3 clubs are fighting for the last seat in the lifeboat in the “League of Lights” … who is the winner?
I think that the players of the three clubs that will struggle in the battle for survival during the last day of the Premier League championship, as well as their employees and the fans of these clubs, are in an unenviable position. However, as a neutral person, I can’t help but find it very exciting. The truth is that one of the reasons we love football is the risky element of ups and downs – an element that adds drama to the spectacle. And what is certain is that tomorrow (Sunday) will carry with it 90 minutes of psychological torment for the fans of Everton, Leeds and Leicester.
In fact, I get nostalgic for the times when fans would turn up at matches while clinging to radios desperately trying to figure out what was going on in other matches when survival in the Premier League was at stake. And the scene always seemed amazing when information leaked that a player scored a goal or awarded a penalty kick. Luckily for me, I’ve never personally been involved in a battle for survival on the final day of a league tournament in my entire career. It is noteworthy that the pressures associated with remaining in the Premier League have escalated over the years, as a result of the financial rewards that accompany participation in the tournament, and the enormous repercussions that relegation has on any club. Today, the players of the three aforementioned clubs are preparing to familiarize themselves with the differences between staying in and relegating from the championship.
Tomorrow (Sunday), the three clubs are scheduled to play home matches that are supposed to be very easy to win. Everton face Bournemouth who simply have nothing to play for. Likewise, Leicester face West Ham, whose focus may now be on the European Conference League final. Meanwhile, an apathetic Tottenham Hotspur travel to Leeds United. And there is no better place to play a match of this importance than in front of a boisterous, home-owner crowd, urging you to keep going.
There are many reasons why these teams are in this position today. It is noted that Everton and Leeds fought a similar battle last year, with the latter succeeding in holding out the other day. That day should have been seen as an opportunity to pause and rethink the situation for the two clubs and decide on the necessary improvements, but it seems that the clubs did not learn from the lesson. And at the start of the season, I expected the two clubs to come in the last half among the championship clubs, but I assumed that they would stay out of the danger zone. I was also surprised by the presence of Leicester in the back of the three, and it is clear that the club’s owners’ business was affected by the pandemic, which was reflected in the decline in investments directed to the team.
Historically, Leicester have always bought quality players and then sold them. And it included an impressive list of players, from N’Golo Kante to Wesley Fofana, with the presence of Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire and Danny Drinkwater. Leicester has been selling its top stars and reinvesting in the team, but this did not seem to be successful during the last round of player transfers. It was not possible to think of relegating Leicester just two seasons ago after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final after 5 years of achieving the Premier League.
When making a comparison between the three clubs, we will find that the common element is the occurrence of changes in coaches. For his part, Leeds sacked two coaches, and is currently using Sam Allardyce, while Everton and Leicester chose to change the coach. The former Everton was set to change with his move to sack Frank Lampard. Sean Dyke managed to pass his ideas on to the team and make the players understand his style, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean that this style is suitable for the players. So far, this seems to be paying off.
In general, the issue of firing a coach may or may not produce positive results. Inside Leeds, the measure created instability, and the move from Marcelo Bisla to Allardyce represented a major shift in direction in the space of just one month. With regard to Allardyce, 4 matches are a very small opportunity to turn the tide, especially since the player purchase procedures were not designed to serve his plans. Leeds escaped relegation in the last round of last season by defeating Brentford, but even Allardyce, who specializes in escaping from relegation, seemed pessimistic after losing at the weekend against West Ham. Former Leeds player Eddie Gray said: “It was difficult for him to come at this stage with the number of matches remaining. He never got a real chance. This is a difficult situation for everyone. But maybe the club should try to get out of this situation.
On the other hand, Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa have shown that making a change can work, but Nottingham Forest has also shown that stability can pay off too. Leicester’s problem is that things have soured under Brendan Rodgers’ management. The club has been unable to rejuvenate the team as Rodgers might have wanted, resulting in a difficult season ahead for the team. The question today is whether the club waited too long before sacking Rodgers in early April. For their part, Leicester and Leeds players hope to confirm if they are in the position of Everton players, because the team led by Coach Dyke is two points ahead of its competitors, owns its fate in his hands, and seeks to continue in the top-flight league, which he has not left for 69 years in a row. The victory at home to Bournemouth makes him indispensable for the outcome of Leeds United and Leicester City when they host Tottenham and West Ham United and guarantees Everton survival and a better achievement than his previous success twice in escaping relegation in the 1990s. Everton suffered due to the injury problems suffered by Dominic Calvert-Lewin this season, especially since any team needs a high-class striker who acts as a fulcrum to which the players direct the ball to score goals. This type of player contributes to relieving pressure on the rest of the team.
The truth is that regardless of which club is relegated, all three clubs will have to reconsider their current policies. They must build a clear structure and plan, and the club management must explain to the players and fans what they hope to achieve, and be careful not to deviate from this goal. Nowadays, Southampton are already making those adjustments, because they know they will be in the top flight with a new director of football, Jason Wilcox, and a coach, Russell Martin, who has made his philosophy very clear throughout his career.
In fact, the reason Brighton and Brentford are participating in competitions that seem above their capabilities is that they have succeeded in laying the right foundation, and continue to work with the same philosophy, regardless of the coach who leads the team. This helped them to finish the season in the top half of the championship clubs. Relegation isn’t the end of the world – in fact, it’s part of the football cycle. Most importantly, how the club reacted to relegation. If the club learns the wrong lessons from relegation, this is where the real problems begin.
The Guardian service