We are almost 3 weeks into the new Premier League season. Three weeks!!!
Yet, even given the youthful nature of this portion of footballing history there are still clubs that are considered, by our great nations media, to be in “Crisis”! The kind of crisis that requires sweaty palms, gnashing of teeth and general levels of panic not seen since the Titanic took an unplanned sightseeing trip to a nearby Iceberg.
How many of these clubs can actually be considered “at crisis point”? How many are hastily arranging board-meetings and seeking out new managers? How many are considering closing their turnstiles, raiding the charity box and booking a one-way ticket to Brazil?
Keeping with Titanic/crisis metaphor: If one of the biggest maritime disasters in history is classed as peak crisis then surely the “crisis” referred to in these examples is more akin to not having the right change for a shopping trolly at your local supermarket? More mildly irritating than critical. The word “Crisis” has, in fact, become in football media, short hand for “a bit of a bad week”.
Let’s take a look that in UNDER A MONTH has been, at some point, described as being in “crisis” and see how they fare on my ground breaking crisis chart?
The tabloid press had decided that Chelsea would be in crisis at some point long before the season had even started. To be fair there isn’t a football fan in the country that wouldn’t LOVE to see the London Blues fall flat on their face so maybe they are only playing to their audience.
The start of the season did look fairly tumultuous for Antonio Conte and co. A fair few players left via the Stamford Bridge revolving door with a fair fewer coming the other way. A war-of-word between the current Chelsea boss and the man who previously held that post, Jose Mourinho (which involved Jose referring to Antonio simply as “Conte” which every assumed was just code for c**t) lay the groundwork for a new top-flight rivalry. Then there was the selling for midfield hero Nemanja Matic from West London to Manchester; Surely a sign that the board and manager were at odds at the club?
Most symbolic of the “crisis” at Stamford Bridge though was the ongoing drama of #Costagate. Diego Costa was unceremoniously dumped by text over the summer and like any jilted lover is now refusing to return to the flat to collect his stuff. The big-Brazillian seems much happier sitting on a beach in Brazil, drinking Caprianna and awaiting a transfer to Athletico Madrid (who currently aren’t allowed to sign players) than he is in returning to football duties with Chelsea. Who can blame him? I’d much rather salsa the night away in Rio than get crunched by Gary Cahill in training every morning.
The real nail-in-the-coffin was the teams opening day loss to lowly Burnley… BURNLEY. This was definitely a club in decline, a crisis club, heading for a “Mourinho Season” as Conte had mocked before a ball was kicked.
What’s that? Did they beat Tottenham away in their second game? Oh, forget it.
Crisis Rating: Three icebergs out of ten.
Arsenal love a bit of crisis. They’ve got a whole TV channel in ‘Arsenal Fan TV’ that positively revels in it. I get the feeling that the gurning faces on that particular YouTube channel would still find their own heavily branded misery in Wenger leading his team to a Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup treble… you know what I mean blud?
I’m not sure I remember a time when Arsenal weren’t considered at crisis but that time probably involved the likes to Theirry Henry and Denis Bergkamp. In recent years the ability to create turmoil out of nothing has been taken to a world-class level. Unlike their football.
In Arsene Wenger, they have a manager who divides the club board and the fans. On one hand, he is a man who gets the most from the money he spends, consistently finds a place in the financially rewarding Champions League, has suggested 4th place is as good as any trophy and, on occasion, plays some pretty decent football. On the other hand, he seems to have a complete disregard for the supporters desire to actually bloody win anything excepting the odd FA Cup.
In the last 12 months there have been growing calls for Wenger to go with #WengerOut becoming a regular trend on social media but does that mean the club is in turmoil? If you take the very small (and hopefully not representative) views of the aforementioned Arsenal Fan TV then yes, yes it does. In fact, if you took those views as a reflection of the world, then Wenger’s very existence on this planet is a worse threat to human-kind than anything North Korea has to offer.
On the flip side, if you look at Arsene Wenger’s usual demeanour then Crisis is the furthest thing from his mind. He seems to revel in the press-scrum that last season surrounded his future at the club and again, this season, he can’t resist a knowing wry smile whenever anyone mentions Alexis Sanchez and his dogs. Even with a Nigerian business man offering to buy the club and kick Wenger out of the door in exchange for your mothers maiden name and the 3 digital on the back of your bank card, Wenger is a picture of serenity.
Can a club REALLY be in crisis when its leader remains so cool and calm? No. I don’t think it can.
Crisis Rating: Four icebergs out of ten.
(NB: I made the bit about the bank card up.)
Of course, Manchester City are in crisis… Despite the fact Pep Guardiola spent more money on blue players over the summer than Hugh Hefner spends on blue pills he STILL hasn’t won the Premier League this season or built up a twenty point gap over his rivals.
It’s not Guardiola is FRAUDiola.
On one hand, Manchester City remains undefeated so far this season… on the other, they have struggled to impress against newly promoted Brighton and only managed a draw against Ronald Koeman’s Everton. It’s hardly a disaster… but don’t tell the headline writers that.
The expectations on the Etihad Stadium this season are SO great that actually anything other than a Premier League and Cup double could be considered failure. Guardiola has been brought in for one reason only: to win things and win things with style. If that doesn’t happen then there is no doubt that heads will roll.
That rolling head won’t belongs to the manager however that is certain. I doesn’t matter how many stories I read about the “Pressure” on Pep and how much I see questioning his brand of football and its effectiveness in the Premier League. All I can see is a club that has chosen its course and is sticking with it.
City’s owners have invested so heavily in the Pep Guardiola dream that even the slightest admission of doubt would be like burning fresh twenty pound notes. It’s not just the outlay on playing personnel that is equal to a fair few countries GDPs. The club has, for years, invested in an idea and mentality that they believe that only Guardiola can deliver. Building infrastructure to support his training and training youth players to play the Pep-way.
There is no sense of Panic from within the Etihad. Instead, there is an unwavering belief that Guardiola will deliver and the club will fulfil its potential as the biggest and best in the world. Even the fans utter the mantra as if under some kind of hypnosis should anyone question they’re great leaders talent or credentials: “In Pep We Trust”.
Not a crisis. Maybe a cult.
Crisis Rating: One iceberg out of ten.
West Ham wouldn’t be West Ham without its fair share of Crisis.
The “West Ham Way” was once associated with silky, ball-on-the-floor football and the development of youth players. Now the “West Ham Way” is more likely to be a financial crisis, disillusioned fans and a team that almost, but never quite, makes an impact. As they sing in the stands at the Olympic Stadium, presumably to pass the time as they are too far away from the game to work out whats going on: “Fortunes Always Hiding”.
I like to think that the Hammer board-room meetings are a scene of constant crisis: Karen Brady running around the room naked and covered in the blood of vanquished foes whilst the two Davids sit on large gilded thrones, Gold doing his best Alan Sugar impression and Sullivan in that ridiculous Russian-style hat he insists on wearing.
This level of panic and alarm would have only been increased by the team’s abject start to the season which only raises more questions about the clubs, often random recruitment and Slaven Bilic’s ability to survive off more than his “Legend” status and show some ability manage in the Premier League.
What they needed was a little stability. Exactly the kind of stability that doesn’t comes from signing shiny haired, chocolate-wristed England keeper Joe Hart. Exactly the kind of stability that doesn’t come from consistently failing to land big-name targets that you publicly linked with. Exactly the kind of stability that doesn’t come from not being able to play a game of football at your home ground for three weeks because it’s being used as an athletic stadium.
Yet somehow it seems that these ridiculous decisions are made to create chaos. That the board, the players and even the fans expect and even enjoy the drama that’s created from its own unexplainable actions. It’s like a footballing version of Eastenders and who doesn’t like a good soap opera eh? All we need is Brady to announced that she is expecting Mark Nobel’s love child are we’d be ready for the “Dum Dum Dum’s”.
Sure is Crisis but it’s THEIR crisis and it wouldn’t be the same club without it.
Crisis Rating: Six icebergs out of ten.
Four clubs all considered at crisis. Four clubs not-really-at-crisis at all. That’s even without even considering Newcastle’s having-a-comedy-chairman crisis, Swansea City’s selling-all-your-best-players crisis or West Broms confusing-football-with-rugby-crisis.
I give it a full 6 weeks before every club in the Premier League is announced to have been “in crisis” at some point which means the papers will have to work even harder to panic us into reading their back pages. As Crisis becomes second nature it will just be accepted and a new disaster our-superlative will need to be deployed.
Expect to see the first club reaching ARMEGEDON before the season is out.
Want to hear more from Jim and his “Alternative” view on football? You can listen to the TWICE weekly satirical football podcast, On The Left Side here:
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