December 22, 2015

Chelsea sparked by inevitable Mourinho sacking

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It has been a long time coming and I’m sure that nobody who even tangentially watches soccer was shocked by Jose Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea.

I mean, considering the amount of money spent on this side and the fact that the Blues are defending champions, what other option did owner Roman Abramovich have? Even after Saturday’s win over Sunderland, Chelsea is still in just 15th place and only three points out of the relegation zone.

It clearly wasn’t working under the Special One, a theme seems to reoccur every time he enters his third season with a team. It seems his shtick runs its course and the players stop responding to his over-the-top ways.

Now, another former Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink returns to try to right the ship and perhaps guide this team into a European spot or, even better, a run to Champions League glory.

Will Hiddink’s return be permanent? After all, Pep Guardiola also announced this weekend that he will be leaving Bayern Munich after this season, making him the biggest free agent in football, again. Rumour has it that Manchester City is eager to snap him up, but that remains to be seen.

For Mourinho, what comes next is up in the air. His reverse pattern would see him go to Inter, but seems a bit questionable. The recent turmoil surrounding Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United could interest the Red Devils, but how will the board feel about such a big personality like the Portuguese’s?

What we do know is that we are in for one hell of a managerial carousel this summer.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

We haven’t given Mesut Ozil enough credit in the space.

Oddly enough, though I root for Germany on the world stage, I’ve always found the midfielder to be overrated. He always seemed a little too unselfish with the ball to his own detriment.

He never felt like the type of play that can win the game for you, just one that would put up numbers and look great against lesser competition.

Well, the Arsenal playmaker has been doing it all this season and his two-assist game against fellow contenders Manchester City just shows you how great he is playing.

Ozil’s two helpers gives him 15 on the season, just five shy of Thierry Henry’s record and we’re not even halfway through the campaign.

Ozil has also been on the scoresheet with either a goal or assist in 11 games running and is an assist away from reaching his total from the past two seasons combined.

He has long wanted to be in the conversation as one of the world’s elite and he is surely getting closer by the game while the Gunners look like they have a legit chance at winning the league this year.

WAT’S UP?

Who’s that sitting in eighth place, just a point behind Spurs, United and Crystal Palace?

Is that really Watford?!

Yes, believe it.

After beating Liverpool quite handily, the Hornets are now on a four-game winning streak, surging up the table like it’s nobody’s business.

Their attack has been stellar, led by Odion Ighalo – a fantasy mainstay on many teams – while the defence has been spectacular, led by keeper Heurelho Gomes, who tops the Premier League with eight clean sheets this season.

While they have some more tough fixtures coming up that will certainly put it to the test, it’s stories like Watford and Leicester City that make the Premier League the best loop in the world to follow.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

It has been a month now since Manchester United won a game in any competition. Losing at home to Norwich this week is just one of the reasons why Van Gaal is under so much pressure right now. But hey, at least Anthony Martial scored a goal, right? … Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United has been in first place less days (10) than Leicester City (24) … Delle Alli is looking like another great find for Tottenham. The youngster is looking like another solid piece to a team that’s getting better and better … Lee Chung-Yong’s winner for Crystal Palace is one of those goals that will be on end-of-season highlight reels. A beautiful strike for a big win: Doesn’t get much better … What a terrible tackle by James McClean and a rightfully deserved red card against Bournemouth. A second earlier and he could’ve broken the opponent’s leg … Was it just me, or were there as many penalties this week as the makers of FIFA 16 want us to believe? … The rain during Newcastle-Aston Villa was about as bad as it gets, even by English standards. With puddles forming on the field, I was even a bit surprised the refs didn’t call the game, but we’re glad they played through. Some really nice chances from both sides throughout … Aston Villa is looking like there’s no hope remaining. The last time a team had just seven points at this point of the season, they were relegated in March. Currently 10 points from safety and with just one win – coming on opening day, no less – the Villans will be packing their bags for the Championship next year.

THE LAST WORD

Enough can’t be written about the Leicester City story.

At this time last year, the Foxes were at the bottom of the table, looking like they had little hope of escaping last place, let alone the relegation zone.

And now, they’re the first team to be in first at Christmas after being bottom of the table the year before.

This week, they took it to Everton, which has been on a hot streak of its own, and extended their lead atop of the table.

Riyad Mahrez scored two rightly deserved penalties while Shinji Okazaki pitched in with a third goal. English legend Jamie Vardy even picked up the assist on that one.

While we still find it hard to believe that a team as small as Leicester can last the whole season atop the table, the odds are very real that this side could secure a Champions League place for next season.

With Chelsea’s struggles and enough of a cushion on Tottenham and United, we’ll surely be seeing Claudio Ranieri’s men in at least Europa League next year – though we all know how that can weigh down a smaller club.

How the team deals with injuries and fatigue issues going into 2016 and how well it does business in the January transfer window will go a long way towards telling us if it is for real or not – and it’s looking better and better by the day.

After all, just look at what happened with Southampton last season after their early run near the top.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply