Barely a week on since my bold prediction that the managerial merry-go-round would kick into overdrive, it more or less malfunctioned as the proverbial white smoke emanated from the Emirates. More on that in a bit, but first to Wembley…
A Tale of Two Finals
I watched two finals at Wembley over the weekend, one with rather more fanfare than the other. Man Utd & Chelsea in the FA Cup final wasn’t a classic but there have been worse finals, notably the snoozefest these two served up in 2007. It still puzzles me how Mourinho gets so little out of the attacking players he has at his disposal. Conte meanwhile has had a bit of an identity crisis this season, changing the 3-4-3 that served them so well to play the likes of Bakayoko hasn’t helped but Giroud has certainly improved matters. If Eden Hazard left I don’t know what would happen, they look rather average without him. Willian seems to be burning his bridges too, but I am of the opinion that he is too good to be rotting on the bench.
Meanwhile the FA Trophy final between Bromley and Brackley on Sunday was magnificent. Here we had two teams who just gave every last ounce to win. Players making the most of what might be (in some cases) their only playing appearance at the national stadium. It went to penalties after a last minute scrambled equaliser from the underdogs who went on to win on pens. I tell you what else as well – every single corner taken in Sunday’s final was better than the rubbish Marcus Rashford served up.
It seemed for all the world that Mikel Arteta would be in at Arsenal, with his odds being slashed in recent days. However Monday brought widespread reports that it would be former PSG boss Unai Emery who would be the new man with the unenviable task of replacing Arsene Wenger. On the one hand, it’s a very low bar to beat on recent seasons but over the long term…quite the task. Emery did a great job at Sevilla, winning the Europea League three times, and that alone should make him a good fit for Arsenal. I think winning the Europa is probably a more realistic target than breaking the top 4 unless there is to be major investment and I have to say this is a better option than a manager still “wet around the ears” like Arteta. The PSG job was probably a step too far with their billions but it makes sense for Arsenal. More importantly it’s a new name for the Premier League and not Moyes/Allardyce/Pardew, who we are all sick of.
The Last Weekend
Club football for most of the major European leagues comes to a close this weekend but it’s a strong finish. The Champions League final is obviously the final destination of the European club season and Liverpool vs Real Madrid has got all the hallmarks of a classic. Real of course are looking for their 3rd consecutive Champions League whilst Liverpool have won the neutral vote in many cases with their attacking style that so ruthlessly saw off Man City and Roma (ignore the last 5 minutes of Roma!). I’m really looking forward to this game, I don’t want to tempt fate but how can this be a bad game? It’s not going to be cat and mouse as it suits neither team. Just have at it and let us enjoy.
There’s also three playoff finals across the three day weekend (UK fans) starting with the Championship on Saturday tea time. Fulham much like last season have come on strong when it matters most and this time have negotiated the tricky semi final to secure their place at Wembley, whereas wily old Villa have been there or thereabouts all season and will fancy their chances. They have so much experience I have a sneaking suspicion they will get it done on the day but it’ll probably just be Mitrovic and Terry wrestling each other all afternoon. I can’t lie, I want Fulham to come up, they’ve played soem excellent football over the past couple of seasons and I fear if they don’t come up this time that squad might start to get picked apart.
Elsewhere Rotherham have a chance to go back to the Championship at the first attempt on Sunday but Shrewsbury stand in their way. The Shrews have performed above expectation all season and I wrongly thought they had burnt out ahead of the playoffs but they were excellent against Charlton and on points they deserve to go up, but the playoffs are a cruel beast. Coventry will have the chance to gain promotion back to League One against Exeter on Monday, exciting games and the perfect accompaniment to your bank holiday weekend.
We’re switching focus to the World Cup so Black & White will take a break until the new season, have a great summer!