A new order
Often when you look at the post-match press conferences from the managers at the top of the Premier League, they can leave you feeling incredibly underwhelmed. More likely than not you will be served up with a very vanilla set of answers, only spiced up by some unjustified whinge at an official. What we have now however, is a very different dynamic.
Leicester and Tottenham are serving us with two managers who are not so accustomed to sitting on top of the pile and it is making for much more interesting fare. On the Leicester side of things, I thought it would take me a lot longer to recover from the loss of Nigel Pearson’s ostrich-themed press conferences but, just a year later, Claudio Ranieri has filled the gap quite nicely. Rather than going mental, the Italian has a loveable sort of eccentricity about him that interviewers and fans alike warm to. But don’t be fooled. Ranieri is a canny manager, adept at managing clubs the size of Leicester and he knows exactly how to keep that team ticking. Again he sought to take the pressure off his players, following the weekend’s 3-1 dismantling of Manchester City, stating, ‘We play without pressure because we don’t have to win the league. Now it’s important to think about Arsenal.’ Every weekend I find myself thinking that this technique will fall down at some point when the Leicester players and fans suddenly realise that they have an awful lot to lose and begin to choke, yet the shrewd Italian keeps coming out on top.
Just five points beneath Ranieri’s Foxes, lie Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino must be delighted at how much attention has been placed on the league leaders, allowing his side to slip serenely into second position. That they look so assured and so unlike Tottenham is a testament to the Argentine and his coaching team, with this new attitude borne out in his post-match comments at the weekend. Having stated how proud he was of his players, the Spurs boss went on to urge calm, reiterating that ‘The philosophy since the start of the season has been to take it step by step.’
Pochettino then went on to list the areas in which his team must improve, from their technical ability and physical conditioning to how clinical they are in the final third, all of which suggests a man who is not content with second place. The calm, methodical, committed style with which he approaches his job was there for all to see in the interview conducted after beating Watford this Saturday. For once Tottenham seem to have control and a long-term plan. Tie Pochettino’s impressive manner to the bright young talents of Alli, Dier and Kane, then add the new stadium due in the next few years and Tottenham have a lot to look forward to. Let’s just say that Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous, ‘Lads, it’s Spurs’ team talk is unlikely to work against the current regime. Indeed, Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores summed it up very neatly. Reflecting on the game at White Hart Lane, the Spaniard simply said, ‘It was completely difficult.’
Talking of Ferguson, one of his old charges to have forged a typically decent, yet unspectacular career, Mark Hughes, finds himself between a rock and a hard place at the moment. Out of both cups within a week and four league games without a goal have left the Welshman seemingly bereft of ideas. ‘We huffed and puffed and didn’t really create enough’ was Hughes’s assessment of the 3-0 home defeat to Everton. A record of less than a goal a game all season would suggest that they will struggle to blow anyone’s house down and look in severe danger of tailing off into distinct mediocrity. But there you go, for every winner there’s a loser. To be honest, I’m glad it’s Ranieri who’s winning at the moment. We could all do with remembering that football should be a joyful sport; long may Leicester’s rise continue.
Michael Creane – FOLLOW MICHAEL ON @MichaelCreane
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