Tuesday, May 26, 2009

So what did we learn this Premier League season? – Margin

First the world; then England!

People dallied with the early season notion that a fixture pile up and a deficit to make up on Liverpool might count for something. It didn’t. Manchester had the best manager, the best team, and they won an 18th title at a similar canter to the one United employed for the World Club Cup.

Too good to go down.

Tottenham Hotspur have seemingly made a lie of the claim that no side is too good to go down if it plays badly enough. Two points from eight games, and three from nine a match later, should have made relegation a formality. Still languishing well into the New Year they employed some champions league qualifying form, a proven new manager, and surprising depth to their post transfer window squad to secure their top flight status with seventeen points to spare.

Not too good to go down.

Newcastle United have seemingly proven the truth that no side is too good to go down if it plays badly enough. At one time apparently safe under the much hated Joe Kinnear, his dodgy ticker, an inexcusably weak squad, and an unproven but otherwise much loved new manager secured their Championship status with a final day whimper.

What goes up must come down…

…Unless what goes up is from Stoke or Hull. Hull earned almost all of their points before collapsing half way through the season. Stoke muddled through with a bit of bite, some old fashioned launching tactics, and the signing of the season in James Beattie.

What goes up must come down…

…and go up again. And come down again. etc. Poor West Brom must despair that their sensible business planning, cautious but sound transfer dealings, and commitment to play football without cynicism - has made them consistently better than the Championship but never as good as the Premier League.

Arsenal can splash the cash after all.

But apparently only when they are about to lose everything they hold dear. Arshavin was the big money signing that the Gunners need five of to even consider competing with United next season. Alas they only seem willing when one will save them from losing their Champions League gravy-train ticket. Lets hope he doesn’t go the way of Nasri and vanish after an initial glorious impact.

Good manager + time = results.

While Chelsea screw their aging team up by changing managers every time the owner sneezes, Everton and Aston Villa know better. Moyes and O’Neil have been given time to build their teams. They have been allowed set-backs without the sack. And they have been trusted to use their somewhat different budgets as they see fit. They may not have achieved the highest prize in English football, (a top four finish). But they are each the best of the rest.

Things can always get worse.

Blackburn Rovers were much despised for their violent game under Mark Hughes. Their willingness to kick and jab their way through 90 minutes of football each week was barely tolerably despite occasional good passing play. With Big Sam now in place, the passing turned to punting down field, while dirtiest side around kept their reputation and added some rather adept diving to their repertoire.

One thing we didn’t learn.

As yet no one knows quite why the season went on into late May, and how it is we have passed the bank holiday without an FA Cup winner crowned. This campaign had no more games than any other year but has left fans wearily waiting for it all to be over weeks after we normally start spending sunny days with our families. Or at least rainy ones at the cricket.

And one thing we should have learned years ago

While no one should have learned this, I fear many people will have. Roy Hodgson is a phenomenal manager.

Without cheating or gouging or diving or punting, his teams have always thrived, except of course when they haven’t been given time to. A low injury rate at a club that year after year sells prized assets and never goes down, he has taken Fulham to Europe where many a foreign fan will see his name listed and knowingly recognise a tough team to beat.


wrigley greengrass said...

Ta, Margin!

2 managers of PL sides served their time in Sweden - Eriksson and Hodgson.

I know which one I'd rather see at Old Trafford (and I'm not thinking of the virtue of the local skirt, either).

Ebren said...

Hodgson was mentioned as a potential England manager back when Keegan was appointed. That says a lot in itself.

He's managed two national teams (qualifying one for the World Cup for the first-ever time) won more trophies than most in more countries than most and even managed Inter Milan.

I am still shocked that one injury-hit partial season at Blackburn managed to destroy his credibility. The same goes for Toshack.

Ebren said...

Apologies, Swizerland had - of course - qualified played in major tournaments before (just not since the 1960s).

The Miracle of Berne should have given that away.

More on him here

Allout said...

Nice article Margin.

On a totally different note, Sunderland and Hull didn't really deserve to stay up did they? Their points total would have got them relegated in any other year. Why not in future just say that all teams with less than 40 points go down? As fans the last week have told us, if your team doesn't get 40 points you don't deserve to stay up, so let's formalise that rule.

Margin said...

I'm not surprised the first two (three) comments focused on Hodgson. Elsewhere his past might surprise people but the readership here is always a cut above the average...


Agreed the standards at the bottom collapsed this year, though partly that is because the standards a little higher up rose somewhat.

But wouldn't a 40 point relegation mark make the case for a 70 point promotion mark?

It could get very messy.

Allout said...

Hi Margin

Well, you need to have one but not the other because you need to make sure that you have 20 teams in the top flight. Of course it will never happen because people will say it lacks certainty etc. Normally I feel sympathy for at least one of the relegated teams - this year I feel the bottom five were so poor that they all deserved to go down.

I am not convinced that the rest of the league has improved BTW. The top four are as a unit possibly as strong as they ever have been but there's plenty of mediocre mid-table sides, Wigan, Stoke and Blackburn, and that's just examining Lancashire!

offsideintahiti said...

We've also just learned that gg's knee is not for sale. Which is a shame, I'm sure the old joint would have been a success in the taproom stew.

(I have some great Southern Seas recipes for English sailors' body parts.)

mimi said...

Oh just don't go there Offie.

It's been a tough time for the ones in the relegation zone. We need no more jokes at the expense of poor old Newcie or anyone else.

Mind you, I've just come south and there's all sorts of badger rights. I honestly don't know if these southerners are talking about some league Badger team, or the badgers who are undermining the road.

I need to go home.

Margin said...


I think the three down three up system is probably fine as it is - since competition is about relative merits, not absoulte standards. Though I agree it is hard seeing the merits to any of the five staying up this season.

But I think standards improved quite a bit in the top half of the league. in mid-may there were four teams fighting for the seventh european place (City, West Ham, Spurs and Fulham) - which is an unusual strength to the upper half of mid table. And league runners up rarely go all season losing just two matches.

mimi said...

What did we learn this Premier League season?

Man U are not top dogs in European Football.

Barca had the edge. 2-0 and no extra time needed.

Margin said...


I could have added an update on that basis - but it came after the end of the campaign and frankly, your post says it all.

ManU got their line up badly wrong, and having waxed-lyrical about Iniesta in a previous article, I was pleased he outshone everyone in Rome.

guitou said...

I was pleased too with the triumph of Artfootball against strengh and technique- deconcerting dribbling and precision passing, the Barça's trademark shined
when needed last night, two princes of football share the same kingdom now, Iniesta, Messi,The King was smiling, I am sure he would like to watch his Real performing at this level.

bluedaddy said...

Highlights for me:

the little Italian maestro and the Man That Phil Forgot doing so well together at West Ham in their first season.

Hiddink: the man oozes authority, know how and good sense. If that is all England ever sees of him, well we are missing out.

Lampard - another great season in difficult circumstances. I'd sell Terry to City for silly money (providing Ricky Carvalho is fit and stays) to fund the changes required at Chelsea, and Lamps would make a good replacement as captain.

Delap's throws. I sling a mean long throw meself, and can do that low trajectory one RD does. It's a great weapon, and I don't really get why most pros don't know how to do them. Isn't it just practice?

Torres. Brilliant finisher, and can get better I reckon.

Hodgson - sometimes it IS all about the manager.

Everton - has a side ever suffered that many injuries, many to key players, and still done so well?

Stephen Ireland - weird guy but a great season.

Shearer not being the Messiah. He chickened out and waited until it was almost a lost cause, then won one game. He is a dick.

Margin said...

guitou - If Real want to rise to that level they will have to learn to stop putting faith in over-hyped stars.


nearly chose the comparison of untried and untested Zola with untried and untested Shearer - but went with the 'too good to go down' thing instead. Zola's season has been remarkable, though West Ham's lack of funds may halt him from repeating it next year.

I think Stephen Ireland should get out of dodge quick - He's far too good and committed a player a lad to be wasted surrounded by money grabbing stars who won't fight alongside him.

guitou said...

You're right about Madrid Margin but their Stars cult philosophy is not about to end-Everytime a new president is elected, his élection is based on his chances to bring world class internationals- They try to buy their future success from teams like Man utd (Ronaldo) Arsenal(Fabregas) or Bayern (Ribery),making offers that inflate the market.And they get away with it!

Margin said...

not sure they "get away with it" given that they rarely compete at the very top nowadays.

wrigley greengrass said...

watch out for the badger right - they might have a few MEP's soon.

offsideintahiti said...

Is Newcastle Brown Ale too good not to go down?

Legless Greengrass said...

it all depends on the bar code - do we have one at the Pakalolo Arms?

offsideintahiti said...

A bar code? I dunno, you'd have to ask Ingrid. We certainly don't have a dress code, or I'd have been thrown out a long time ago.

Legless Greengrass said...

get a new dress, then!

Ingrid says that the bar code allows the bar codes to come in and drink, as long as they don't bare their bulging beer bellies.

offsideintahiti said...

Well, it's not easy to hide your beer belly when you're only wearing a loincloth, is it?

Ingrid doesn't mind.

Spock Greengrass said...

Doesn't mind what?

Maybe I should give her more of a free rein - she will, after all, be 57 next.

offsideintahiti said...

Sorry, missed a comma. It should read:

Ingrid doesn't, mind.

Tweet it, digg it