This weekend’s live TV matches feature two of the big heavyweight clashes of English football, potentially more stress for the Special One and the Tony Pulis derby. There is an intriguing programme of televised fixtures but the clash between Arsenal and Manchester United could result in Arsene Wenger being booed at the Emirates Stadium. The sides embark on the match after contrasting results in Europe.
Further north and specifically in Liverpool local rivalries will come to the fore during the Merseyside derby for which Everton are marginally favoured. It might be an exaggeration to suggest Jose Mourinho’s job is on the line but after Chelsea lost at Porto in the Champions League Roman Abramovich could be getting twitch. Pulis has never been relegated in his managerial career and the Saturday lunchtime fixture features his current and former clubs where he has worked the oracle.
Under the current regime Arsenal will only ever be the third or fourth best team in England. The club is run under strict business rules whereby you only spend what you can afford. They don’t take on huge debts for assets that depreciate and can become worthless through loss of form or injury. In Wenger they have the ideal man to hold the purse strings and operate frugally.
Clubs that operate with a limitless amount of money will always afford to pay the highest wages and attract the best players. Chelsea and Manchester City will generally perform better than Arsenal due to the indisputable fact that in football money can buy success. The Gunners spend less money than their wealthier rivals so will win fewer matches and trophies. Arsenal as a club will always do enough to qualify for the Champions League but probably not win it in the near future.
There could be a strange phenomenon in that traditional rivals are hoping that the teams they love to hate do well in the Champions League. This is because England’s fourth place is under threat from Italy due to something called the coefficient. I think this basically means there is a link between results and the number of qualifying places on offer. However, in the last ten seasons England have produced the most quarter-finalists alongside Spain so the coefficient is good enough for four places.
Arsenal and Chelsea damaged the averages this week and now face home league matches that could seriously damage the future prospects of their current managers. Wenger hates Mourinho but not as much as he couldn’t take to Alex Ferguson. The respective personalities of the managers permeated fixtures between Arsenal and Manchester United. Relations should be more convivial as Louis Van Gaal at times has the relaxed demeanour of a Dutchman who has spent a weekend in Amsterdam.
United are now top of the league for the first time since the start of last season when not every team had played a match. They were nor perfect against Wolfsburg in the Champions League and attacked better than they defended. However, they have the confidence and momentum to beat Arsenal on the road, a results that could see some beads of sweat on the brow of the ever dapper and cool Frenchman. Wenger could be the manager of France sooner than we all thought.
The Premier League Sack Race is a betting market with odds for the first manager to be dismissed this season. Brendon Rogers is the second favourite which means the market could be decided on Monday morning. A defeat to Everton at home is the worst result imaginable for a Liverpool manager under pressure. The locals are not happy and even the official LFC website are publishing anti-Rodgers views. Everton are the form team in the city and can win at Anfield.
Mourinho is now the fourth favourite to get the boot but only because Sunderland are so bad that Dick Advocaat is under more threat and Steve McLaren is not very good at his job. Chelsea in their pomp won home matches against teams like Southampton two or three nil. Things are slightly different this season and the Saints could earn a point. Selling their best players is catching up and soon Ronald Koeman will be off to Barcelona so Southampton fans must enjoy him while they can.
Pulis is the current manager of West Brom and has been in charge of Crystal Palace in the past. He can help his current team avoid defeat in this away match over a weekend that has thrown up a series of live matches during which the focus will be on the managers more than usual and one could be unemployed early next week.