The Fall and Rise of Brendan RodgersWe've spoken about Rodgers' odd statements before, but there was another odd one ahead of this game, where he refuted the suggestion that his decision to play his stiffs against Real Madrid would only be vindicated with a win against Chelsea. The translation everybody hears is, of course, "I have no confidence in winning this game."
Even when Liverpool were doing well, Rodgers was still being mocked for his pretentiousness and just generally being a bit weird (and we've seen fans speak up for some pretty disgraceful behaviour from their clubs, but trying to defend that painting was next level). When they're doing badly, though, Rodgers becomes almost… Moyesian. It becomes difficult to push your philosophy or brand when you're praising your players one week before throwing them under the bus the next and groping around for every motivational tool in the business management books that Rodgers so clearly keeps in his desk.
Compared to his mentor Mourinho, it's quite a contrast. Rodgers is going to look like a man who lucked out in inheriting Luis Suarez but quickly ran out of ideas. Maybe José's going to end up like Ferguson, his stream of proteges lining up to be whipped and embarrassing themselves, only getting Championship gigs because they might get to loan a couple of kids from Daddy. As Moyes also proves, the fall from a big club is a very severe one.
Neil Warnock Might Finally Do Something Interesting
Old Neil Warnock's been a bit of a disappointment so far, hasn't he? It's mostly been a series of drab results and calm press conferences rather than a rollercoaster of controversy and righteousness, but still, poppy season is upon us, so maybe he'll get in a fight with a wheelchair-bound Iraq vet or something.
Since "We're from South London!" doesn't really cut it, and their idea of fan culture – from the embarrassing banner last week, to those ridiculous tifos (English fans just aren't meant to do this sort of thing), Palace need a reason to exist. With Warnock and Pulis before him, maybe they've found it. Football has no shortage of retirement homes for management, as can be proved by looking at what Peter Reid's been up to over the past few years, but it needed a prison charity, helping fallen managers get back on the career ladder. Neil Warnock has paid his debt to society – it's only fair he gets a second chance.
Watch the Swing of the Gooner-o-meter
It was nice to see a slice of pure, classic Arsenal midweek. The throwing away of a winning position against a lesser team, the Paul Merson rant afterwards that sounded like he'd been vox-popped at a bus stop, but above all the fact none of it really mattered. Arsenal haven't been very good this season, but they've been sitting comfortably aloft from the teams really struggling, content as United and Spurs find new means of self-sabotage, and should coast to a Champions League spot with minimum fuss.
Swansea, like Southampton and West Ham, will probably soon fall away into a forgettable mid-table position. It must frustrate Tottenham and Everton, but it looks as though this season represents a golden opportunity to get that fourth spot. United are incapable of winning two games in a row and look the obvious targets, but in other years, Wenger would be under severe pressure too. But as usual, he's just there, biding his time, sitting on fourth place like an unwelcome squatter with his new German pals.
In a way, through keeping Arsenal in eternal purgatory, Arsene Wenger has mastered true consistency and continuity. He meets with triumph and disaster just the same, because it never fucking matters – they'll wallop Burnley/draw with Hull next week. So expect a comfortable Arsenal win here to flick the Gooner-o-meter from despair to brashness. Oh, and look here, it's a visit to Old Trafford the week after!
The Dying Friendships of Harry Redknapp
Manchester City return to domestic football this weekend with their tails between their legs, after another embarrassing capitulation in the Champions League. It's not as if we can put it down to inexperience now – their hoodoo is just plain weird, an inexplicable ability to deal with foreigners, or the Champions League theme song, or something. Even if IS decided to get their shit together and start a football team, they wouldn't have as many problems travelling abroad as this.
Now, though, it's back to the same old drudgery, although if they can't fly the flag for England in Europe, they might at least satisfy the nation by giving Harry Redknapp another dunt towards the trap-door. He's still clinging to his job, and isn't the hot favourite to be sacked that he ought to be, but it seems to be largely by virtue of him being mates with the chairman. If Harry had ever been accused of any dodgy dealings, you'd suspect poor old Tony Fernandes was being taken for a ride, but while I'd like to dwell on that image, I'm left thinking that just being good friends can only get you so far.
Marseille is a weird place – sort of Glasgow-meets-Miami nestled in the Cote d'Azur – but it's also France's version of the North-East, where football has penetrated the culture just that little bit more, despite the teams usually being pretty depressing.
Things are improving, however, thanks to Marcelo Bielsa, who's been less philosopher and more of a bumbling, drunken uncle, with press conference rants and mid-game klutziness aplenty – but somehow, it seems to be working. 62,000 fans turned up to watch Marseille's last game against Toulouse, and the team is topping the table and looking to present a serious challenge to Paris Saint-Germain, who are also their biggest rivals.
Normally this would be a pretty tasty affair, but with PSG's entire hardcore support having deserted them in the aftermath of the Qatari takeover, it'll be pretty drab outside the game. So it's a good job that on the pitch, we'll not only get Marcelo Bielsa's anarchic rabble, but also the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the one man in the most expensive one-man team ever assembled. Oh, and David Luiz is in town too. What more do you want?
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