I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how and why Leicester are top of the league and seemingly running away with it. I’ve seen articles written about the renaissance of brutish and traditional centre backs becoming the norm once again. Are Robert Huth and Wes Morgan the requisite for any title building team for the near future? Is this the way we must all play to achieve greatness? My unequivocal answer on this is NO. There are a few reasons for this as well. The main one however is the lack of game changing players existing at the bigger clubs.
Each big side has their ‘Maverick’ that they look to in times when unlocking a stubborn and resolute side. However this season there has been a distinct lack of them around, which has made the likes of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth look like world beaters. Let’s run through the so called ‘Mavericks’ within each big side:
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
Chelsea: Eden Hazard
Sp*rs: Erik Lamela? Not sure they really have one.
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
Man City: Yaya Toure (last season, KDB this)
Man United: Wayne Rooney? Again not sure they really have one.
Leicester: Riyad Mahrez
Now if you consider the names above, not one of them has properly fired this season. Not really. Alexis Sanchez has shown glimpses and one of those glimpses was his quite brilliant hat-trick vs Leicester to which Huth and Morgan had no answer. The problem has been that Chelsea have missed their main man this season as have Sp*rs, Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd. This has been reflected in their performances vs Leicester. The only wins against them from the above sides have been from ourselves twice and Liverpool with a cagey 1-0 win at Anfield. The other results have all been in Leicester’s favour largely due to the fact that there wasn’t anyone willing to ‘risk’ unlocking their defence. Think about last season, where Hazard was firing, Utd had Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez was unplayable, Yaya Toure had a great season, Kevin De Bruyne has missed a couple of months this season and Coutinho was at his best. These types of players playing well influences the way in which smaller teams defend. When they aren’t playing well the brutes have it easy as there is no amount of unpredictability to deal with. A little luck and no risk takers allow for such defenders to make hay. This will not last for another season long and Leicester will for sure discover this in both the Premier League and Champions League next season. That being said, everyone and their respective clubs have been magnanimous in their reaction to this type of defending. Too weak, too cautious, too predictable.
This weekends results are something that leave me looking into the distance and all I can see is, the abyss. We’re really not a good football team this season. So many of our squad have been found out. One trick ponies that just don’t offer anything against any team that has watched just the one tape of them. The people in question here are Gabriel, Coquelin, Walcott & Giroud. Granted Giroud had no real service in the last 15 (we had 1 shot after Palace scored, just 1!) but it’s been far too long where we have been carrying some members and happy to ride to the mediocrity of a 4th place battle. Gabriel has the opportunity to put Adebayor into the stands and yet he ushers him 50 yards and then allows him to play a pass inside. All the attributes of a training cone. Coquelin professes, then, to show a right footed player inside, onto his shooting foot only for Cech to get beaten a la Zarate, at his near post. Horrific all round. We still had around 10-12 minutes to find a goal. Not only did we panic, we should have really lost the game with Zaha & Adebayor vs Gabriel in a 2v1 situation towards the end. Thankfully Zaha is Zaha and we got lucky.
I’m sick to death of the performances that come in. I mean knowing that Leicester have just dropped points you would think that the performance would have max intensity from the players. Instead we got a vet ‘calm’ start, which is only something that can be inspired or created by the manager. He has the ability to influence the first 20 minutes of a game after which the players settle into the rhythm and carry it on. Time and time again we have a leisured start to the game, which shows the players lack the belief that there is anything left to play for. Where does this come from? Yes the players are responsible but the manager is the one who is why we play a certain way. Why we start in a certain manner. Why then have we been shite to watch for almost 4 months? That’s what will hurt Wenger the most. We’ve become boring to watch. Sp*rs are playing better football with lesser quality players. Why? The manager has been able to get more than the sum of its parts from that team. Wenger clearly hasn’t. You’ve seen all the combined XIs etc etc and on current form you’d have a fair few of theirs in the combined team. Player for player however we have a better set, no question. The problem has become the manager. But we’re stuck. No one is available that’s better. Wenger seems to have reached his limit at Arsenal. There isn’t anything left for him but the lack of forward planning from the board has left us as we are. People talk of Simeone – why would he come this way? Money is the reason but with a board that doesn’t care enough to invest into the club why would they change the cash cow? I can’t believe I’m saying this but missing out on the Champions League may be what enforces some sort of change. We’re at a huge cross roads as a club and I have no idea what’s going to happen. Everyone else seems to have a plan, a strategy, ours is geared around making as much money as possible and isn’t really for the fans in any way. What do we do from here when it now looks like even Sp*rs will finish above us. The battle for 4th has commenced. Euuuugghhhhh. We’re in line for a depressing week – simply because I now know that Stoke will go ahead and beat Sp*rs to further compound our incompetence.
Have a week people. Have a week. Can work be better than football? That’s where we are folks, that’s where we are.
Until next week.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.