The Premier League is the top tier in English football that produces year after year some of best football on the continent if not the world and, as such, the pressure to be the best doesn’t get much higher.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini set himself high targets with the City Blues this season after they were crowned champions last term. However, after the success he enjoyed last season, this time around there have been more disappointments than anything else.
City were ejected from the Champion’s League at the group stages – without a single win in the ‘group of death’ – meaning they didn’t even qualify for the Europa League.
Since then, their defeat in the Manchester derby at the Etihad to United became the catalyst for catastrophe and, after a poor run of results and performances they now sit 12 points behind the leaders United and all but mathematically out of the title race.
They were dumped out of the League Cup by Aston Villa back in September and subsequently now only have the FA Cup to chase in terms of their hopes of silverware this season.
A very good win on Sunday against Chelsea means Mancini buys himself some time and a win over Barnsley in the FA Cup sixth round in two weeks time would surely relieve some pressure on the Italian but, as things stand, after all the money that has been spent, questions will be asked at the end of the season.
Whilst Mancini seems to have the fans backing, Rafael Benitez certainly doesn’t at Stamford Bridge. The Blues 2-0 defeat at the Etihad on Sunday now sees them slip into the battle for top four and Champion’s League qualification for next season.
After the Blues were dumped out of the Champions’ League (becoming the first holders to exit at group stage), the disappointment of their loss to Corinthians in Japan at the FIFA Club World Cup, their League Cup semi-final exit to winners Swansea, and their poor run of form in the league, the revolving door at Stamford Bridge will likely see Benitez ousted come May.
It could have been worse – a 90th minute equalizer from Eden Hazard saved Benitez’ and Chelsea’s Europa League hopes and they still have a good chance of retaining the FA Cup this year but for the champions of Europe and after another summer of spending, Roman Abramovich may be tempted to bring back Jose Mourinho.
Benitez is the least popular Chelsea manager probably since Claudio Ranieri and, like his Italian counterpart, as soon as he arrived it was clear his days were numbered.
Fernando Torres is still not quite with the program and even super striker Demba Ba couldn’t save them on Sunday. Rafael Benitez is surely the most worried man in Premier League football right now.
Someone who possibly ought to be more worried than he is – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has the full backing of his board, the club owner Stan Kroenke and, so far, his players.
However, after becoming and Arsenal hero for his supreme 16 years service to the club, some sections of the fan base are now calling for him to step down. He claims it’s not something he had ever considered but after another season without a trophy, the questions asked about Arsenal seem to have the same answers year after year.
After another summer sale at the Emirates in which arguably their two best players were sold (again), they found themselves out of the title race long before Christmas, were dumped out of two domestic cups by lower league opposition and, after failing to bring in anyone other than left back Nacho Monreal in January, they were taught a lesson in football by Bayern Munich last week in the Champion’s League.
They now face Mission Impossible in Munich and will have to beat North London rivals Tottenham on Sunday to keep themselves in the running for top four – it’s little wonder there seems to be more and more empty seats at the Emirates each week.
He won’t be sacked and he won’t leave – but the fans will make their voices heard and the pressure is certainly on the Frenchman now more than ever before.
Elsewhere, at Anfield it’s a similar story - Liverpool are now out of all competitions and will have to rely on a miracle to make the top-four this term. Brendan Rodgers is skating on very thin ice indeed.
He’s losing, if not lost, some of the fans already. The owner seems to be in support of him but if Liverpool don’t start to see some dramatic improvements between now and the end of the season, Rodgers could end up the same way Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson did after their underwhelming stints at Anfield.
Perhaps January signing Daniel Sturridge can save him but I fear his chance to prove himself has slipped away from him.
Overall, I believe Rafael Benitez will be the most likely to be sacked in May. Arsene Wenger has to be the least likely to get the chop whilst Roberto Mancini and Brendan Rodgers’ futures hang in the balance.
image: © Mafue