Monaco – Jardim to Henry

Only a few months ago Leonardo Jardim was one of the most sought after coaches in Europe, now he has been replaced in his Monaco post by a managerial rookie in the shape of Thierry Henry.

Monaco were guilty of projecting this as a 2nd coming of a club legend but it is undoubtedly a gamble with the team currently sitting in the bottom three of Ligue 1, having amassed a measly 10 points from 14 games.

The French legend is finding life in the dugout a struggle, with just one domestic victory and having watched his side blown away in the Champions League group stages.

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But to us it’s hardly fair to sack a man when you’ve effectively tied his hands and cashed in on the success without replacing what he has had taken from him.

Since Jardim’s appointment in 2014 he guided a resurgent Monaco to successive 3rd place finishes, before guiding the club to its 1st national championship in nearly two decades at the end of the 16/17 season. Since that title win in May of 2017 Jardim has seen the high profile sales of:-

  • Bernardo Silva & Benjamin Mendy – Man City
  • Tiemoue Bakayoko – Chelsea
  • Fabinho – Liverpool
  • Joao Moutinho – Wolves
  • Thomas Lemar – Atletico Madrid
  • Kylian Mbappe – PSG

How does a coach replace this £400m hole in a title winning squad? (Nacer Chadli wasn’t the answer).

Perhaps the dismissed 44yr old Venezuelan had merely lost his way and was scrambling to replace the outgoing quality.

27 players have walked through the entrance door since that title win, squads need strengthening immediately after any triumph but nearly 30 new players coupled with those departures?!

They are no stranger to highs and lows though it has to be said – Champions League Semi Finalists the season before last and now a certain relegation battle. Also a Champions League Final appearance in 2004 followed by subsequent relegation to Ligue 2 just seven years later.

Back to the present day and ahead of the game against fellow strugglers Caen, French Legend Henry has been quoted saying that he “assumes all responsibilities” for the current run of form. However, he has maybe stumbled upon a turning point thanks to Radamel Falcao’s winner at the weekend provided a welcome relief from draws or defeats.

The French League is undergoing a certain resurgence with strong sides coming from Marseille, Lyon, Lille and of course the powerhouse that is PSG.

Monaco will not want to be left behind and the managerial looks to be no more than a misjudged publicity stunt.

Whereas Henry will scuttle back to the Sky studios if this is not a success, could we see Jardim’s next destination be the PL? Even one day being scrutinised by his severely under qualified replacement!

Jardim and Henry image sourced from; www.marca.com

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Premier League – European Nights Proving too much?

It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 4 years since Chelsea lifted the Europa League, an English sides’ last triumph in any European competition. Whilst Man Utd have a reasonable opportunity to win the same competition this season, not many could have predicted such a sharp decline in the performance of the teams from the richest league in the world under the floodlights across the continent.

Allow me to explain…

Since the 1999-2000 season there have been 64 finalists spread over The Champions League & Europa League, the top representatives by country of origin: –

  • Spain – 23
  • Portugal – 7
  • England – 14
  • Italy – 6
  • Germany – 8

Are we accepting that a little over 20% of finalists being from the “money machine” that is the Barclays Premier league is acceptable?

Of the 14 English clubs who have made it to the various finals, only 4 have prevailed, Sevilla alone have won on 5 occasions and they would not usually be mentioned in the same breath.

It is also worth remembering that even the much maligned Scottish Premiership has provided 2 finalists within the same period (Celtic 2003 & Rangers 2008).

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The afore mentioned Man Utd could break the recent trend this season and lift the Europa League, however loses to Feyenoord and Fenerbache accompanied by drab draws against FC Rostov and Anderlecht would hardly see them as worthy winners.

In fact, this season has seen English Premier League sides (Spurs & Man Utd) face opposition from Belgian First Division A (KAA Gent & Anderlecht) over four legs and only produce a solitary England win…A 2-1 extra time win.

Other such failings in recent seasons have included:-

  • FA Cup winners Wigan prop up their Europa League group
  • Hull City defeated by Lokeren in the qualifying rounds
  • Everton take 5 from Dynamo Kiev
  • Southampton 1-2 Midtylland
  • Liverpool losing out to Basel in 2014-15
  • Man Utd slipping to 3rd in a group of Wolfburg, PSV & CSKA
  • And who can ignore Arsenal’s recent meetings with Bayern…

Football is football and that’s why we love the game and yes the odd surprise defeat can occur, however these are over 2 legs, or in group stages containing multiple games, EPL sides should NOT be crashing out under these circumstances.

Are Stoke better than Schalke, could Bournemouth batter Bordeaux or would we see Everton ease past Espanyol?

I think the honest answer has to be a resounding no to all of the above.

The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” is being outshone by sides from divisions on which they look down on as being not worthy of sharing their pitches.

The EPL and its member clubs need to raise the bar to a whole new level to re-assert itself as a provider of dominant club sides when competing in European competitions or risk falling further behind.

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Tottenham vs Gent image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com
Champion’s League group stage image sourced from; www.goal.com

Champions League – 2016/17 Group stage

The groups have been drawn and with only a few days to go until Europe’s premier club competition gets underway, we thought we’d have a look through each group and provide our tips on who we’re predicting is likely to progress to the next stage.

With some new faces added to the familiars it should create added interest in this year’s competition.

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Before we begin we’d like to say that we do not agree with UEFA’s seeding system and the multiple rounds that some clubs have to go through just to make it into the pots.

Champions deserve an automatic place in the competition not sides who finish a distant 4th. This would help the smaller leagues and nations throughout the continent as the money will be distributed in a fairer manner. We all know that the rich are getting richer and the poorer teams are being left further behind.

Anyway we have no say in these matters so onto the groups…

Group A

Arsenal – Basel – Ludogrets Razgrad – PSG

Wenger’s men once again pay the European price for domestic failure, a 2nd place finish in group A will ultimately lead to a meeting with a top side completing the season mission of last 16 stage. A PSG side under Unai Emery should progress comfortably in top spot leaving the minnows battling for the Europa League place.

Group B

Benfica – Besiktas – Dynamo Kiev – Napoli

One of the more intriguing groups of this year’s competition, All tricky sides in their own right and don’t expect to see too many away wins. Ultimately we expect to see Napoli and Benfica progress given their slightly greater European pedigree just don’t ask us in which order!

Group C

Barcelona – Borussia Monchengladbach – Man City – Celtic

The group of death for the Scottish champions, despite their impressive form under Brendan Rodgers, this group is one step too far and a big Eurovision “nil pois” could be on the cards for the Glasgow side. The Germans will take 3rd place, Pep’s City 2nd both unable to displace Messi & co from their usual 1st place.

Group D

Atletico Madrid – Bayern Munich – FC Rostov – PSV

Last season’s finalists will count themselves unlucky to be in with Bayern but you can’t see past both of them qualifying, the order will depend on the meetings between the two. PSV and Rostov are in to make up the numbers in Group D.

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen – CSKA Moscow – Monaco – Tottenham

We are tipping Tottenham to make it 4 from 4 in terms of English sides progressing and even going to call a group topping top seed position. Monaco aren’t the team they used to be and with Leverkusen hit or miss, Spurs need to take advantage. The German will join them at the top of Group E.

Group F

Borussia Dortmund – Legia Warsaw – Real Madrid – Sporting Lisbon

The champions will be comfortable and expect them to top this group. Do not be surprised to see Sporting cause an upset or two, especially at home. With their recent players sales they are a weaker opposition and Dortmund should have enough to join Real in the next round.

Group G

Club Brugge – FC Copenhagen – PC Porto – Leicester City

The Foxes are in dreamland and although they would have perhaps preferred a more glamorous tie they will quietly be aiming to progress. Porto will provide their sternest test but both Brugge and Copenhagen have continental experience. Tough group to call but it’s Porto and Leicester for us.

Group H

Dinamo Zagreb – Juventus – Lyon – Sevilla

Serial Europa League winners Sevilla have yet to make their mark in this competition, however this maybe their year to avoid the lesser cup. Along with Juventus they appear to be in good shape to see off Lyon and Zagreb.

That’s our predictions for the sides to compete in the latter stages in the early part of next year, not too many surprises it has to be said.

As always we look forward to the start of the competition and the big games that it will undoubtedly bring.

Tuesday 13th September sees the long road to the 3rd June 2017 final begin. With it being a “home” final in Cardiff will we see a British side contest the final 90mins for the 1st time since Chelsea four years ago?

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Champions League Table Image Sourced from; www.youtube.com
Millennium Stadium Image Sourced from; www.itv.com

Are we starting to see the managerial failing of Neil Lennon?

Neil Lennon was Celtic Manager between March 2010 – May 2014, in this time he had the opportunity to secure 14 domestic trophies with the biggest club in the country.

Neil-Lennon-Celtic-Trophy

Add into this the demise of Rangers during the 2011-12 season and their subsequent relegation to the 3rd tier of Scottish football, Lennon really should have delivered more than the 5 trophies he eventually did.

3 SPL titles & 2 Scottish Cups was in my opinion a poor return for a manger with all the resources at his disposal.

His attitude and touchline demeanour were nothing short of scandalous at times and his inability to praise other teams for good performances was a serious flaw. Lennon also likes to play the blame game, with the blame staying as far away from himself as possible.

Yes there was the memorable Champions League campaign of 2012-13, the beating of the mighty Barcelona and qualification from the group made a lot of people sit up and take notice. However with Lennon’s other 3 UCL campaigns ending before group stage qualification (2) or a disappointing 1 win group stage exits (1) you may put that particular season down to the 1st season absence of the neighbours from across the city.

Good signings in the form of Gary Hooper, Virgil Van Dijk and Emilio Izaguirre were countered balanced by big money flops such as Teemu Pukki, Derk Boerrigter and Mo Bangura.

Again basing it on trophies won, you’d have to question Lennon’s ability to drive a team too good for the SPL in truth, onto win everything in their path.

A total of 42 signings came through the door in his time, 10+ per season to achieve what exactly?

Well a major positive from Lennon’s time is the transfer fees Celtic have managed to receive for numerous players. It’s a shame they don’t treat the other SPL teams with the same respect as they demand to be shown in this area, but that’s another story.

However the fact that he was seen as such as success really has to be questioned, the majority of us could take on the Celtic job and at least win 1 trophy per season.

Key question – Are Celtic in safer hands under Delia or is he another Lennon is disguise?

Upon leaving Celtic he was linked with numerous roles down south including Leicester City, Cardiff City and Fulham before ultimately officially being approached by Bolton Wanderers.

Now the Trotters are a team lacking funds having had the last of their parachute payments and by paying poor players too high wages for an extra season or two since relegation.

He has since taken charge of 51 matches, winning just 14 leaving him with a poor win % of 27.45%.

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Questionable signings of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Emile Heskey and Gary Madine show that without the considerable funds and pull of fortress Parkhead, he struggles to build a squad.

Could Lennon not have used his “experience” to take some of the better SPL players and give them a chance to prove their worth in the North West?

Bolton Wanderers currently sit bottom of one of the toughest and most competitive leagues in Europe, The Sky Bet Championship and I for one wouldn’t bet against Lennon and Bolton parting ways before relegation looms towards the business end of the season.

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Neil Lennon & Celtic Cup Win image sourced from; www.bbc.co.uk
Neil Lennon & Matt Miles image sourced from; www.thedailymail.co.uk
Neil Lennon bottom image sourced from; www.theguardian.com