A Man for All Seasons

(Continuation)Looking at the 2008-09 season, there seems to be change in the air but mainly on the continent; Aston Villa promised so much but were just unable to cope with the stress of having to win everyday.

Looking at the 2008-09 season, there seems to be change in the air but mainly on the continent; Aston Villa promised so much but were just unable to cope with the stress of having to win everyday.

Liverpool challenged for the title for the first time under Benitez but questions still hang over Rafa. Can he play fluid dynamic football? Can he use two strikers? Can he inject some pace into his game? Can he use fewer Spanish players? As for Man U, they faded away at the end after having set such high targets for themselves.

Chelsea rescued their season with a superb appointment in Guus Hiddink; an old fashioned manager whose back-to-basics approach worked wonders where Scolari had failed.

Chelsea have since appointed Carlo Ancelotti who also has pedigree but one can foresee a language problem similar to Big Phil.

Arsenal as ever had a perfectly tuned precision machine that sputtered out of steam; Arsenal are always like a Ferrari on a muddy road in Ruhengeri, they need perfect conditions to play their perfect football.

The usual Ronaldo saga will ensue; will he, won’t he? Franck Ribery is certainly moving, Tevez is off-anything is possible even Zidane could come back and rescue a team.

 The real heroes of the Premiership have been the smaller teams, like Fulham who played way above their talents, Stoke who stayed up, Spurs for a recovery worthy of Lazarus and Newcastle for committing football suicide.

Aston Villa of Birmingham played some of the best football early on; Ashley Young was young player of the year and dazzled with his very direct play, Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew helped him as well.

Everton play a solid, organised game with a little genius in Mikel Arteta spraying the ball around. Two mighty clubs went down in Newcastle and Middlesbrough; Newcastle because of nearly a decade of mismanagement since the first departure of Kevin Keegan to this day, with a brief period of normality under Bobby Robson.

Boro put a lot of faith in Gareth Southgate, who must be the nicest man in football but he could motivate his players to fight for him.

Next season bodes well for smaller teams; the bigger teams are laden with debt and the current financial crisis is bound to hit the revenues of the Premier league.

Man U has $1 billion of debt, Liverpool lost $42m last year, Chelsea is still making a loss and Abramovitch has seen his vast fortune slashed by 30-40% and Arsenal is still going through its protracted boardroom battles with factions wanting to take over.

So we hope the monopoly will be broken.
 In Europe, there are winds of change; in France, the long-term stranglehold of Lyon was broken by Bordeaux, Lyon had won 7 in a row with various managers and players.

The constant out flux of players and aging of the squad took a toll on Lyon and the door was open for Marseille and Girondins-Bordeaux.

Bordeaux deserved it due to the manager Laurent Blanc having good tactical nous, plus- their players were outstanding; Cavenaghi, Chamakh, Gourcuff, and the like were steady unlike L’OM.

In Spain, Barca blew away the competition, Real Madrid wanted Wenger but instead got another coach with similar credentials; a degree in economics and another in Engineering, with a reputation for building squads and teams that play with flair and power, not Wenger but Manuel Pelegrini.

In Germany, there was a five-horse race with a tombola for the title; Hoffenheim are from a village of 4,000 people but have a Billionaire owner and they nearly stole the show.

The winners were worthy in the end with Wolfsburg backed by Volkswagen’s money but succeeded mainly due to the tactical skill of Felix Magath who previously managed Hamburg and Bayern, he managed to get his team on a run where they won 8 out of their last 10 games.

Inter continues their dominance of a weakened league in Italy, Jose Mourinho should win it again but will again struggle in the Champions league as we will see the usual 3+1 arrangement with the top 4 in England making 3 of 4 positions plus 1 other.

So let us dream for the summer and hope that your team will do well next year.