Benitez, Mancini and Wenger: victims of the English game or their own egos?

Originally published for The False Nine on February 28 2013.

As he held the League Cup aloft in victory, shares in Michael Laudrup rattled up the ranks of the managerial stock exchange. His worth had already soared far beyond and above the valuations placed upon him in the summer, and come the close of business in May, it looks likely that Laudrup will have all but confirmed his place as one of the most attractive managerial investments around.

Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history; Europa League entry for next season; exquisite football; the likelihood of an entirely respectable final position in the Premier League; and named as the man fans most want to takeover the reins at Real Madrid – it’s an impressive end-of-season growth report to reflect on for the Dane who co-founded a free-market think tank in his homeland in 2004.

In almost every possible manner, Laudrup has made the perfect first impression on English football. Charming, charismatic and handsome, there is something almost Mourinho-esque about how the league has fallen under his spell. In tabloid speak however, he is the jovial Scandinavian to the Special One’s fiery Portuguese. No wild pronouncements or headline grabbing antagonism, just calm, cool composure and sincerity. Both present comfortable identities that play up to familiar English stereotypes and folk heroes – after all, Mourinho is the much anticipated belated successor to Brian Clough. Continue reading

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Arsene Wenger, Ken Barlow: an observation

Arsene Barlow/Ken Wenger: Uncanny.

Perhaps it’s the coiffed, hirsute cloud floating upon his brow, or the disturbing likeness between Deidre Rachid and his former dug out partner Pat Rice, but with each passing season, Arsene Wenger morphs ever closer to becoming football’s answer to Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow.

As “professor” of the Premier League, at times Arsene seems suffocated by an air of impotence like a supposed academic stumbling through a soap opera. With his colourful and proactive co-stars buzzing about the crescendo of the summer transfer window, the beige, boring man refuses to be drawn into such impulsive frivolities. Continue reading

Tony Pulis vs The Premiership: reviewing the visit of the poncey foreign blueberries

A look at the weekend’s events from the perspective of the tracksuited one.

“WE ARE STOKE BOBOMB! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!”

Arsenal. Arsenal. They’re no Valencia, are they?

I tell you, I was rubbing my hands with glee when I found out we’d have Arsenal so close to the start of the season. As were the fans, probably. Either rubbing their hands with glee, or shaking them around madly. Can’t always be certain which. He got his excuses in early as well, did the big French pudding, complaining that the grass was too long. I know! That man will whinge about anything. Continue reading