Highs and Lows From This Past Weekend In World Soccer
Let me start on a personal note. I have received intense criticism from some in the local southeast Florida community about my column written last week about a possible disaster scenario for local soccer if David Beckham mishandles his MLS team launch. I certainly wish the team and those supporting the team the best of luck, but many of the cheerleaders for the effort haven’t been in the trenches locally and are simply painting a rosy picture. I want the team to be successful so I will continue to ask these questions. Additionally, I want the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to thrive in an atmosphere where a rising tide lifts all ships locally.
In the Championship, the sacking of Dave Jones at Sheffield Wednesday was coming for months. Jones has done the most he can with a thin squad but the results just weren’t coming. My sources indicate that owner Milan Mandaric is trying quite hard to find increased investment in the Yorkshire club without selling his majority stake. Still, Wednesday’s position looks very favorable when compared to cross-town rival Sheffield United whose struggles in League One are becoming the subject of much ridicule around England.
Leicester City’s decision to keep Nigel Pearson I believed was a poor one after last season’s failure. The Foxes were fortunate to finish in a playoff position and the crazy ending to the season at the hands of Watford probably meant sacking Pearson was going to be especially cruel. But the Leicester boss is proving me and his other critics wrong as the Foxes are flying and now sit atop the Championship table.
In the Bundesliga, Dortmund bounced back in a big way this past weekend showing Jürgen Klopp’s family atmosphere at BVB means the players dig in and fight for one another. The club isn’t going to win the Bundesliga this season but Champions League progress is now likely and when the side is once again fit they can cause trouble in Europe.
In the Premier League, Stoke City’s performance against Everton was quite possibly the single worst team effort this season in the Premier League. The 4-0 score line flattered Mark Hughes’ club.
Spurs continue to show a lack of cutting edge when it matters most. Much of the post-game ink has been dedicated to the “dive” by Danny Welbeck, though the challenge by Hugo Lloris was completely unnecessary. But Spurs still had over 20 minutes to rescue the match in a must-win situation in front of the home fans and were unable to do so. This latest result continues the pressure on AVB and one must wonder if he has the managerial experience or know-how to remedy this situation that is looking more and more dire by the week. At the same time chopping and changing managers without a long-term plan won’t serve Spurs well down the road with so many young players in the squad. Perhaps Tottenham fans must simply adjust expectations for this season given all the new players in the side, and youngsters as well. Injuries also have hit Spurs harder than any other top side save Arsenal.
Martin Jol’s sacking is long overdue. But it will be very difficult for incoming manager Rene Meulensteen to do much with this set of players. The new Fulham manager is renowned for his tactics from his time as an assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but the players he inherits are largely overage and over paid journeymen who lack proper motivation for the type of relegation scrap Fulham is currently in. Jol seemingly signed every malcontent he could find, and the lack of leadership on the side is alarming. What Meulensteen must do is freshen up the squad somehow in January. Given the dynamic within the dressing room, this might be difficult.
Arsenal continues to get the types of results that eluded them the previous seasons and are escaping other potential title challengers this season. The efficiency of the Gunners performances away from home in tough environments is impressive for any side, but especially for one that appeared to be so mentally fragile in recent seasons.
I was disappointed Hull City’s third goal was recorded as an own goal. Why? Tom Huddlestone has been perhaps the most brilliant under-the-radar signing in English football this season. His impact has been in full evidence every time the Tigers have played this season.
Speaking of the “Tigers,” maybe in the recent history of English Football an owner has never needed a victory as much as Assem Allam did this weekend? The controversy about the proposed Hull City AFC rebrand has gotten nasty and personal. Hopefully it all works out for ownership and supporters.
Ashley Cole’s continued exile from the Chelsea first team must impact his World Cup status for England. The door is open for the currently injured Leighton Baines to take his spot as the starting left back.
Editor’s note: Read Kartik’s previous Monday Soccer Insider columns.