by Kieran Davies
Before the end of this season one thing we can guarantee is that there will be plenty of twists and turns before the full time whistle goes on another enthralling season. Irrelevant to finishing positions, there is one clear winner this season………the city of Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have led their sides towards the promised land of Champions League qualification, something no one would have put money on at the start of the season. Last weekend saw Everton’s humbling defeat of Arsenal and they fully deserved it and now find themselves in pole position for fourth spot. Many toffee fans will still dismiss their chances of attaining fourth spot but that is just because they are finding it hard to shake of their Mario Balotelli complex. You know the one………..’Why always me?’ Mainly due to their finishing fourth previously yet not getting to grace the group stage itself. Well yes Liverpool won the tournament that year gaining themselves qualification by means other than a top four spot but let’s be honest irrelevant to who wins the tournament, champions should always be given the chance to defend their crown.
Personally I think there would be nothing better than seeing both Merseyside clubs grace the tournament while also getting a hard hitting message to other clubs that no one is guaranteed that coveted top four spot. Arsene Wenger whinged that Everton were where they are in the league due to a failing loan system but truthfully there is mainly sour grapes motivating this rant. Everton didn’t create the loan system, they are just shrewd participants in it. Elements of the loan system do need to be looked at, specifically the clause that prevents loan players from playing against their parent club. This has been highlighted this week by the Champions League semi final draw. Athletico Madrid who go into undoubtedly the biggest game of their club’s history initially fearing that Courtois, their loan signing from Chelsea, would be ineligible to play. Or even more ridiculously, that they wouldn’t be able to afford to play him with Chelsea demanding in the excess of £5m from the Madrid club if he graced both legs of the tie. It seems sense may prevail with UEFA stating that any private agreements between the clubs are unenforceable but still leaves Athletico in the precarious position of aggravating his parent club thus burning many bridges and minimising the chances of them signing him on a permanent basis.
This is something the football authorities need to address as clubs like Chelsea, Man City, PSG, Real Madrid and Barcelona potentially have the funds to bank roll other clubs seasons. They could strengthen sides their competitors will face without having to face the same line up themselves due to clauses placed in the loan deal. In the case of Everton, where Lukaku and Barry have been integral to their form this season, it seems unfair to then expect them to face those players’ parent clubs without the players key to their form. The same can be said of all players farmed out on loan but Everton’s situation is more at the forefront of peoples’ minds as these players are such high profile signings. Let’s not forget in Spurs season where they pushed Man City for fourth spot, they were forced to leave the in form Adebayor out of the match up. The loan system does have a part to play in football as it is important for clubs to be able to send players who aren’t going to feature in their squad of 25 out to other Premier League clubs to gain experience and form whether it be to return to their parent club and challenge for places or just to add financial value to any future potential transfer fee.
Removing the option to enforce that clause makes as much sense as introducing video technology to the game but will both of these topics be treated in the same way, with the three monkeys approach (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). In the top two divisions nearly every club has a large TV screen in their ground, surely it makes sense to utilise it. Those who don’t want to see it will harp on that it will slow the game down but 22 players crowding around a referee and screaming at him isn’t really conducive to a fast flowing game either. This was re-iterated by the West Ham vs Liverpool game last weekend where Andy Carroll’s part in West Ham’s goal was more akin to Oscar Pistorius’ bathroom than the Upton Park pitch. The formalities of how the technology is implemented can be agreed upon whether it is a limited amount of referrals per game or just something the referee/linesman instigates when unsure. Either way it would mean the beautiful game being played more to the rules of the game rather than being ruined by incompetent officials trying to make a name for themselves.
People bandy names around for ‘Manager of the Season’ and usually it is given to the person who has led their side to the title but I think it’s about time we started thinking outside of the box with these awards. Rodgers and Martinez are the stand out performers of this season and Noel Gallagher’s comment of ‘the big clubs missed out on these guys’ is no different to saying it’s a shame Liam Gallagher wasn’t snapped up by a big band………knobhead! Both of those managers are at big clubs. Clubs in fact that were winning many trophies while City were gracing the lower leagues of the English pyramid system. Unfortunately his mindset is akin to all who hold wealth in this country and owners come and go in football, but let’s see which clubs are still there when their sugar daddy investment runs dry. If nothing else this comment makes all non City fans wishing for those fossil fuels to run dry all that much quicker! Chelsea and City are expected to be challenging for titles with the lavish spending they make year on year so for me no awards necessary for their managers with squads my Nan could take to silverware! If Liverpool beat City this weekend at Anfield and Everton win their two games they have, both of these clubs will have taken a huge stride towards their wildest dreams!