As we approach the midway point of the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season, it’s time to look back at what has happened, and forward to what may come. In the first few months of the season, a club’s position in the standings is often determined by the fixture gods. An preseason favorite can find themselves in mid-table if they face stiff competition; while a perenial also-ran can find themselves in an “European spot” in the run-up to the holiday fixtures. Usually, by the time of the FA Cup fourth round in late January, the contenders and pretenders are well sorted.
How about that Leicester City!? I have no explanation for what is going on with them. When a club comes out of nowhere, as with Blackburn Rovers twenty years or so ago, the success came because the club spent a ton of money. That’s not the case with the Foxes. Leicester will be at the top of the table come Christmas, which is often a good indicator of how a club will finish the season–unless of course you’re Arsenal.
A lot of Leicester’s success comes down to Jamie Vardy, who cannot stop scoring goals. The club’s manager, Claudio Ranieri, may be able to do something he never did at Chelsea–win the Premiership.
I like Ranieri as a person and as a manager. It would be a great story if Leicester won the BPL title. That being said, I still want Arsenal to win the trophy.
Manchester United still haven’t gotten back on track since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, and with Chelsea hovering just above the relegation zone, I foolishly thought that maybe Arsenal would only have to battle it out with Manchester City for Premier League supremacy. They face one another on Monday night, and afterward we may know which of the two clubs have a shot at battling Leicester in the second half of the season.
During Arsene Wenger’s time as manager of Arsenal, the club had a long string of finishing first or second in the Barclays Premier League. An arguement can be made that Arsenal only won the League during the seasons that Man Utd underachieved–but let us not dwell on that. Anyway, that era came to an end when Jose Mourinho took the reins at Chelsea. However, it wasn’t Mourinho that ended Arsenal’s long unbeaten run over Chelsea. That honor went to Mourinho’s predecessor: Claudio Ranieri.
Managers come and go, but when a change happens in the first half of a season, it’s often a club in the bottom quarter of the table that is pushing the panic button. As was the case with Chelsea. Call it “by mutual consent,” “a concious uncoupling,” or a case of “the ship be sinking;” it makes no difference. I’m sure “The Special One” will take his talents elsewhere, and repeat the cycle all over again.
It was no surprise when Liverpool sacked Brendan Rodgers a while back. It seems as if they hire managers in order to fire them. The Reds haven’t won the League in about twenty-five years, but they sure have won the League Cup a bunch. They’re the kings of that competition.
To say that I am not a fan of Brendan Rodgers is a understatement. To me, he is the BPL equivilent of Bobby Petrino, and by that I mean I don’t know how they both get work. At least Rodgers never crashed a motorcycle with someone other than his wife on the back. Although, a part of me would love to see that press conference. And if you are thinking about giving me a portrait of Brendan Rodgers as a centaur for Christmas–don’t. Just don’t.
Now, Jurgen Klopp is the manager of Liverpool–until he isn’t. When Klopp was still at Borussia Dortmund, a lot of Gooners wanted him to replace Arsene Wenger as manager. Where are those people now? I’m not saying he wouldn’t do well at Arsenal, but we’ll probably never know.
I cannot say that the Monday night Arsenal – Manchester City match is the “title decider” that so many pundits think it is. I will say that both clubs will finish in the top four; I’m going way out on a limb on that prediction. Injuries and number of matches played could be a factor. Arsenal has two Champions League matches against Barcelona to play before they are sent home, yet again. And they are about to embark on another defense of the FA Cup. Maybe that is where Arsenal’s fortunes lie.