Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Manager of the Year--Semifinalists

First off, I want to let everyone know that I'm going to make a bit of a change in this Premiership "Manager of the Year" award procedure.

Instead of naming my personal winner on Friday as previously planned, I'm going to wait and do it on the 21st. Two more rounds of games will have been played by that point, and hopefully there will be some more clarity as to where teams will finish up in the table. Right now, things are fairly jumbled up and although they may stay that way, I think we'll still have a better, more concrete idea in two weeks' time.

However, I was still able to cut down the original list of five "quarterfinalists", Wenger, Moyes, Ramos, O'Neill, and Keane, to three. One of them was a pretty obvious choice to drop, and the other went down to the wire with one of the three who I kept in the running. It was like splitting hairs, but I went with my gut.

On Monday, the qualifications for each manager were laid out for everyone to see and there's no point in repeating them for the three who are still in the running. Instead, I'll tell you why I dropped the two gentlemen that I did.

So, without further ado, the "semifinalists". Drumroll please...

David Moyes (Everton)
Roy Keane (Sunderland)
Martin O'Neill (Aston Villa)

As for Monsieur Wenger and SeƱor Ramos, don't get me wrong, they're both very good managers and have done good things with their respective clubs this season.

However, as manager of a "Big Four" side, Wenger has to be held to a higher standard than bosses of the other 16 teams. Arsenal's elimination from the Champions League yesterday by Liverpool essentially put the final nail in the coffin of another trophyless season for the Gunners. To many fans, that's unacceptable. When you basically have a 1-in-4 chance of winning English competitions (and there are three of them), you need to get the job done in at least one. Yes, this year, Spurs won the Carling Cup and either Cardiff City or Portsmouth will win the FA Cup, but this is not a typical season.

I think Wenger has a fantastic squad of up-and-coming players and the team will contend for big things in the future, but he made a fatal mistake, in my opinion, in not bringing much in the way of reinforcement to the Emirates either last summer or in the January transfer window. Wenger overestimated the ability of his players to slog through a long season; it's something that they really haven't done before. Arsenal FC has a ton of money to spend and Wenger basically has a blank check to go out and get whoever he wants, but he opted to stand pat with the team that he had and it's coming back to bite him.

Injuries have plagued Arsenal this season, and I understand that, but every team has injuries. The Gunners just don't have enough depth to recover from them and that has to be attributed to the person who brings players in, Wenger.

For Juande Ramos, let's not forget that Spurs finished 5th last season and were picked by many to break into the top four this year. Spurs were in shambles early in the season under Martin Jol and while Ramos has more than turned that around and won a Carling Cup, he also has an incredible amount of talent on his roster.

I do give him a lot of credit for outcoaching Avram Grant in the Carling Cup final, but one of his goalscorers in that game, Dimitar Berbatov, is good enough to feature for Chelsea and the other, center back Jonathan Woodgate, has played for a world power in Real Madrid, albeit briefly.

Ramos also hasn't been able to fix the defensive issues that hampered this team under Jol, and if you can't defend in professional soccer, you won't get far. It's just that simple. Ramos has been at Spurs long enough now where one would think the defense would be tougher to break down and the system of play would be geared more towards helping out the back line, but that hasn't been the case.

As I said, check back on the 21st to see my choice for Manager of the Year.

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