategy, no planning. Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea is reknown to be a great tactician, just as was his predecessor, Guus Hiddink.
Equally, Mark Hughes will need to display his tactical nouse throughout the season, as he juggles his star players week-in, week-out.
Once this plan is clearly defined and implemented, you see players grow into their roles - and the team usually reaps the subsequent benefits.
Even the likes of Burnley—the smallest town ever to be represented in the top flight—and Portsmouth, who have seen all of their best players depart to balance the books, must show ambition and play with no fear and no little fight.
Teams such as Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Aston Villa must believe that breaking into the top four is possible. Fulham must look to at least match last season's feats.
Each player must have a defined role—and know his responsibilites. A player must know where he is supposed to be and when. A forward must be able to curb his attacking instinct and track back if his team is battling to defend a crucial lead, a defensive midfielder must know when he has to cover for a marauding full-back.
Roles on the pitch are important because they give an individual a meaning, and a team an identity, an ethic.
Roles off the pitch are equally important. Players must know how to keep a low profile in their private life and must carry out the social responsibilities given to them with enthusiasm and good will. A club's community profile is essential to the support it receives during matchday—and the image it can present outside the Premier League.
Nerves are a natural element of the human make-up. In sport, if they spiral out of control, they can prove devastating. If they are channelled and produce a sense of excitement, pride and determination, they can be positive.
Expectation among fans is always high on Day One, whether this is founded or floored. Players and managers have a lot to live up to. Just witness the furore surrounding the money being pumped into Manchester City. If focus and a sense of perspective can be retained, nerves are no bad thing.
Everton players, having been thrashed 6-1 by Arsenal yesterday at home, may be inclined to go into panick mode and hide behind each other, shirking responsibility. They may turn into nervous wrecks, waiting for the next mistake to happen. With perspective, they will realize that that capitulation was just one of many challenges that face them. If they—and the fans—can move on immidately and learn their lessons, they will be back on track.
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