Is it too early in the season to panic?

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Yes – Chris Bickley

It’s incredibly difficult to ignore the media scrutiny at the moment about the ‘inexplicable’ crises at certain football clubs. Chelsea, Newcastle United and Sunderland immediately spring to mind, but it is also notable that Liverpool and Arsenal are supposedly in a state of disarray. But it’s a lie, there’s no doubt about that.

There’s no way I could say that clubs like Newcastle are perfect. Not even Tony Pulis could set up a defence for that. But the footballing Fleet Street for some reason can’t get it into their heads that we’re barely into October. The season only started two months ago.

At the time of writing; Sunderland, Newcastle and Aston Villa have the ignominious claim or occupying the relegation spaces in the Premier League. Yet we still have 30 games to play, and 90 points to play for. So what is the fascination that they are doomed, and are in a state of chaos only avoidable by seemingly sacking your head coach?

Only 8 games have been played in the league, and although results haven’t favoured the two North-East clubs, it’s the last few games of the season that are the most important. Positions in the league mean nothing until May 15th 2016. All we have to do is look at last season for a comparison. Newcastle were purported to be in dire straits this time last year, but went on a 6-match winning streak to take the Magpies to 5th in the table and Pardew was lauded as a genius. Kind of.

So why is there this incessant panic talk, when it’s clear things can, and most probably will, change? Nobody expected it last year, but things took a sharp twist. Newcastle haven’t lost every single game this season, and scored impressive draws against Southampton, Manchester United and Chelsea, three teams that finished in the top 7 last year. Only when they are say 10 points adrift of safety at the bottom is it time to panic.

Yet it’s not just the usual culprits who should be ‘panicking’. Chelsea have hardly suffered a pleasant start to the 2015/16 season. Yet why should a club whose matchday squad is filled with the most skilful players of our generation be panicking? There is no way that Chelsea will fail to finish in the top 4 at least come May. Their scenario at the moment is not too dissimilar to November 2010, where coach Ray Wilkins was sacked abruptly, and the club subsequently gained 3 points from their next 6 games. Doctor Eva Caneiro’s departure has rocked the London club, and they have gained just 8 points from their opening 7 games, yet is this tumultuous period really a time of panic?

Chelsea aren’t going to do anything drastic or knee-jerk to respond to the press’ scaremongering. Win their next few games and everyone will have forgotten about this panic, begging the question whether there was even a panic to begin with. It’s too early to panic, because we know that things will change, and soon. So calm down.

No – Luke Wray

As I sit and type this, Sergio Aguero has just scored five goals against Newcastle in less than twenty minutes. You might think, OK, but Aguero’s a world class player, and Newcastle aren’t exactly Barcelona. Long gone, are the days of Kevin Keegan shouting about how he would ‘love to beat’ Manchester United. Yet in a league as tight at the bottom as the Premier League, every point counts, and no team can rest on their laurels and think about what they’ll need towards the end of the season.

All three of the teams occupying the relegation spots have reason to panic; Newcastle and Sunderland are yet to win a game, and Aston Villa were already in trouble with the loss of captain Fabian Delph to Manchester City, even if some pundits say that a win could kick-start their season.

It’s not just perennial relegation candidates who should be worrying. Chelsea have begun their title defence with eight points from their first seven games, only Blackburn’s start to their 1995/96 campaign has been worse for reigning champions. Perhaps blackened by the fallout from the Eva Carneiro affair, Jose Mourinho’s men have not looked at all like the league dominating team from last season, despite having largely the same squad of players. Manchester City have replaced them in that regard, even after an uncharacteristic loss to West Ham at home.

Arsenal, as always, haven’t got off to the best start. And if history has told us anything, it’s that Arsenal need a good start if they are to challenge for the league. If their form continues, not even their inevitable nine-game winning run towards the end of the season will be enough to put them in contention for the title. Liverpool, as has been the theme of recent seasons, are struggling. The fanbase is yet again divided as to whether to support Brendan Rodgers, or to petition their American owners to sack the Northern Irish manager.

As is the case with early season woes, at least there is time to remedy the situation. My good friend Steve has referred me to the 2012/13 Kidderminster Harriers season, where, despite opening the season with five draws and five defeats, ended up finishing second in the National League (then the Blue Square Premier). Even though defeats can be made up for with wins, the Kidderminster case is an anomaly. Teams in the Premier League don’t have the luxury of time to sort out their problems; they need instant fixes, and maybe they won’t come quick enough for the likes of Newcastle and Chelsea.

At the time of writing, Sergio Aguero had just hit Newcastle for 6, Dick Advocaat was still tolerating life in Sunderland, and Brendan Rodgers was still clinging to his Liverpool job. Oh well. EVERYONE PANIC.


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