Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pennant Fever

We haven't checked on the English Premier League since the season began -- in part, to be honest, because I kept waiting for the standings to get back to normal.  But they've now played 16 games (out of 38), and it's obvious that something big is going on in the usually-stable world of English soccer.  Check out the top of the table:

1.  Leicester City:  10-1-5 (35 points)
2.  Arsenal:  10-3-3 (33 points)
3.  Man City:  10-4-2 (32 points)
4.  Man Utd:  8-3-5 (29 points)
5.  Spurs:  6-2-8 (26 points) (goal differential of 12)
6.  Crystal Palace:  8-6-2 (26 points) (goal differential of 6)

Wait a minute, you are saying.  What happened to Chelsea?  Didn't they win the League last year?  Aren't they managed by Jose Mourinho, one of the greatest managers in the world?  Yes and yes.  But here's where you'll find Chelsea in the table today:

16.  Chelsea:  4-9-3 (15 points)

SIXTEENTH PLACE?  Nine losses already?  What is happening?  Good question.  No one seems to know.  Reports from indicate indicate that Mourinho believes that the players have betrayed him, and that Mourinho himself could soon be on the way out.  Ironically, while Chelsea is just above the relegation zone at home, they have moved into the Sweet 16 of the Champions' League -- which makes it particularly awkward to change managers.  I can't remember anything like this since I've been watching English soccer.

And what's the deal with Leicester City?  Have they ever turned up in these reports before?  I don't think so.  Leicester is a town of about 337,000 people in the middle of England, making it the 16th largest city in the country.  Leicester City has spent the last 100 years mostly bouncing back and forth between the top two divisions of English football.  The Foxes have won the Second Division on seven different occasions, but they have never won the top prize -- the closest they ever came was in 1928-29, when they came in second to The Wednesday.  They have never won the F.A. Cup (they have four second-place finishes, the last of which was in 1968-69).  They have never qualified for the Champions' League.  Two years ago, they were in the Second Division.  Last year, they came in 14th place.  Now they lead the League.

How did this happen?  I don't know all the details, but I would note that over the summer, Leicester City hired Claudio Ranieri to manage the club.  Ranieri is a much bigger guy than you would normally expect at Leicester City -- he led Chelsea to a second-place finish in 2003-04, before being replaced by Jose Mourinho (in his first appearance at Chelsea -- it's complicated).  Anyway, he's done a great job so far, but it would be miraculous for him to lead Leicester all the way to the crown.


  1. Chelsea just fired Mourinho today. Here's his record as the Chelsea manager:

    1. In 2004-05, he led Chelsea to its first League title in 50 years.

    2. In 2005-06, he led Chelsea to its second League title in a row.

    3. In 2006-07, he led Chelsea to the F.A. Cup.

    4. On September 20, 2007, he left Chelsea due to a falling out with ownership.

    5. In 2013-14, he returned to Chelsea, bringing them to a third-place finish.

    6. In 2014-15, he led Chelsea to a third League title.

    7. On December 17, 2015, he was fired.

    So that's five full seasons, in which he won three League titles and an F.A. Cup. But they've now run him off for a second time.

    Even by the standards of England, where they fire managers at a rate unimaginable over here, Chelsea is an odd club.

  2. If the Pats start off 2-6 next year, would anyone seriously suggest that they should fire their coach?