Sunday 25 August 2019

Not many thrills in a dreary campaign

Weird Wide World of Sport

Manager Antonio Conte celebrates after Chelsea clinched the Premier League title on Friday night
Manager Antonio Conte celebrates after Chelsea clinched the Premier League title on Friday night

Dave Devereux

So, Chelsea clinched the Premier League title in underwhelming fashion on Friday with a scrappy win over West Brom to pretty much bring an underwhelming season to an underwhelming end.

Yes, you've guessed it, I wasn't particularly enamoured with what I witnessed from 'the most exciting league in the world' for the past nine months or so.

We had no fairytale story, like Leicester City's incredible triumph twelve months earlier, and weren't even treated to a decent title-race to make up for the dearth of romance this time around.

Fair play to the Stamford Bridge brigade, they were comfortably the best of what was a pretty shabby bunch and deservedly won the title at a canter.

Sadly you can't help but feel let down after the much-heralded arrivals of fancy-dan managers with more bells and whistles than a tin-pan orchestra, but in the end Guardiola, Mourinho, Klopp et al have just turned out to be masters in mediocrity.

Other than the first few weeks of the season when Manchester City looked like they were going to destroy all before them and had the appearance of a callous cat playing with a mouse, it has pretty much been a cakewalk for Chelsea, with the lack of European distraction making their dominance on the domestic front a tad easier.

Spurs, as is their wont, again flattered to deceive, looking like they could mount a serious title challenge, before hitting the wall like a red-faced, heavy-breathing marathon runner and falling back into the relative comfort of the chasing pack.

For long-suffering Liverpool fans it wasn't to be their year after all, with more ups and downs during the season than an avid hill walker.

Just when it looked like their eccentric German manager had it all figured out by sticking it to the big boys, they'd quickly follow it up with a disastrous defeat against one of the league's lesser lights.

Meanwhile, Guardiola's first season at Manchester City has been flatter than a wafer-thin pancake that has just been trodden on by an elephant.

Admittedly he has some serious dross to work with compared to what he was surrounded by at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but that's the measure of a manager, how he cuts his cloth to fit.

The Spaniard seems to be a resident in the cosy confines of cloud cuckoo land at the moment, so I'll watch with great interest next season to see if this term has merely been a blip caused by transition, or if his previous success has been laced with lashings of luck.

Now to their rivals across town, Manchester United.

Their League Cup triumph and their run in the Europa League has just papered over the cracks of what has been a pretty appalling season.

If I was paying to watch the drivel being served up by Mourinho's men I'd seriously be questioning my financial decision-making.

With the usual suspects leaving the English wannabes further adrift in the only European competition that really matters, the Champions League, the impressive Antonio Conte kept his eyes on the prize and mapped out a pretty much pothole-free path to the Premier League glory.

That brings us nicely on to our old pal Arsene Wenger. Maybe, just maybe, he's even smarter than we think he is.

In the likely scenario that Arsenal will miss out on Champions League football next season for the first time since Adam was a boy, it would give them a good run at claiming a long-awaited league title while others concern themselves with more pressing matters on the continent.

Plenty of fans of the Gunners would be hoping that a new incumbent will be given the chance to shine, but should the wily maestro Wenger stay in the hot-seat, he may have fooled us all with his cunning plan to get Arsenal back to the top of the domestic tree, by playing the youths team, the kit man and a couple of dinner ladies in the Europa League, and saving his big guns for a serious push for the title.

Either that, or he has just been underwhelming like the rest of the sorry bunch.

Wexford People

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