Managers in trouble. Even the Special One, alias Jose Mourinho, is perhaps fearing that lightning doesn’t strike twice on his return to Chelsea. While at Manchester United, despite that win against Liverpool, David Moyes is finding life at Old Trafford under the shadow of the long reigning Alex Ferguson anything but easy.
You have to wonder whether Ferguson, after a quarter century plus in charge at United, had not seen the writing on the wall when he passed the baton to Moyes. We now hear that even the much criticised Glazers, owners of a club on which they placed a vast burden of debt, are heard lamenting the fact that Moyes did not assume office till last July when it was too late to sign the new players he wanted and the club needed.
But why should they have needed them at all? If Ferguson had done such a remarkable job right up to the end of his regime, winning the Premiership, though admittedly a largely indifferent season, why should fresh players, as we can now see so well, have been urgently needed?
Almost at the end of the summer market, Moyes did at last manage to buy the towering Belgian Fellaini from his former club Everton, but especially in the disastrous derby against Manchester City, that often formidable attacker looked unhappy in a deeper than usual midfield role.
One might cynically say that Ferguson got out at the right time. But it still is surprising that while Fergie’s £17 million purchase of the Japanese international attacker Shinji Kagawa looks something of a dubious gamble, the reluctance of Moyes to give a proper chance to the talented young winger Wilfried Zaha bought from Crystal Palace, on the grounds that he is not “mentally ready” to play in the Premiership, seems almost perverse. Surely the only way to find out, and Zaha after all did well in pre-season matches, is to pick him. Not least because Ashley Young and Nani have scarcely scintillated on the wings.
I am reminded of a conversation reported long ago, around 1934, between Herbert Chapman, legendary Arsenal manager, not long before his death and George Allison, the rotund journalist who took over from him when Chapman, though the Gunners then were in a three consecutive Championship winning phase, when Chapman said: “The team’s played out Mr Allison; we must rebuild.”
Which they did to impressive effect. Not least in the signing, soon after Chapman’s early death, in the shape of the Southampton centre forward Ted Drake, who the following season, would score 42 First Division goals. The kind of centre forward Chapman had been trying to buy for years.
And Mourinho? Every time the tall, powerful 20-year-old Romelu Lukaku puts in another dynamic, goal scoring performance for Everton, where he has been explosively good, you wonder what possessed Mourinho to let him go out on loan for the whole season. Allegedly so he could gain more experience. How much more experience does he need?
And for all his years of experience at top level, how much has Samuel Eto’o, once such a star at Barcelona and, under Mourinho himself, at Inter, got to offer now as a veteran?
As for Ba, he seems cast into anonymity while Fernando Torres, though looking sharper till he scratched Jan Vertoghen at Tottenham, he has yet to live up to his excessive £50 million fee. Not to mention the inexplicable treatment of Juan Mata, last season’s number one Chelsea player. And remember that last season, Mourinho lost the dressing room at Real Madrid. Though things have scarcely improved there under Carlo Ancelotti.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have just celebrated 100 years in Islington; yet if their owner, Sir Henry Norris had had his way in 1913 when they crossed the Thames from Plumstead, they would have been amalgamated with Fulham, where he had his financial and economic base. The FA refused to allow it and in 1919, he somehow managed to wangle them into the First Division to the fury of neighbours Spurs, whom they leap frogged having finished only fifth in Division Two.
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