x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Premier League Best & Worst: Of rewards, retirements and replies

No arguing Roberto Martinez polite, Luis Suarez has an unusual palate or Rafa Benitez leaves as a winner. Paul Radley reflects on some highs and lows.

Michu proved to be great value to Swansea City, though is goal scoring tailed off by season's end.
Michu proved to be great value to Swansea City, though is goal scoring tailed off by season's end.

Best manners - Martinez

Is Roberto Martinez really all he is cracked up to be? We are led to believe the Wigan Athletic manager is better than sliced bread by Dave Whelan, his chairman.

So his team play easy-on-the-eye football and won the FA Cup in a style that even fans of the UK comic book Roy of the Rovers would have said was far-fetched.

But they still finished three points short of safety in the Premier League. The season before the Spaniard took charge, Wigan finished 11th.

What is undeniable, however, is the fact he is a jolly nice chap.

"Sorry I'm late," he said upon his belated arrival to the valedictory news conference after the FA Cup final.

"We're not used to celebrating."


Worst priority - Fourth place

At least Martinez won a trophy, though.

Football is failing in its duty of care to children at the moment. We are raising a generation of kids to aim not to be the best they can be, but to be fourth.

So much for the British prime minister David Cameron's "Aspiration Nation".

Not in the Premier League.

In the playground or the backyard, children are scoring goals thinking not that they have scored a last-minute winner in a Wembley Cup final, but they have finished as also-rans in the division.

Evidence the way Arsenal celebrated on the final day. They used to party like that when they won trophies.


Best value - Michu

Such has been the rate of inflation since the advent of the Premier League, that you are lucky if you can get a couple of prawn sandwiches and a bovril for £2 million (Dh11.1m) at a top-flight ground these days.

Swansea City supporters might have thought they had signed one of those foreign randomers who wears gloves in summer, silver boots and a hairband, but makes a negligible impact, when they got a new £2 million Spaniard last summer.

Michu has been rather more than that, though. Two goals on debut in an opening-day thrashing of Queens Park Rangers, a League Cup winners medal, a mention in dispatches over joining Spain's all-conquering national team.

He would have been cheap at twice the price.


Worst meal - Ivanovic's arm

Luis Suarez must have a weird palate. Surely a bit of forearm goes down far better with a pinch of pepper and some sauce, not an opponent's sweat?

The Liverpool striker should know, though. He has dined at that table before, having been censured for biting when he was playing in Holland.

All of which made the subsequent hullabaloo about his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic a little redundant.

He is a repeat offender and got seven games last time. How would three games this time - apparently what he and the club felt was appropriate - possibly have sufficed?


Best interim - Benitez

Interim, interim, they definitely all had it in for him when he arrived. And for most of the time after, too.

So much spite abounded in relation to Rafael Benitez's appointment as Chelsea's "interim" successor to Roberto Di Matteo.

There will be many who just will not be able to afford him even begrudging respect for guiding the west Londoners to third in the table, an FA Cup semi-final and the Europa League title.

But they have celebrated more silverware. His CV has been enhanced. And he even somehow managed to keep John Terry out of the side - if not the trophy presentations - and yet avoid a major, Fabio Capello-esque issue with the club captain. Everyone's a winner.


Worst celebrity - Scholes

Paul Scholes is the personification of understatement. How he must have revelled in the end to this season, when he was able to escape the limelight with another winners medal in his kit bag.

Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement announcement was the perfect chance for Scholes to bury his own news and make for the exit under the radar.

To think he used to share a dressing room at the youth-team, first-team and national-team levels with David Beckham, another of the celebrated retirees at the end of this season.

They could not have been more different.

When Beckham took the curtain, he hugged both sets of players, had some Hollywood tears and held the game up for ages.

Scholes stoically trotted towards the touchline looking like he was fed up that he had been replaced when there was still a game to win.

Scholes's celebrity is the anti-Beckham. Never stopped him from scoring goals, though.


Best reward - Moyes

A little bit like Martinez, it is difficult to provide a definitive assessment of David Moyes's capabilities as a manager.

Yes, we are always being told how well he has done on a shoestring budget at Goodison Park after inheriting a failing side.

But Everton always were one of England's bigger clubs. For him to go through his lengthy stay there trophyless could be deemed underachieving. Yet it is hard not to wish such a likeable manager well in his next posting.

To get the plum job in the land and still be highly regarded by those you have left behind speaks volumes for Manchester United's new man.

And whoever inherits his seat at Everton can be grateful for what he has left behind.


Worst forecast - Villas-Boas

"What we think is it can have a direct effect on their motivation - on ours too, obviously," said Andre Villas-Boas after watching his Tottenham Hotspur side beat arch-rivals Arsenal at home in March.

"Particularly on them, because the difference from last year is we are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are in a negative spiral in terms of results - and to be out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult."

Not so difficult, apparently, as the Portuguese manager's prophecy inspired a late-season charge by the red side of north London.

Not sure if managers pin motivational quotes to the dressing room walls anymore.

Arsene Wenger may have ordered his Arsenal players to save AVB's words as the wallpaper on their iPhones instead.

Whatever he did, it worked.




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