Steve Bruce has a problem. At every club he has managed, he has presided over a slump from February onwards. A Spring back as oppose to a Spring forward, if you will.
And the same can certainly be said this season. Sunderland have taken one point from their last 21 available. Last weekend at Eastlands, they looked beyond woeful. They have had injury problems, but it is the loss of Darren Bent that has caused the most significant damage.
Steve Bruce may well have the full support of Niall Quinn and the Sunderland board. But West Brom were amongst the favourites for relegation a month ago. If the Baggies win at the Stadium of Light this weekend, then they will move ahead of the Mackems. A sorry situation.
‘Arry has improved Spurs, of this there is no doubt. They have taken part in the Champions League for the first time since its inauguration, and they have reached the quarter finals.
But things are in danger of unravelling. Tuesday’s performance at the Bernabeu has all but confirmed elimination, and the prospects of finishing in the top four also seem slim.
For a team looking to qualify again for the top stage, Spurs have had some extremely poor results this season:
West Ham (a) Lost 1-0
West Ham (h) Drew 0-0
Wigan (h) Lost 1-0
Wigan (a) Drew 0-0
Blackpool (a) Lost 3-1
Birmingham (a) Drew 1-1
Wolves (a) Drew 3-3
For the first time, Harry is starting to be questioned (although not by his darling tabloid media). The defeat in Madrid showed a lack of Plan B. The draw at home to Wigan last weekend showed the lack of a Plan A.
Ancelotti may lose his job at the end of the season whether his Chelsea side win every league game from now until the end of the season. Wednesday’s performance against Manchester United was inept and blunt.
The worrying thing for Ancelotti is that he seems unable to be able to get the best out of players that were performing impressively for him last season (Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to name three)
The inadequacies of Fernando Torres also reflect badly on the Italian. Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson both lost their jobs because of a failure to have a free-scoring Torres, such were the impact of his goals at Anfield. If Torres does not hit a scoring streak before the end of May, Ancelotti may go the same way.
Championship play off race
The race to succeed in achieving the biggest payoff in world football is hotting up. QPR are seemingly promoted, and Norwich look to be flying too. The playoff places therefore provide the perfect opportunity to live the dream of ‘one last chance’ syndrome. Looking down the fixtures that will take place in the Championship in the next week make for impressive reading:
Leicester v Burnley
Watford v Hull
Milwall v Leeds
Swansea v Norwich
Forest v Reading
Forest v Burnley
Swansea v Hull
Watford V Norwich
All those teams are in the playoffs or have Wembley aspirations.
This truly is the time to stand up and be counted.
It is an evident statement, but Blackpool’s demise has been as dramatic as their rise. The foolowing lists their league position on the first day of each month:
A run of a few weeks is a bad run. A run of decline lasting for three and a half months is a crisis. Blackpool were dispatched by Fulham on the Sunday in the manner of a fly being swatted. They can simply not afford many more performances such as that.
It a (horrible) cliché, but Blackpool have seven cup finals. They still have to play Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal. It could be a nervous time for Tangerine fans.
Before we start, I accept that Dalglish has has performed better than Hodgson. But I also think that the Kop views the current Liverpool through Dalglish-tinted spectacles. And it might surprise you, but bear with me:
Record in the sixteen games under Dalglish: W7 D4 L5
Record in the last sixteen games under Hodgson: W7 D4 L5
Liverpool were eliminated by Braga of Portugal in the last sixteen under Dalglish. Hodgson had got them through the group stage.
Liverpool beat Chelsea under Dalglish
Liverpool beat Chelsea under Hodgson
Liverpool lost to Blackpool under Hodgson
Liverpool lost to Blackpool under Dalglish
Liverpool lost to West Brom and West Ham under Dalglish
Liverpool beat West Brom and West Ham under Hodgson
It is a one-sided picture, but you get my drift. On the day Hodgson was sacked by Liverpool, the club were 12th in the league, but would go to within 8 points of the top four if they won their game in hand. Lose to Manchester City on Monday and the club will probably be thirteen points off the top four having played a game more.
Image: Ronnie Macdonald