Wednesday, January 18, 2012

India's dereliction of duty to test cricket.

Test cricket is not in a good place and has not been for some time if truth be told. Crowds and general interest in the longer format of the game have been dwindling and countries such as the West Indies in particular and even Australia have been suffering in an exodus from the wider sport as the world media bombasts the global public with other sports with far quicker results.

Whilst test cricket remains hugely popular in Australia, it is only really in England - at smaller grounds - where sell outs for entire tests can be expected every time. Australia has a relatively small population and there is only so much that they can do. One suspects however that not holding tests that run their entire duration during the working week such as the recently in Sydney might be a good place to start.

Whilst this is all well and good, the reality of modern cricket finances means is that it is what India says and does that matters. The farcical ICC ruling allowing India to effectively veto the DRS system when they play is an indication of where the true power lies. The enormous (and welcome it must be said) success of the IPL has left many players reconsidering their attitude towards test cricket and it will only continue.

Only in the past week, M.S. Dhoni has indicated his time frame for retiring from test cricket. This will obviously allow him to extend his cricketing career in the shorter and more importantly most lucrative forms of the game. For a player to give up the shorter forms in order to extend his career is the supposedly elite form of the test match arena is several steps too far.

Sponsorships and endorsements are not formed by spending months at a time in places like New Zealand or Jamaica, they are made during two months of the IPL back home. It is hard to be too critical of someone like Dhoni in this day and age either such are the vast riches you would be asking him to waive.

India were until last Summer the number one ranked test team with a team of glittering if ageing stars especially in their batting order. Since then they have been utterly humbled by both England and Australia in two touring test series, or have they?

In the same twelve month period, India won the World Cup at home as well as handing out a thrashing to England in a limited over series, again at home. Now whilst India winning the vast majority of their matches at home whilst being far less successful on tour is nothing new, it is the manner of these defeats which makes one ask the question, do they really care?

Having watched both test series a couple of things stand out. Firstly losing to England last summer was no disgrace, they are a fine test side who had also hammered Australia down under prior to that.

This however is no great Australia team, and whilst they appear to have found some talent within the seam bowling ranks they are a thousand miles from being a great side. What you always get however from an Australian team is heart and effort and that is exactly what India are missing and there is the rub.

In both series, one against a good side with their tails up and one against a lesser team working very hard, India and especially their oft heralded batsmen have given the impression of simply not wanting to be there and that is biggest concern.

It could be wrong on the part of the writer to suggest this, it may well be that it is simply a class of batsmen who are either all horribly out of form or have simply grown too old at exactly the same time. Their performances at home in the short formats however suggest otherwise.

The openers Sehwag and the more youthful Gambhir have been awful in this latest series and have played poorly to get out. No one should ever question the application of Dravid who probably is simply out of form and Sachin has made a decent fist of things as everything falls apart around him. VVS has been dreadful and too often Kohli and Dhoni have refused to dig in and grind out a position and it was exactly the same in England.

India will point to injuries, Sehwag missed most of the England tour, Harbajhan went home injured also from England and Zaheer has been fighting his way back from injury, but again the thirst for limited overs action has removed the opportunities for rest.

Many England players and the likes of Ponting and Clarke have not particpated in the IPL one presumes for this very reason with England's central contracts in some instances prohibiting long periods of exposure to these types of tournaments. The likes of Andrew Flintoff - already hugely injury prone - could not resist and the injuries that resulted were inevitable.

It is hard to see the dedication to the art of test cricket that the likes of Dravid and Tendulkar have demonstrated in the past being replicated in the future and the sad truth is that without India's unstinting commitment to test cricket, its' long term future beyond being a side show is in serious doubt.

Great competitions like the Ashes one hopes would always endure but there are many sporting occasions around the world which whilst life and death to those involved offer nothing more than parochial idiosyncrasies to the rest such as the State of Origin rugby league matches in Australia, the Oxford versus Cambridge boat race and the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic in Scottish Football.

Test cricket is in dire trouble in the medium to long term and it requires India's help to bring it back from the brink - No Nonsense.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Manchester City

There are a plethora of cliches with regard to teams holding their nerve in the second half of the season and it looks like 'Citeh' are about to start running into a myriad of articles with regard to theirs.

City had been unbeaten at home in an age until last Sunday and suddenly they have experienced two defeats in a week at the Etihad - admittedly both in Cups.

Some will point to the lack of Champions League and FA Cup fixtures as a boon for the run in, others will point to the loss of momentum and Thursday night Europa League fixtures followed by Sunday league matches.

Arsenal imploded last season after losing the Carling Cup Final and with Championship opposition awaiting, the return leg at Anfield is effectively the final for the eventual winner.

For City however, the bigger issue at hand is the characater of the team (and the manager) and how they cope with the loss of certain key individuals.

Last season it was all about Tevez, when he didn't play City didn't score. This season City have enjoyed far more dimension to their play yet they have become clearly reliant on certain individuals - as are all teams truth be told.

City's key performers and most influential players this season have been Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. Players such as Dzeko and Balotelli have had their moments but their form has been patchy and the likes of Nasri have disappointed.

As previously mentioned this does apply for all teams but the reality is that City are going to be missing both Kompany and Toure for several games including the upcoming clash with Tottenham. David Silva is currently back in Spain undergoing treatment for an injury leaving only Aguero from their band of four who is available and fully fit.

The going is about to get much tougher and for Mancini the pressure is already starting to tell with many references to how short of players he is which bearing in mind the money he has spent and his awareness of the African Nations Cup schedule sounds somewhat ridiculous.

It is time for City to dig deep now and for the supporting cast of players such as Savic, Barry, Milner and Johnson to prove their worth. City badly need to put together a sequence of wins to show the league that they have the nerve to collect their first title in a generation.

ManYoo will have players coming back from injury and they have the trump card of Ferguson's old head during the run in. Spurs have the hgue advantage of being rank outsiders with a squad supposedly inferior to the rest meaning they have the least pressure on them.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are simply too far behind and the suspicion remains that Spurs will fold leaving it a straight fight between the Manchester clubs. City have the squad to win the league but the deciding factor could yet still be Ferguson - time for the City players to stand up and be counted - No Nonsense.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rahul Dravid and the decline of the Test Batsman

When columns are written about Indian test batsmen who have accumulated thousands of runs over decades, the mind invariably springs to Sachin Tendulkar or possibly the dashing Virender Sehwag. Outside of India much less attention is paid to Rahul Dravid, 'The Wall' of Indian Cricket.

Dravid has had an amazing career in terms of both his incredible success but also the fact that his talent and achievements have gone possibly a little unnoticed by many due to his career running in parallel with Sachin's.

Dravid's career has come at a time when cricket was awash with several true test batting greats namely his teammate Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Jaques Kallis, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting. Lara possibly matched or even bettered Sachin for sheer brilliance but his career was more fleeting. Kallis endures and endures and Ponting has dug back in at number four. Only Sachin (over 15,000) however is ahead of Dravid (over 13,000) in terms of test runs.

There are always questions when it comes to records amassed by sub continent teams, when it is runs by Indian batsmen it is because of flat pitches and when it is wickets by Murali it is because of poor opposition. Dravid for instance has played in an incredible number of drawn tests (usually flatter pitches) as compared to Ricky Ponting who has played in far more tests that have achieved results (meaning tougher batting).

Anil Kumble however snagged 619 test wickets as an example yet the talk will be of poor opposition rather than his incredible subtle variations eking wickets out on those flat tracks. You could also point out that Ponting achieved so many results because of a certain G.D. McGrath and S.K. Warne who usually assured the opposition was taken care of. Credit should be given where credit is due and Rahul Dravid is due plenty.

Dravid is no homer nor a flat track bully, he has proven his ability all around the World, some of his performances in 2002 in England were astonishing in particular on bowler friendly conditions.

The other huge contribution that Dravid has made is tougher to measure as it is an entire intangible and that is his facilitating the innings of others. The likes of Virender, Sachin, Suarav and VVS have found it far easier to indulge in their swashbuckling stroke play knowing that the other end had been secured by 'The Wall'. No one can ever gauge the true value of that influence.

Dravid's test match ability is sadly a fast disappearing art. Over a decade of mainly flat pitches in the test arena and the steroid injection of T20 have rendered many of today's top batsmen incapable of the study in concentration and shot selection that is test batting. Crease occupancy has become almost something to sneer at, replaced by switch hits and scoops over the batsmen's head.

Dravid has also always carried himself with huge dignity, his interviews during the highly charged series in England last Summer showed intelligence and consideration. He has always carried the respect of all.

One also shouldn't be fooled into thinking that he is not incredibly popular and valued in India. His face adorns many many billboards (probably outdone only by Sachin and M.S.) and he is continually on TV. For a nation of cricket daft fanatics it would never be any other way such is his obvious talent and their huge appreciation of it.

For such a low key guy, it is quite possible that he is happy for the likes of Tendulkar and Dhoni to take the lion's share of the plaudits. Sachin's life is much as Michael Jordan's was with it being very hard for him to live it in any normal way, it can be a two edged sword.

In the test arena today there are few class exponents of the art left. England probably have the most with a top order of Strauss, Cook and Trott and Bell who are all true test batsmen and an outrageously talented KP who can be one when he wants to be.

South Africa have Smith (in poor form granted) as well as AB DeVilliers and the peerless Jaques Kallis. West Indies have their own 'mini Dravid' in Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle who scores runs regardless of format whilst Sri Lanka have the excellent Sangakkara. Australia only really have Ponting and Clarke who you would class as test batsmen in their truest sense.

Whilst possibly doing a disservice to some who have been missed, what is clear is that whilst many many players nowadays are able to punch out a quick fifty from fifty balls, putting together a long game changing test innings is beyond most.

What is also concerning is that many of the fine test players mentioned are either at their peak or past it with most of the replacements coming through far more focused and schooled on the more profitable shorter formats.

Adam Gilchrist was called a 'game changer', someone who altered the perception of what wicket keepers should do and how middle and lower order batsmen should play. Gilchrist has one of the greatest eyes for batting ever - no question - but what he was able to do was come in and club demoralised bowlers all around the park after the likes of Langer, Hayden, Ponting and Martyn had already batted for four or five sessions.

This is not meant to do any disservice (after seeing him destroy England in person at the WACA with 100 off 57 deliveries the writer knows exactly how good he is) to one of the greatest players ever, it is just an observation that he had a specific role and that is why he never batted above seven in the test arena despite opening in one dayers and T20, his was almost a pinch hitting role in the Test Arena.

Test cricket is either at a crossroads or in terminal decline (we truly hope the former) but should the powers that be see sense in making more even test contests with pitches such as the one for this year's Boxing Day Test then test batsmen are going to be short of runs for some time until they alter their shot selection.

The current Sydney test provides a perfect example. India invariably got themselves out in the first innings and an inexperienced Australian top order then got themselves out. Many were talking of demons in the pitch and then three highly experienced test batsmen in Ponting, Clarke and Hussey all scored centuries - Clarke's a triple. It can be done if you bat properly.

For a lesson in how to bat the day out in a test match, aspiring players should reach no further than for a DVD of one Rahul Dravid, one of all the time greats - No Nonsense.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joey Barton

Joey Barton is anything but uncomplicated, but whilst this should make him interesting he is actually an incredible bore.

Yet again Barton has found himself at the centre of controversy after his sending off against Norwich City which as usual he has decided is everyone else's fault but his own.

Since the inception of Twitter, Barton has attempted to reinvent himself into some kind of post modern sage for the masses, a cross between Tracy Emin and Eric Cantona whereas the reality is he is nothing more than a street urchin who has suddenly found himself with way too much money due to sporting talent - step forward Mike Tyson, John Terry and John Daly.

Barton's behaviour is volatile to say the least and whilst he claims to be vastly misunderstood his behaviour when his back is to the wall belies his true nature.

Players at Wolves would question his claims to be the voice of the common man. Earlier this season during his running feud with the Molineux men he felt it necessary to remind Karl Henry that 'he earned eighty grand a week' and enquired as to how much he took home every week. He is hardly a man of modesty nor a poster child for the working class after all. He then went on to abuse his fellow professional on Twitter calling him a 'Sunday League Player' and more eloquently a 'Mug'.

Barton is always quick to use the term 'hypocrite' at any given juncture but it is he who is the true one. Barton has accused the Norwich player Johnson of acting to get him sent off stating the 'best thespian wins'. How true that statement is, after all didn't he act impeccably to have Gervinho sent off in exactly the same manner (after provoking him by hauling him to his feet) at the beginning of the season?

Barton then of course blamed this incident for his 'move' to Arsenal falling through even though Wenger barely knew who he was until this point.

When pushed on the matter, Barton stated "My job is to do the best for my team, not to keep Gervinho on the pitch. There's more to football than kicking a ball....” Despite this Barton claims that it is everyone else but he that is the hypocrite.

Barton's latest tirade has even included talk of suing the referee with regard to his dismissal, these are simple distraction tactics which will only work on people with a similar level of IQ to he.

Barton claims to be treated unfairly by comparison to other footballers targeting the likes of Lampard and Gerrard whilst at the height of his clamour for an England place. Yet despite this he occupies an extreme minority in having a conviction for assault, having served a custodial sentence for that conviction and having stubbed out a cigar in the eye of a junior colleague.

The vast majority of professionals have also not been sent home from tours of Thailand for kicking children and nor have they been arrested and convicted (a separate conviction to the one above) of assaulting their team mates at training.

Barton claims to possess outstanding ability and but for his lack of pace we would not argue too much with that. The reality however is that his petulant, childish and violent manner provides a disruption to his team that far outweighs the benefits. Newcastle United have certainly flourished without him this season and QPR will be without him for the coming games due this petulance and maybe it is no bad thing - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Premiership - Mid Season Report Card

The New Year has brought up the half way stage in proceedings and it is time to take stock of how the teams have performed so far versus their expectations and ability.

Manchester City 'A'
Superb first half of the season from the men in light blue. A couple of recent defeats have been offset by poor results from their neighbours and nearest challengers. The real test is still to come in the spring and it will be key to see how Mancini controls a combustible dressing room when the pressure starts to tell. Yaya Toure will be a big loss during the African Nations Cup.

ManYoo 'B+'
As usual, Ferguson has confounded his critics with an excellent points tally so far. Doubts remain about De Gea and they look woefully short in central midfield. Despite this they remain many people's pick for the title with many feeling that having Sir Alex at the helm rather than Mancini might be the tipping point.

Spurs 'A'
Tremendous first half of the season from 'Arry's men impressing all with their attacking verve. In Van Der Vaart, Bale, Modric and Adebayor they have genuine quality but it remains to be seen whether they can last the distance for the Champions League spots. Full marks so far however.

Chelsea 'D'
A truly awful start to AVB's reign as he wrestles with an ageing dressing room full of powerful characters that don't wish to be ousted. The manager must find a way to assert himself definitively with the players and he must resolve his issue regarding his lack of trust in a Torres who had just started to look more like his old self. The transfer window will be key as it would rejuvenate the club as well as possibly showing that Abramovich retains faith in his young coach. A big improvement is required.

Arsenal 'C-'
More accurately the first ten games would be classed as an 'E' with a 'B' thereafter. Arsenal's shortcomings have been well documented and whilst the defence seems to be taking on a more robust look the same problems remain. An over reliance on Van Persie is also highly dangerous given his injury record. January reinforcements would be welcome but probably unlikely.

Liverpool 'C'
Dalglish's mastery of the media is unquestionable but his team is still mediocre. Despite appalling seasons from Chelsea and Arsenal so far they remain sixth with little hope of a title challenge in the coming seasons. The Suarez issue has stopped the media from focusing on the lack of ability in the side and the fact that the other new recruits, Adam, Carroll, Downing and Henderson are not of sufficient calibre for a team with Champions League aspirations. With the resources of the clubs above them, it looks hard to see where Liverpool go from here.

Newcastle 'B+'
Excellent start to the season which has since tailed off as injuries have bitten through a paper thin squad. Pardew and his French speaking cohorts have confounded expectations of a relegation battle however and they should be congratulated on some fine results. The only way is down from here however.

Stoke City 'B'
It might sound odd to have Stoke in eighth place yet only award them a 'B' yet such is the excellence of the side that Pulis has built and the consistency of results they have achieved that this is where they should expect to be. They will remain a handful for most teams that they play this season.

Norwich City 'A'
Points are the name of the game and so far a return of 25 is a superb one for the Carrow Road men. Paul Lambert looks to be a coach of genuine quality and 15 points only should be required to ensure another year's stay in the top flight.

Sunderland 'D'
Fortunately for Sunderland, the Dunce that 'D' stood for has been removed with the motivator supreme Martin O'Neill now instilled at the helm. Their recent results have been superb and there is reason for optimism going forwards for the fans on Wearside.

Everton 'C'
It is easy to be too harsh on Moyes given the size of his squad but the deja vu at Goodison is tangible with yet another mediocre first half to the season. There must be something in Moyes' methods, be it pre season or something else that sees such Jekyll and Hyde form every season from Everton. Should their usual post Christmas form kick in they should enjoy a decent finish, if it does not they may be looking over their shoulders.

Swansea City 'B'
The Welsh side have won many friends so far with their brave showings in the Premiership. Whilst twelfth place looks excellent on paper they are only two wins above the drop zone so they must build on what they have achieved so far. They should be able to confound pre season predictions and stay up however.

Aston Villa 'C'
It was always going to be a tough job for Alex McLeish and so it is proving with a mediocre side and much false expectation. Mid table is their lot in life.

Fulham 'C'
Martin Jol has had a topsy turvy time at the Cottage and he badly needs to fix his relationship with Bobby Zamora if the West London side are not to get sucked into relegation trouble.

West Brom 'C'
Expectation probably became way too elevated given their excellent end to last season. The Baggies are in their usual place in the lower half of the table and they will have to work hard again to stay up. Should have enough quality to do so however.

Wolves 'D'
Some good transfer activity in the Summer and with a good goalscoring threat, there was much reason for optimism at Molineux but they have had a truly awful run of form after a promising start. Mick McCarthy's ability at the highest level is again in question and one must wonder how much patience the fans will continue to have.

QPR 'C-'
There was much optimism around Loftus Road after Tony Fernandes' takeover and the arrival of some good players on deadline day. There is however one simple problem with QPR and that is their manager. Warnock, for all his bluster cannot hide the fact that he is simply not good enough to manage at the top level. Will be touch and go whether they can stay up if he remains in charge.

Wigan 'C'
Like with Moyes, it is tough to be too harsh on Martinez and with no money invested it was always going to be an uphill battle. Martinez remains likeable but his tactics for instance in the game with Arsenal were naive at best. Hard to see them surviving this time around.

Blackburn Rovers 'D'
Rovers have the players to stay in this division and if somehow the crowd at Ewood could back off from the open hatred towards the manager and owners, the team has a good chance of staying up as they are capable of some excellent results. Steve Kean's position seems untenable long term and with owners with no apparent idea how to fix things one must worry for the clubs's future. They are able to get out of his position however.

Bolton Wanderers 'E'
Where has it all gone wrong for the men from the Reebok? Reliant on loan players previously, they have not been able to replicate their form from last season and they have been in a free fall since their hammering in the FA Cup Semi Final. Cahill should have been sold in the Summer for double what they will get now with the money reinvested. Doomed to be playing in the Championship next season where Coyle will have to rebuild his reputation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Soccer Predictions

Having looked back at this blog's 2011 predictions we would say we had an 'ok' hit rate with notable successess' such as Blackpool's relegation, Roy Hodgson's sacking and Fernando Torres' move to Chelsea alongside the ending of the Cesc Fabregas saga.

There were however some howlers such as picking Fulham to be relegated and whilst Mark Hughes and Alex McLeish did party company with their employers, it was for reasons that were not predicted. Roberto Mancini did indeed keep his job but Carlo Ancelotti duly lost his.

AC Milan, Dortmund and Rangers duly collected their titles although several others didn't. Picking Real to pip Barca in Spain proved foolish but we recovered the situation slightly by picking Barca to win the Champions League again.

So to this year and firstly the Premiership, Manchester City have been sweeping all before them before coming unstuck twice in recent weeks. ManYoo have been coming in for a lot of flak recently and have lost captain Vidic for the remainder of the season. That being said we still feel they have the know how and whilst it will be a close run thing come May we take United's experience to carry the day. With City's financial firepower it is only a matter of time however and they will reign the following season.

The remaining Champions League spots will be taken up by Chelsea and Spurs leaving Arsenal and Liverpool disappointed but ultimately in their rightful place. Chelsea's recovery however will be dependant on much needed January transfer action or they could swap places with Arsenal. At the lower end of the table, Wigan will be joined in the Championship by Bolton and Wolves who have confounded this blogs' prediction of a decent season. Blackburn have the capacity to win games and despite the fans ire with their manager, a little more luck will see them stay up.

We pick West Ham to win the Championship and be joined in the elite next season by Southampton and Middlesborough.

Barcelona will retain their title in Spain although Real Madrid will push them close, the remaining El Classico at the Camp Nou will provide the decisive result.

Italy is providing the most fascinating Scuddeto race in years with four genuine contenders and a wounded Internazionale currently in the bottom half of the table. We pick Juventus to win their first title since the bribery scandal which will vex AC greatly due to the moving of Andrea Pirlo.

Bayern will take the the Bundesliga title yet again and moneybags PSG will win Ligue 1 for the first time in some years.

The Champions League looks to have a wide open door for Barcelona to simply walk through. Neither of the two remaining English teams are good enough and there is nothing from Italy to concern them. The threats come from Real and from a Bayern team that is much improved. We will pick Barca to win the competition again unless Bayern avoid them en route to the final in which case we pick Bayern to win on penalties - because that's what Germans do.

The coming Summer sees the European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine and it should be a festival of football. Invariably however these days these tournaments are a parade of shattered and disinterested footballers other than those harking for a move to a big club - anyone remember seeing Andre Arshavin run around as much for Arsenal as he did for Russia four years ago?

As with Barca in the Champions League, Spain remain a class apart with a team that would compare to any of the great sides in European Championship history such as Holland in 1988 and the France teams of 1984 and 2000. The midfield of Busquets, the two Xavis and the peerless Andres Iniesta has a balance and craft that is unparalleled in football today. It says much that the best player in the Premiership David Silva and the previous best midfielder in the Premiership, Cesc Fabregas cannot even get in the starting eleven.

David Villa currently has a broken leg but Spain still have options a plenty up front and the only gripe the Spanish will have is that Lionel Messi carries an Argentinian passport.

This blog however is in line with the Eurozone taking on a decidedly Germanic feel. Germany impressed everyone at the last World Cup with not just the quality of their play but the style of of their fast breaking team. Players such as Mueller and Ozil will be better than last time around, Mario Gomez fills the David Villa role and in Bastian Schweinsteiger they have a genuine midfield general. Three tournament wins in a row is unheralded and for that reason we will take Germany to beat Spain to the title in the Summer, probably on penalties again.

As ever, 2012 will see much managerial upheavel. One of the big questions will again be the timing of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. In delaying it so much - probably in the quest for one last Champions League title - Fergie has run up against a very inconvenient problem in the shape of Manchester City. Ferguson would surely hate to bow out with City on top and therefore should ManYoo win the title this season we think he will finally call it a day but only then. There is no change in our stance that the quietly groomed Paul Scholes will take over the reigns.

Spain will provide much intrigue also with both Guardiola and Mourinho in interesting positions. Should Guardiola sweep all before him again this season there would seem little reason for a man holding openly no long term ambitions to carry on, his legend in Catalonia already assured.

Mourinho has established a position of power in Madrid greater than any manager has in many years at the Bernabeu. That being said he will have to either win either of the Champions League or La Liga or at the very least prove that he is closing the gap to Barca. There does seem to be a level of understanding from the Madrid hierarchy that this is a truly exceptional Catalan side but that being said, a team boasting Kaka, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema, Xavi and Casillas is hardly a team of paupers and success is a prerequisite in the capital.

Mourinho will also have one eye on proceedings in Manchester and Ferguson's comments in a book that he sees much of himself in his younger days in Mourinho will do little to quash the Portuguezer's Mancunian ambition. The irony of course is that should Mancini fail to beat ManYoo to the title, that vacancy could also be available this Summer although it would be sad if it were so as Mancini seems to be steadily building a fantastic side.

In addition to this there is also the possibility that Wenger may retire his boots at Arsenal and that Chelsea may lose patience with AVB should Chelsea's season implode further. The top Italian clubs shuffle regularly and with the likes of Ancelotti newly placed at PSG, there is plenty of room for the merrygoround to turn.

We suspect that the ManYoo vacancy would only arise should they win the league and then it will be internally filled. Mourinho may be available should he fail to win the league yet again but unless Mancini is fired (we think this unlikely) he should also remain where he is. The Barcelona job may become available should Guardiola be successful and walk away and with their current team of geniuses that simply needs a conductor, that job could be tailor made for Wenger.

Of the second tier jobs, Redknapp could well fill the unwanted England role which could lead to a Spurs side that craves Europa League football looking for a new steward - No Nonsense.