Now everyone dares to Zlatan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always cast himself as a strong lion.

When he was out with his latest injury, he mentioned that “lions take longer to recover”.

But speculation is rife that while his mental fortitude is there, his body may be letting him down.

 

And because of that, now everyone dares to Zlatan. Especially the Manchester City team who reportedly had a dig at him, provoking the post-match brawl.

 

It seems Zlatan is now playing the part of the hurt tiger in the commercial, being provoked – but unable to do nothing about it.


 

The ex-Barcelona man, who once said “If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains”, may soon find the sun setting on his career.

Oh well, there’s always the Chinese League for a big payday. And someone of Ibrahimovic’s reputation will always have a team willing to take him, not so much for his on-field prowess, but for his commercial value.

But considering his decline, maybe even the Chinese players may dare to Zlatan.

Strange headlines

My first thoughts were: “Whose head was thrown at Mourinho?” and “Why did Arteta cut it?”

Which row at Old Trafford was Mourinho sitting in when drinks were thrown at him?

Mikel Arteta cut? Wasn’t he cut from the Arsenal squad years ago?

Maybe it is all to do with disrespect.

Arsene Wenger must be rubbing his hands with glee.

He must be wishing for a road back to the Champions League via the Europa League win rather than a top four Premier League place.

Pity the tour bus still has to go via Atletico Madrid.

 

That may also be its last stop.

Football Overload? Conte using deflection as an outlet

Is there a thing such as schedule overload? Chelsea boss Antonio Conte seems to think so. He has recently complained – protested actually – about the close scheduling of Chelsea’s matches. The Blues recently had to play Liverpool, Qarabag and Newcastle all within the span of seven days, including the round trip to Azerbaijan. Conte made it clear that he was not actually complaining about the scheduling of his side’s matches, as much as he was protesting that his team would not get as much rest as their opponents. He even went as far as to suggest a conspiracy is on the cards within the Premier League, a bias against Chelsea repeating as champions.

Is there any truth in it? Would the Premier League actually benefit with a new team winning it? Perhaps. It gives the sense that any team has a chance. (Although considering Manchester City are already running away with the title and opening up a huge gap between them and the rest of the pack, it may seem that every one is really fighting for second.) The idea that any team can win fuels hope within the fans, and it is this hope that compels people to support their team to give it the extra edge to win. It is the idea that their team can win that makes people come out to watch games. If you were going to watch a match where your team had no chance, would you go to the stadium, shiver in the cold, get rained on, spend money on a beer and pastie, just to watch them lose, or would you go to the pub, have a meal and drink for under a tenner, and watch it on Sky? Thought so. This is why Premier League bosses love it when teams like Leicester unexpectedly win the title race, it gives them the one team to quote. “All teams have a fair chance. Look at Leicester two years ago.” And this is why Premier League bosses love the FA Cup, where teams could pull off an upset. Different teams winning the league fuels the thinking that everyone has a chance. It brings fans out to watch. It gives money to the Premier League coffers instead of filling J D Wetherspoon’s.

Then again, the Premier League is not responsible for scheduling Champions League matches. Take away the Qarabag match, and what you have is two games a week apart, which seems fair. And that is why teams have more than eleven players, to have rotation players, to rotate squads around.

You can’t have equal numbers of rest days between teams as Conte claims. Otherwise all teams would have to play on the same day, which is not only logistically inconvenient, but then means teams would start complaining about playing on the early or late game and not having sufficient hours rest. Why is it logistically difficult? Well, for starters, policing resources means that teams in one region must not all play at home or there may be security risks. Imagine if Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Watford, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace all played home matches. The Metropolitan Police Force would have a fit.

Is Conte really complaining at all? One suspects he is merely deflecting attention from players, taking the media heat off them in the run up to an important part of the season. Conte railing his head off gives sports writers stuff to fill their column inches with, so that they could spend enough writing about Conte and less about his players.

So Conte’s complaints are just an attempt at deflection, like his predecessor Mourinho. But if he really feels aggrieved, he should remember that’s what he gets a fat salary for. He should perhaps remind himself of this old football joke (source here):

Question: What’s the difference between a nursery assistant and a football manager?

Answer: One gets paid a lot of money to look after children.

That’s right; Conte gets paid millions in his salary. So do those under his care. But it is time to stop whinging and start living up to the hype.

Managerial uncertainty affects your team’s form

If your football team manager is sacked, how long would it take to appoint another manager? Three games? Four games? It seems like David Unsworth has been at troubled Everton forever, and he can’t stop the sinking ship from listing.

Unsworth was appointed caretaker manager after Ronald Koeman was axed. Of course, it would be fair to give him a fair few games to try and stabilise the rot, and he would have done well to have secured a few draws, but Everton under him seem no better than they were under his predecessor.

When Koeman left, Unsworth fancied himself in the running for the vacant position, announcing that it would be a great honour to be in charge of the club he had played for. It seemed he was given a chance to show his mettle, and while pundits suggested he was the right person, being Everton through and through, it now seems the job is too big for him. He is no longer in the running for the job, and as he admitted, the “sooner this gets sorted out the better”.

The problem with a managerial crisis is that it develops uncertainty, and this filters down to the players. From the moment a manager is rumoured to be axed, and the news is picked up by the media, the constant back page media storm undermines the manager’s credibility. Who will listen to him, and take instruction, if the rumours are he is going? Players will probably unconsciously start aligning themselves with who they think is next in line. And if they have a bad run of results, this negative run and doubt continues, and leads to more decay. You can usually feel the sinking of the ship before you see the gaping hole.

But delay over appointing a new manager does not address the doubt. And that is the position Unsworth finds himself in. The players may not take instruction from him either, because he may be gone soon.

Did the Everton board not learn a lesson from Arsenal the previous season? The protracted situation regarding Arsene Wenger’s contract renewal proved so divisive that it affected everyone around the team, fans and players, and caused a late season dip in form. Let’s face it, when planes are flying Wenger Out banners, do you think players on the field can give their best? Did it make a difference mentally? Of course it did. When a manager is undermined by the press or any circumstances, the players don’t give their best for him.

Would stating publicly that Unsworth is only temporarily in charge help his cause? Not really. But it would help if the board told the players that whoever was in charge of the team would have the power to decide if they remained with the team past the transfer window in January, or got traded to another less desirable team in the Chinese or Scottish League, doomed to travel to far flung places, playing in front of unknown crowds or going to cold freezing places. Now that would get the players focussed.

Openly-gay football player? Media reporting only exacerbates gender differences

Gender orientation is a recurrent subject in the news – it keeps coming back and forth whenever there is a lull in politics, natural disasters or whatever pads out what we call a newspaper – more like an advert supplemented by news. Before the advent of the visual media and the internet, the newspapers had more authority, but now with more television channels, websites and free newspapers to fill, the journalist’s rule is that rather than find news, you have to create it. You have to take what previously existed, give it a bit of slant, repackage it and sell it again. Is this an agreeable procedure? If the news were a present, it would be the equivalent of wrapping up last year’s Christmas present in a different piece of wrapping paper before giving it to someone else. Is that agreeable? You decide.

Coming back to the point, if you keep observing the news you will notice that in lull periods there is always this theme of gender orientation resurfacing. “Will the Premier League have its first openly gay player?” Why does the media keep reporting the piece of stale news? The reason of course is that firstly it sells newspapers. Newspapers are like the reverse of food – the longer you leave a piece of news, the more freshness it gains when it resurfaces on a piece of printed paper.

You can find other similar themes – one is the perennial one of women in higher positions. Perhaps women in corporate management positions feel obliged to give other women a similar lift up the corporate ladder, to do them a favour by repeating that inequality mantra over and over again in the hope that eventually in any company there will be a 50-50 split.

It is of course an unlikely situation to materialise. While women may strive for equal divisions using the argument that a woman is one half of the gender makeup, males could equally point out that if we were to use the world’s population as a barometer, any company would have more males than females because there are more men in the world than women.

But harping over gender differences isn’t doing any one any favours – it’s just a lot of talk to end up at nowhere. (I’ve just given you a demonstration here – rambled so much just to get to this point.) And in football, pointing out and anticipating the first openly-gay player with as much expectation as holding out for the second coming certainly isn’t helping the gay community. Firstly, the media’s rambling about differences in orientation does not help make the football sport more inclusive, but only widens it because we continually read about human differences. And because newspapers continually bring in this recurrent theme to fill pages, it conditions the human mind to think it is all talk that amounts to nothing.

Brighton and Hove Albion, a club in the English Premier league, have a large following from the LGBT community. But there is little raa-raa about them having gay fans, nor do the club make special mention of it – a football fan is a football fan. But the gender differences only become an issue when people want to make an issue out of it. Brighton is a town that has traditionally been associated with more liberal thinking (for more information about Brighton’s past, you can check out this blog) and rival football fans are happy to taunt the football club on the basis of this history. But within the club itself, it is not a problem – only in football rivalries, such as during a match with Leicester fans.

So the media should really stop fixating on openly-gay players in the Premier League because the overemphasis on this issue prevents people from coming out. There is almost too great a burden to bear, to be the first person; to have references further down the line as the first openly-gay player. But the media isn’t really concerned with highlighting gender differences to bring about equality. It is more concerned with rehashing old news to fill pages. If it were concerned about equality, it would merely stop reporting on this issue because everything eventually settles into normal acceptance; left alone, gender differences would not matter. But the media reporting only creates subtle antagonism which in turns fuels more angry discussion. Good for newspapers though – it gives them plenty to talk about.