Tuesday, June 14, 2011

McLeish and Fabregas set for acrimonious moves?

Moving across any city from one fierce rival to another is always a perilous task and for Alex McLeish the one across Birmingham will undoubtedly prove so if he does indeed move. It will undoubtedly enrage of both sets of fans. Whilst it possibly does not compare in the eyes of the world to Luis Figo moving to Real, Sol Campbell to Arsenal or Maurice Johnston to Rangers so many years ago, to the residents of Birmingham it is as every bit as heinous.

McLeish has had an interesting managerial career and one that is hard to judge. His initial spells at Motherwell and Hibernian were reasonably successful although no trees were pulled up. At Rangers he possibly unfairly gained a tag for being lucky with Celtic's final day final five minute implosion to hand the league title to Rangers being a prime example. He went toe to toe with Martin O'Neil and came out remarkably well in terms of trophies won yet O'Neil is remembered with reverence at Parkhead whereas McLeish is little considered now at Ibrox despite the former having considerably more funds.

In charge of Scotland, McLeish performed admirably with the tools available coaxing the best out of players such as James McFadden, again however there was a suspicion that he had merely carried on the the work and the momentum which had been provided by Walter Smith when the two effectively swapped positions courtesy of Paul Le Guen. Scotland ultimately failed in their goal of qualification for a major tournament.

Having been poached by Birmingham - which speaks volumes of the standing of International football nowadays - McLeish promptly had them relegated before winning promotion back at the first attempt. On their Premiership return they finished a highly creditable ninth before this season's Carling Cup triumph and then relegation back to the Championship. For McLeish it seems that every plus has a minus.

For the Villa fans it is highly unpalatable, indeed he is popular with them only for having relegated their city rivals twice. His brand of football is hard working and honest (much as he was as a player) but it is hardly good to watch. Even at Rangers where he held a huge quality advantage over the vast majority of the league there was little expansive football.

Whilst winning the Carling Cup was no doubt a great day for Birmingham, Premiership survival was the absolute minimum and should have been comfortably attainable given the lack of quality at the bottom. Their capitulation in the league after the cup final was woeful and in many ways as poor as West Ham's. This blog would love to be able to pin the triumvirate of Gold, Sullivan and Brady as having a hand in both and will aim to do so.

There is little doubt that Carson Yeung knows as much about running a Premiership club as the Venkys owners whos latest debacle over Phil Jones' contract shows just how unqualified they are. McLeish would have undoubtedly been fired at the end of the season had Birmingham had the money to do so, the 5M mooted compensation clearly being a sticking point for a club with the finances of relegation to contend with.

Randy Lerner likewise seems to be a man drowning in the deep end. He seemingly listened in to the internet forums when cooling his interest in the otherwise highly qualified Steve McLaren yet these same forums are on fire with anger at the prospect of McLeish becoming manager with thousands of raging Villains signing up for an anti McLeish facebook page.

Should McLeish indeed be installed as the manager at Villa Park he will be dealing with almost certainly the loss of Ashley Young and possibly Stewart Downing as well as inheriting a squad that is not up to the job. He will be required to produce a good start to soothe the restless natives, it could be a very rocky road to survive until Christmas.

Cesc Fabregas - The Price is Right?

Twelve months on and in the same way that Real Madrid came calling a second time for Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona are slowly cranking up the pressure on Arsenal to part with their captain and best player.

Wenger has often been boxed into a corner with regard to selling his best players to clubs with more financial muscle. Nicolas Anelka, Petit and Overmars, Vieira, Henry and even Ashley Cole were sold despite Wenger's protestations otherwise, what he has always managed to do however is extract the maximum value for each transfer and with the exception of Ashley Cole, the players have by and large failed to repeat the success or performances that they enjoyed at Arsenal.

Fabregas enjoys wonderful Carling Opta stats but it was clear last season that we were watching a disillusioned player who at 24 years old is unlikely to improve. That being the case and with the current length of his contract he is probably at the maximum of his transfer value.

Cesc is a Catalan and has made his desire to return home clear. Regardless of his contractual obligation to Arsenal (his performances for them over the years have paid off the moral obligation) there seems little point in keeping a player whos mind is elsewhere. Arsenal also are in dire need of reinforcements throughout their team and Barcelona have several squad players such as Bojan Krkic, Maxwell or even Mascherano or Ibrahimovic who would do much to enhance Arsenal's squad and quell the pain of losing their talisman. No club wants to sell their best player but sometimes it can be done in a way that can actually benefit the club in the long term - No Nonsense.