Friday, May 25, 2012

Martinez or Van Gaal?

Amidst the countless rumours this week, it appears as though the leading candidates for the top post at Liverpool is between Wigan's Roberto Martinez and former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, Louis Van Gaal.

Of the two, Martinez is apparently in the lead for the job and is currently in talks with Liverpool owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) in United States.

One can only hope that this is just another formality in the long and arduous search for a new manager and not a prelude to an appointment. If appointing Kenny Dalglish after sacking Roy Hodgson in 2011 was a PR victory with the club's supporters, bringing Martinez in would be nothing short of a disaster.

There is already a considerable amount of opposition to the fact that Martinez is even being considered for the job and one can only imagine the criticism and pressure that will be leveled at him each game Liverpool dont win.

For someone more accustomed to fighting relegation battles, this will come as both a shock and a sobering reminder that expectations at Liverpool are far different from that at Wigan.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Van Gaal has recently emerged as a strong candidate for the job. Initial reports indicated that FSG wanted the Dutchman to assume the role of technical director, which was vacated by Damien Commoli towards the end of the Reds' torrid campaign last season.

The idea of putting Van Gaal in that position seemed to indicate that FSG wanted the Dutchman to implement a new transfer policy and bring in some fresh talent to provide some much needed change to the squad.

It also meant that high profile managerial candidates - Fabio Capello, Rafa Benitez - were out of the equation. Van Gaal is quite the imposing figure (he's also 60) and only a young an inexperienced manager like Martinez would be able to work with him.

Besides, Van Gaal would be some sort of insurance for FSG should Martinez fail and could be called in to step into the manager's role if needed.

But as it turns out, Van Gaal has indicated that he is more keen on the manager's position at Liverpool than the technical director's post.

Despite being sacked by his last club, Bayern Munich, Van Gaal possess an impressive resume that includes a Champions League trophy, UEFA Cup and several league titles in Holland, Spain and Germany respectively.

Simply put, if the choice boils down to either Martinez or Van Gaal, it should be a no brainer.

As for Capello and Benitez, reports suggest that both are keen on the job but haven't been approached by Liverpool. I've suggested several times that Capello fits the bill perfectly.

Just as successful as Van Gaal, Capello has a keen understanding of the English game and would not need time to settle in.

And if all else fails and you're left with just Martinez, I would rather go with Benitez who at least knows what it takes to compete at the highest level (and FSG wouldn't have to pay him to relocate. He already lives in Liverpool!).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hansen Wrong On Dalglish

As speculation mounts over who will take over the reigns at Liverpool, former Reds defender and BBC Sport pundit, Alan Hansen, has come to Kenny Dalglish' defense over the latter's sacking.

Hansen's defense of the former Liverpool manager should not come as a surprise as the former played alongside and latter under fellow Scotsman, Dalglish. But much of his piece, which can be read here is sheer hypocrisy.

Before I go on, I will admit that it is sad to see Dalglish' second stint at Liverpool end in such a way but as I've argued before, his time at Anfield had run out. Legend or not, the Reds endured one of their worst seasons ever in the Premier League and Dalglish had to shoulder much of the blame.

Now, on to Hansen's column.

My first beef was with the following:

"Dalglish himself would have been disappointed with the final Premier League position, but he did win the Carling Cup and if you are winning trophies this should ultimately give the manager some leeway. When you are rebuilding you have to start somewhere and winning silverware is not a bad place, no matter how highly or otherwise people regard the Carling Cup." 

First, the only clubs that don't think highly of the Carling Cup are the ones that don't win it. And while winning the Carling Cup would be sufficient enough for a mid-table club, Liverpool aren't one or, rather, aren't supposed to be one.

Instead, despite the Carling Cup success, the Reds endured one of their worst seasons in the Premier League by only winning six home games all season and scored a total of 47 goals all season, nearly half of what champions Man City scored.

But even that would have been palatable had Liverpool won the Carling Cup in a convincing fashion. Instead, the slogged and won it over penalties against Championship side (I reiterate: Championship side), Cardiff City.

"Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group, have set the bar high here because it was always going to be incredibly difficult for Kenny to come back, rebuild the team and restore them to the Champions League in one full season."

Set the bar high? Three seasons ago, Liverpool were in the Champions League and finish second in the league. Many of those players in that season were still in Dalglish' squad. Furthermore, let's put some things into perspective. Liverpool FC is expected to compete for the Premier League title, not just a Champions League qualification spot.

Moreover, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) gave Dalglish GBP100 million to invest in new players for the club. Even when you consider the sort of money Man City and Chelsea splash in the transfer market, GBP100 million is quite a substantial amount.

As such, it's not surprising that FSG felt a little bit of disappointment when their team finished eighth in the league and below Everton. And did I mention that the club they paid GBP35 million for Andy Carroll finished fifth? The irony would've been too much for FSG.

Dalglish sacked!

As expected, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have removed Kenny Dalglish from the managerial post at Liverpool after the Reds endured one of their worst ever seasons in the Premier League. I believe assistant manager, Steve Clarke, will be the next one to be shown the door as he too played a significant role in Liverpool's demise this season.

By firing Dalglish now, FSG will give themselves enough time to find a new manager who can start rebuilding the team and possibly offload some expensive flops.

That being said, I can't for the life of me comprehend how Wigan's Roberto Martinez has become the favourite for the job. Can anyone remember what happened the last time Liverpool appointed a manager who was more accustomed to battling for survival than fighting for the league title?

Apart from him, the other names being brandied about are former Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, and former Reds manager, Rafael Benitez. Borussia Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp has also been mentioned.

I still don't know why Fabio Capello hasn't been thrown into the shortlist. Considering his experience in winning league titles (both in Italy and Spain), he would seem like Liverpool's best choice.

But I'm sure the rumour mill will start popping up new names in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dalglish To Leave Liverpool?

The rumour mill on Kenny Dalglish' future has been heating up with speculation rife that Kenny Dalglish' second stint at Liverpool will be coming to end soon.

The rumours follow news reports that Dalglish and assistant, Steve Clarke, recently travelled across the Atlantic to Boston to meet the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG).

Some reports suggest Dalglish made the trip to clarify the situation regarding his position at Liverpool which increasingly come under scrutiny following what can only be described as a dismal season for the Reds.

Then again, the meeting could have been a reaction to the events that unfolded over the weekend. While most of the headlines were dominated by Man City's dramatic victory against Queens Park Rangers to seal the Premier League title, the Reds succumbed to their 14 defeat in the league, this time at the hands of Swansea City.

City may have won the league by a mere goal difference but the irony of the matter is the fact that Roberto Mancini's men scored nearly twice as many goals as Liverpool did. And perhaps the worst record of all was the six meekly wins the Reds managed to muster all season at Anfield.

So far, except for sacking Damien Comolli, FSG has remained silent over Liverpool's poor showing this season. Perhaps we'll finally hear something now. In the meantime, as previously reported, Fabio Capello's looking for a job. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Capello Wants Premier League Job

Fabio Capello has indicated that he's interested in managing a top Premier League side, days after the FA named his successor at England.

The Italian's statement should come as no surprise. After spending four years in England, Capello is well-versed with the English game and would certainly feel that he has something to prove following the tumultuous manner in which he left the England national team.

Capello has so far indicated that he would be keen on managing a side that competes in the Champions League and wins trophies. He's also reported to have said that moving to a cash-ride side wouldn't be a priority although that in itself is somewhat of an oxymoron. Any side vying for trophies or Champions League glory needs to have money and there's a considerable amount of evidence that the big clubs in England have plenty of cash.

The big question now is, which club? We might get an indication once the weekend is up.

First up is the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea. Defeat for the Reds could spell the end of Kenny Dalglish' second stint at the club and open up a vacancy that would certainly be appealing to Capello.

Should Liverpool win, however, an opening may show up at Stamford Bridge although Capello may to wait until May 19 when the Champions League final is played to get a clearer idea if his next boss is going to be a demanding but very rich Russian. If Chelsea do beat Bayern Munich in the final, we can expect to see Roberto Di Matteo installed as the Blues' permanent manager.

Then on Sunday, the result of Man City's clash against Newcastle could very well lead to another job opening. Defeat to the Magpies could spell the end for Roberto Mancini and City could look to another Italian to wrest control of the Premier League from the red half of Manchester.

Among the possible options available, Liverpool and Chelsea would seem as the most likeliest of destinations. Even if City lose to Newcastle and hand the title to Man Utd, the club would be better of keeping Mancini who was made City one of the strongest sides in England and Europe.

As for Liverpool, even if Dalglish leads the Reds to an FA Cup victory, there is still a chance that his services may not be retained for another season. This week's abysmal defeat to Fulham, which follows a long line of defeats this season, was yet another indication that Dalglish is simply not the right man for the job.

In Chelsea's case as I mentioned above, a lot will hinge on the outcome of the Champions League final in Munich on May 19.

So how would Capello fare as a club manager? Based on his record, pretty good.

He has won seven league titles in the Serie A, two in the La Liga and a Champions League trophy with AC Milan. Not too shabby, eh?

Another plus point for Capello is the fact that he wouldn't be confined to just picking English players. Now that would make a difference.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fiorentina Manager Punches Own Player

We've all heard about Sir Alex Ferguson's infamous hair-dryer treatment of his players when they don't perform up to expectations. Well, Fiorentina's Delio Rossi took it up a notch when he punched midfielder Adam Ljajic during his side's 2-2 draw with Novara.

According to various reports, Delio Rossi 'lost his cool' and began thumping Ljajic after the latter sarcastically gave his manager the thumbs up for substituting him. You can check out the video below.

Following the incident, Fiorentina sacked Rossi.

I haven't seen any report which details how Ljajic had been performing on the pitch prior to his substitution but my guess, based on Rossi's reaction, was that he wasn't very impressive, to say the least. Perhaps this could serve as a warning to other players who frequently under-perform on the pitch. You never know when your manager is going to lose it (yes, Mr Jordan Henderson. I'm talking about you).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Has the English FA gone mad?

Blimey. And you thought it couldn't get any worse.

As you're probably aware, the English FA have finally appointed Roy Hodgson to replace Fabio Capello. And in case you were wondering, Capello left three months ago (talk about urgency).

Hodgson's appointment has certainly baffled many when the odds seem to indicate that Harry Redknapp was the favourite for the job. In fact, speculation was rife that Redknapp's mind had been on the England job ever since Capello resigned (it's been the most common excuse used to explain Tottenham's dismal run over the past three months).

But instead, England went shopping in the bottom half of the Premier League for a new manager and landed Hodgson who has guided West Bromvich Albion to 10th place in the league.

And so the big question: what were they thinking? 

Wasn't Hodgson's abysmal run at Liverpool last season enough of a preview of his capabilities at the top level? I've often argued that Hodgson has time and again proven to be an exceptional manager at lower tiered clubs.

But at every one of those clubs, WBA included, Hodgson has not had to contend with high expectations. In many of those clubs, the primary goal is often to avoid relegation. Something tells me England's expectations are going to be a lot more different than WBA's.

Then there's the fact managing England requires the capability to manage a squad full of egos. Considering how Hodgson struggled at this at Liverpool, where there were fewer egos, he certainly has his work cut out for him. Worst case scenario? We could find Rooney and Gerrard giving the pre-match tactical briefings instead of Hodgson.

To be fair, it's hard to see any one at all succeeding at the England job which makes you wonder just how far Hodgson's going to go with England (or if he'll remain at the post after EURO 2012).

Then again, stranger things have happened. Another former WBA manager, Roberto Di Matteo, is currently looking at the very real prospect of being the only Chelsea manager to have ever won the Champions League.