“Whereas close-season spending was driven by the leading clubs — Manchester City twice breaking their transfer record to sign Raheem Sterling (£44 million rising to £49 million) and Kevin De Bruyne (£55 million); Manchester United betting the house on unheralded French teenager Anthony Martial (£36 million rising to £61.5 million) — in January it has been a different story. Sky and BT Sport’s blockbuster £5.14 billion domestic TV rights deal kicks in at the start of next season, with the sale of overseas rights — expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks — set to swell that figure to £8 billion for the period 2016-2019. It means that the cost of relegation has never been higher, and it is the clubs at the wrong end of the Premier League table who have been opening their wallets the most eagerly during the mid-season transfer period.”
A look at how the looming TV rights cash bonanza has affected the January transfer window in the Premier League – you can read it here.
Related link: English clubs impose Martial law in Europe
“Untold riches will rain down upon the English Premier League in 2016, but for all their resources, the country’s leading clubs currently seem incapable of staking claims to the title. The record £5.14 billion ($7.72 billion, 7.06 billion euros) television rights deal due to kick in next year will reinforce the English top flight’s status as European football’s financial behemoth. But champions Chelsea have imploded, Arsenal and Manchester City remain hit-and-miss and while Liverpool find their feet under Jürgen Klopp, Manchester United appear to be stagnating under Louis van Gaal. It has fallen to Leicester City to make the early running in what former United captain Gary Neville has described as “the most bizarre league that I have seen in a long time”.”
My review of the year 2015 in English football can be read here.
Related link: New money rises in England as old powers slip
“Ranieri was derisively labelled ‘The Tinkerman’ during his four years at Chelsea, due to his habit of rotating his team, and his appointment by Leicester in July following Nigel Pearson’s sacking unleashed a tide of mockery. Former England striker Gary Lineker, probably Leicester’s most well-known alumnus, summed up the disdain when he tweeted: “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” “I had mixed thoughts, to be honest,” former Leicester captain Steve Walsh told AFP. “But he’s ‘tinkered about’ and added some good tactical things, so it’s worked out really well.” The genial Italian, 64, has been converting cynics to admirers with each victory, all the while maintaining the irreverent tone that made him a popular figure during his first spell in England between 2000 and 2004.”
I’ve written a piece on the improbable rise of Leicester City – you can read it here.
“Klopp promised “full throttle” football and he has been true to his word, with Liverpool’s aggressive high press central to their recent transformation. Opponents have been quick to catch on and it was noticeable that Southampton looked to hit frontman Graziano Pelle at the earliest opportunity at St Mary’s in a bid to negate the effects of the Liverpool press. Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana are among the players who are thriving under Klopp, whose tactile man-management style is characterised by effusive bear hugs.”
A piece for AFP on how Jürgen Klopp has brought the smiles back at Anfield can be found here.
“”He was always first for training and last out,” recalls Stocksbridge chairman Allen Bethel. “He was also the life and soul of the party, a Jack the lad.” Vardy’s roguish streak occasionally caused him problems — he was sent off four times in his last season at Stocksbridge, deterring suitors Sheffield United — and he had trouble controlling his temper off the pitch. A conviction for a late-night assault temporarily obliged him to wear an electronic tag and observe an 18:30 p.m. curfew, which would see him substituted midway through games so that he could get home in time. Remembering one such mid-match dash, former Stocksbridge manager Gary Morrow said: “He jumped straight over the railings and into his parents’ car without even getting changed.””
A piece on the rise and rise of Jamie Vardy.
“With teams now more adept at defending leads, playing on the counter-attack has become the preferred modus operandi for many Premier League sides. The knock-on effect is that away victories are on the rise, borne out by the fact that there have been 42 away wins to 43 home wins in England’s top division so far this season. Conventional wisdom dictates that home sides are more likely to win due to familiarity with their surroundings, support from home fans and the onus traditionally being on the hosts to attack. But several teams are subverting the theory, with Arsenal, West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Everton, Liverpool, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa having all picked up more points on the road than at home.”
Here’s a piece on the demise of the Premier League comeback, the rise of the counter-punchers and the erosion of home advantage.
“A run of five straight wins, including a ruthless 3-0 defeat of Manchester United, has left Arsenal level on 25 points with leaders Manchester City after 11 games. With Chelsea flatlining and United enduring a chronic goal shortage, Arsenal are widely seen as City’s most credible rivals, but it is often a case of one step forward, two steps back. Arsenal can outclass United and beat Bayern 2-0, in the reverse fixture, but also lose to Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb and crash out of the League Cup after a 3-0 defeat at second-tier Sheffield Wednesday. It is a paradox that means that, in spite of their nascent title ambitions, they have now lost six times at this stage of the season, across all competitions, for the first time since 1991.”
I wrote a piece for AFP on how Arsenal’s drubbing by Bayern Munich underlined vulnerabilities that threaten to become fatal flaws. You can read it here.
“Once again, Mourinho seems to be succumbing to the curse of ‘third season syndrome’, which has dogged him throughout his career. Though unparallelled in his ability to quickly forge winning teams, Mourinho has never worked at a club for four full seasons, as results invariably slope off after his second campaign. He angrily dismissed the theory when it was put to him recently — “click Google instead of asking stupid questions” — but Chelsea’s current woes are bearing it out more starkly than any of his previous experiences. When Mourinho last left Chelsea, in September 2007, it was because his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich had broken down and although he was recently given a public vote of confidence, there are suggestions that his abrasive antics may have upset the club hierarchy.”
I’ve written a piece looking at the problems facing José Mourinho, which you can read here.
“Mourinho is a self-confessed Clough admirer and he is not the first European coach to have been inspired by a British manager, as the enduring use of phrases like ‘le coach’ and ‘il mister’ across the continent demonstrates. It is testament to the influence of early-20th-century pioneers like the bowler-hatted Fred Pentland, Athletic Bilbao’s greatest coach, or William Garbutt, who gave birth to the professional manager in Italy during his time at Genoa. Whereas clubs on continental Europe have generally moved away from the old model of an all-powerful manager, with sporting directors widespread and coaches’ remits often extending little further than the boundaries of the training ground, the notion prevails in the Premier League. But while England still clings to the image of the authoritarian manager of yore, the profession is evolving rapidly.”
I’ve written a piece for AFP on Jürgen Klopp, England’s cult of the manager and a managerial changing of the guard in the Premier League – you can read it here.
“‘The goal is of course over time that this is a final destination. Maybe it isn’t yet for players, but we’re moving towards that. We still understand where we sit in the whole balance of English football and we respect that. But we’re working hard at every level in the club to grow in a fashion that it becomes an end destination. We have to earn that.'”
Read about my meeting with Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger here.