Monday, 27 April 2015


It's a strange word, boring. Boring by definition connotes mundanity and mediocrity, a mind numbing sense of lack of direction and purpose. And yet, when it is used in football to connate a type or brand of effect that is not of the appealing sort, pundits and fans jump at the word to prompt negativity and in effect jealousy.

Jealousy because rivals are not liking a certain team succeeding.  This was most apparent during Chelsea's 0-0 draw away from home at Arsenal on Sunday. A result that left Chelsea ten points clear with five games to play, requiring them to win only two more games to win the title. Such deliberate tactical planning by Jose Mourinho led critics to claim that Chelsea were doing a disservice to the league by not attempting to win in style at the Emirates. Admittedly, it was not a classic but the tactical battle was great to watch.

Mourinho is a good poker player, although his histrionics are not so on the touchline, he is one with his players who know what they have to do for him and he entrusts his players to do the job, hence why he has used a small batch of his squad in a throwback to the days of Liverpool in the 1980s with their 14 man Championship side.

Yet it does strike you as odd that Chelsea are being called boring, when they are trying not to lose. And since when has winning been boring? If Arsene Wenger was in the box seat, he would do the same thing. Remember the Invincibles of 2003/4, a great fabled team yes but a team that once it had the title claimed they struggled through the remaining fixtures to not lose, instead tamely playing football that was anything but invincible.

So while playing devils advocate you can perhaps see Wenger's point, the labelling is wrong and it is this type of football you expect of Mourinho in the sense that he is tactically astute and prepared to foresake flair for the need to succeed.

Mourinho is like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in that sense. Mourinho is the guy you love to hate, a guy you actually loathe to hate, but you cannot ignore the level of sustained success he has had over the years. Belichick bends the rules without breaking them, but do not forget for a defensive minded coach he had the highest scoring most dominant regular season of any team in NFL history; and Mourinho's charges have scored more goals than anyone else bar Manchester City.

But as Mourinho stated, the league is based on points won not goals scored. If you won 38 games 1-0, the thrill of victory and glory would outweigh any guilty feeling of boredom. Since when has celebrating been boring?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Pellegrini's Personality

The current Premier League champions, Manchester City, are in the doldrums. Their league defence is going off without a fight. Today's date is Monday 13th April and they have no chance of retaining the title they won last season. They have won only four games from the turn of the year and fingers are being pointed all over the Etihad.

But who is to blame? Do you blame the players who are not fulfilling the expectations put upon them by winning two league titles in three years? Do you blame the scouting system for not buying quality players to sustain this period of dominance? Or do you blame a manager who refuses to change the system that he believes serves him well?

In fact it is all the above, but more than likely the one man most likely to be unemployed come the end of May will be Manuel Pellegrini. The man who won the title more so down to another manager's inexperience of winning a title.  Whereas there is no challenge of Brendan Rogers this year, it should be said that Man City have not been a good team this year even before the woes started in January.

After winning the title you would expect the champions of England to attack the transfer market yet when the big names post-World Cup became available they were nowhere to be seen. Why did they not put in offers for Alexis Sanchez, James Rodriguez or even Enner Valencia, who went to West Ham. Instead they purchased Fernando, a like for like same figure to Fernandinho; Mangala the Central defender from France who they over paid for at £23m and Bacary Sagna, another purchase from a top four contender who has not fulfilled that expected from him.

For months last season, it was clear Vincent Kompany was struggling in the centre of defence and needed a mainstay next to him rather than the fallible Demechillis. They needed more goals than those provided by Sergio Aguero, as Dzeko and Jovetic came up short. Even the transfer window signing of Wilfred Bony smacked of desperation and one they could not utilise immediately and thus far he has only scored once since he first appeared in February, whereas he was prolific for Swansea.

Pellegrini has not been helped by his supposed spine figures Joe Hart apart. Kompany looks slower, Yaya Toure is not the force of nature he was in the last three months of the season last year and Aguero is injury prone.  Too often Pellegrini fits his best team into a system that does not utilise them appropriately, too many fancy players indicative of the tika taka kind do not go well in the counter attacking culture of the Premier League. While teams like Arsenal show the way forward, Man City have been left standing still.

Even their neighbours, Man United, who were being laughed at in November have come good and in Louis Van Gaal they have a manager who is getting results out of players like Ashley Young and in Juan Mata a star thanks in part to the injury of Robin Van Persie. Yet LVG has adapted and found his best formation is 4-3-3 not the 3-5-2 he favoured and left him red faced against Leicester City. United will probably secure a Champions League place before their city rivals.

Even yesterday Pellegrini stars with a formation of 4-5-1 that suggested he went there with a team looking to not lose rather than get the win they required following Chelsea's victory an hour earlier and keep some pressure on them.  Instead he maintained his dogmatic approach of not losing and got promptly punished by a confident United side, it was a formation and strategy that allowed United to dictate tempo and not trouble a United defence which is prone to error.

Manchester City have become very much the definition of their manager - dull, monotone and lacking in inspiration.