Welcome to another rundown of some topics that have caught my eye this week. In this edition of Black & White, I muse over which Premier League managers will be on the move this summer, assess the playoff picture and finally the World Cup squad announcement. Let’s start with the weekend first though.
Save our Season
Even if the matches weren’t particularly important in most cases on Sunday, the last day of the season always seem to throw up some entertaining fixtures. Despite that general frivolity around the country Man Utd could still only muster a 1-0 win over Watford, Mourinho seems to have taken the notion that Louis Van Gaal was boring as a personal challenge and set out to beat it. Quite how that Man Utd side is as dull as it is has to be seen as an achievement, but for the sake of the league being more competitive next season I hope Jose finds a way to make them mesh. Antonio Conte had a rotten Sunday, beaten heavily by Newcastle was not a good way to warm up for this weekend’s FA Cup final. In many ways the final will salvage the season for one of these clubs, but Chelsea will have to improve massively if it is to be them. It may be Conte’s last game…
I think we might see a record number of manager changes this summer as hardly any seem to be happy in their work, and those that are may find themselves poached. I’ve just mentioned Conte but Moyes, Allardyce and Hughes were all brought in to keep their sides in the division and it’ll be interesting to see if that success is rewarded with a longer stay or if there are greater ambitions. To be honest those clubs shouldn’t be criticised for striving for better, you can’t tell me Sam Allardyce would be anybody’s choice for a top 8 club. He is very good at keeping a team up and making a pretty penny in the process. Moyes has done reasonably well at West Ham but again, I think they’ll want better. They have a huge stadium to fill and the likes of Arnautovic & Lanzini will want to see ambition.
Elsewhere Claude Puel will be lucky to see out the week at Leicester whilst Watford seem to make it their mission to change managers every summer. Javi Gracia has barely been noticeable and even if stays in charge for next season, he’s got “sacked by November” written all over him. Whether Huddersfield and Newcastle can hold on to Wagner and Benitez also remains to be seen.
The playoff games come thick and fast don’t they? They’re half over already and they’ve thrown up the usual array of great moments. It would be some story for Shrewsbury to get promoted to the Championship whilst Fulham overcame a deficit to defeat Derby. It looks like being a Fulham/Villa final but you just don’t know in the playoffs. The Championship is an underrated league, obviously the financial rewards of the Premier League mean it is the place to be but from a fan point of view the Championship is watchable, it’s come a long way over the last 10 years. That said, the playoff final has so much riding on it it can be a tedious affair. Fulham don’t really do tedious though so that bodes well.
Managers have been invited to name their World Cup provisional squads this week before cutting it down from 35 to 23. The initial list of 35 isn’t being made public, which annoys me a great deal, but I agree with the general decision managers seem to have made to announce the final 23 earlier than necessary. If you don’t know your 23 by now you probably never will and with most teams having played their last competitive game there is little else left to prove. A couple of friendlies won’t change that now. From an England point of view, most of the discussion seems to be about Jonjo Shelvey’s apparent exclusion. Who is actually surprised? He hasn’t been near the squad and although he is definitely worth of a place in the 23, I don’t think Southgate is going to do an about turn now. Still, there’s always the high possibility that somebody will get injured. Like when Heskey fell on Rio Ferdinand in training, on that Belgian broke Gary Cahill’s jaw. It’s never nice to see and hopefully nobody comes a cropper this year, especially as Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already had their hopes dashed after fine seasons.
That’s all for this week but enjoy those playoff games and of course the FA Cup final.