“So here it is, Merry Christmas,
Everybody’s having fun.
Look to the future,
It’s only just begun.”
Wise words there from Noddy Holder, bouffanted sage of Walsall and long-suffering Wolverhampton Wanderers fan. And he’s right, of course. While Christmas is traditionally a time for big sandwiches, outlandish cocktails and ill-advised one night stands, it’s also a time for reflection. A look back on the year that just flashed by like Joe Cole’s potential, a look forward to a year that lurks ominously on the horizon, like Richard Dunne at an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a time for New Year’s resolutions. As a considerate, caring and conscientious organisation, Unibet has asked me to help England’s top five out with their pledges. That’s why they do. They’re givers.
Manchester United: Buy that bloody midfielder
It is time to face facts. Anderson, despite his obvious quality, lacks the consistency to boss the Manchester United midfield. It’s been five and a half years now and he still hasn’t proved that he can offer those sporadically brilliant performances on a regular basis. Darren Fletcher has worked hard to return from illness, but he cannot be expected to run the show on his own. A thousand trees have perished to provide paper for a million articles on this very obvious deficiency. Please, Fergie, buy that dynamic midfielder and put us out of our misery.
Manchester City: Breathe
It’s been four and a half years since the Abu Dhabi United Group poured a gazillion dollars into Manchester City’s moth-infested coffers and the new owners have been rewarded with an FA Cup and a Premier League title. Given the state of the club when they bought it from Thaksin Shinawatra, that’s excellent progress, due mainly to the excellent work of Roberto Mancini. The Italian has built from the back, ruled a dressing room of stars with an iron fist and has led them to two historic triumphs. He deserves patience now as he tinkers and tweaks.
Chelsea: Stop sacking managers
City are rather fortunate that they have Chelsea as their ideological pathfinder. Roman Abramovich makes the mistakes, and City get to learn from them. Chief among these lessons is how to treat a manager. In nine and a half years at the club, Abramovich has had nine managers. Given that Rafa Benitez is referred to only as the Interim Head Coach, it’s a fair bet that Roman will go ten from ten in 2013. Post-Mourinho, Chelsea have only won a single league title and a Champions League that owed more to gritty defending and raw courage than it did any kind of technical supremacy. Go on, Roman. Try some stability.
Arsenal: Grow a pair
You have to feel sorry for Arsenal fans. Their club suffers from such extraordinary mental fragility that they can’t ever enjoy a game until it’s over. Only Arsenal could go four goals up against Reading, a club that looks determined to remove Swindon’s name from the record books, and then somehow contrive to gift them two goals and let them back into the game. This is a well-remunerated squad packed with talent, drawn from every corner of the earth and they play every game as if they’re convinced that someone’s going to jump up behind them with an air-horn. Get it together, people. It’s getting embarrassing.
Tottenham: Tread carefully
There is much to warm the hearts of Tottenham fans this winter. Their team has survived a slow start and a November wobble to position themselves nicely for the second half of the season. Andre Villas-Boas is proving that he really isn’t as bad as people made out. They’re tactically versatile, gelling nicely and Jermain Defoe is playing the most intelligent football of his career. As long-term Spurs fans will attest, they can only really screw this up. Daniel Levy needs to be patient, the supporters need to be patient and Andre Villas-Boas needs to try not to say anything silly when the microphones are switched on.
Merry Christmas everybody, and a happy new year.