Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Managerial and Transfer Merry-go-rounds Commence

The majority of Premiership footballers are only just working on their sunburn and it is only a few days since the last round of Euro Qualifiers brought the curtain down on the European season but Premiership clubs are not hanging around.

Fulham, fresh from the walking out of the principled man that is Mark Hughes have acted swiftly by appointing the highly likeable Martin Jol. Jol has a decent CV having done a reasonable job at Spurs and a fairly competent one at Ajax with a truncated spell at Hamburg in between.

Whist there's a suspicion that he may be lacking at the very highest level, he should be a good appointment for the Cottagers with his ability to coax good performances out of average players and his policy of looking to youth. Should he do well, clubs from the higher echelons will probably be reluctant to poach him for at least a couple of seasons meaning Fulham can hope for a modicum of stability in the short to medium term.

Aston Villa and Randy Lerner seem in a confused state. Mark Hughes' behaviour in quitting Fulham seems to have put Werner off and the seemingly decent option of Steve McLaren has been gazumped by Lerner taking note of the negative sentiment on the fans' forum.

The appointment of McLaren probably would incite little other than apathy amongst any group of fans but the imagery associated with his failed England reign should not detract from the fact that he is a sound manager and an excellent coach. Likewise Graham Taylor was an awful England manager but a fine club coach. Lerner needs to do just that and be less reactionary, the phrase 'silent majority' is one he should consider coming to terms with. Their options otherwise look limited.

Chelsea and Abramovich seem to have their hearts set on Guus Hiddink and it appears only a matter of time before a compensation package is agreed with the Turkish FA. What is less clear however is how keen Hiddink - and more importantly his wife - is on a return to day to day coaching. A compromise deal such as twelve months in a tracksuit with a move upstairs pending whilst a younger coach can be groomed may be the answer. That being the case another candidate will have to be identified with no guarantees as to how well he will work with the regimented Dutchman, long term stability at the Bridge still looks to be no nearer.

On the playing front, ManYoo and Liverpool have raced in to splash the cash on vastly unproven British talent. Phil Jones has moved to Old Trafford for 17M with Jordan Henderson joining Liverpool for 20M. It seems that the lessons of the financial difficulties faced by English clubs as result of overpaying for players has not been learned. Rich (or otherwise) International owners nowadays however may well indemnify clubs from such trouble nowadays but one must assume both these teams are still at the mercy of the International debt market.

For Liverpool in particular who so badly need to rebuild and make up ground it is a huge gamble on the future rather than the now. They have now spent a combined 55M on Carroll and Henderson. Whilst it is admirable that they have such faith in young domestic talent, one must wonder whether a combination of Dalglish being out of touch with the International transfer market and Comoli who is simply not a football man has led them to this juncture. Liverpool badly need to get back to the Champions League and that 55M could have been spent in a variety of different manners, it remains to be seen if this was the correct one.

For ManYoo, a phase of rebuilding is also required and it is clear that Ferguson now sees Smalling and Jones as his future centre back pairing with Jonny Evans being deemed not good enough. This coupled with the presumably imminent capture of Ashley Young and the signing of David De Gea and the squad already looks to have a much fresher feel to it. They will remain the team to beat next season.

The talk at Stamford Bridge is typical of this time of year, Neymar, Modric and Alexis Sanchez would all be wonderful additions to what has become a very pedestrian team. Modric would be an obvious success but it remains to be seen whether Spurs would entertain selling him. Neymar and Sanchez are more risky but would inject much needed pace and vibrancy into what has become a very one dimensional team as well as hopefully igniting Fernando Torres. Chelsea must however be careful not to again become unduly overloaded with purely foreign players as both themselves before and Arsenal have shown this does not work. Long term replacements in the dressing room for Lampard, Cole and Terry must be identified with the irony being the likes of Phil Jones would have possibly provided that solution. Chelsea must also find a way to integrate the promising Daniel Sturridge into the first team.

Arsenal have yet to show their hand but the arrival of a third rate Polish goalkeeper from an Austrian second division team must only be a matter of time - No Nonsense.