Managerial maelstrom

However much a manager emphasises that he too must take the blame it is surely a dubious and dangerous policy to impugn members of the squad as Chelsea's Mourinho has done, writes Brian Glanville.

London football: a tale of managers in turmoil. Yes, even the self-defined Special One, Jose Mourinho, who began the New Year at Chelsea with an extraordinary outburst, half condemnation of his team, half criticism of himself. At West Ham and Charlton, there have been crises galore. Unlike Chelsea, with the massively rich Russian "oligarch", Roman Abramovich, pouring in his billions, neither club could aspire to challenge for the Championship. But by the same token, you would not expect either of them to be in the parlous position near the bottom of the table where relegation with all its financial disasters, the fear of losing all that increased TV money, so seriously threaten.

And what of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, with a team so inconsistent that despite such dazzling exhibitions as its 6-2 home win over Blackburn Rovers, it now is much too far behind the leaders to have the remotest hope of the Championship and must, like last season, when it actually lost in the European Cup Final, hope to attain one of the top four places, so that it can compete in the major European tournament again.

Wenger and Pardew have been two of the managers deeply involved in these chaotic developments. It cost Wenger a �10,000 fine — admittedly the merest fleabite for a millionaire manager — after he railed furiously and threateningly on the touchline against a celebrating Alan Pardew, when West Ham had scored the goal which so surprisingly beat the Gunners. More recently, his team, beaten 1-0 away to a Sheffield United side not only well below strength but also obliged for a last half hour to put an outfield player in goal, largely refused even to shake hands with their victors. Though it should be remembered that the Blades' centre-back, the rugged Chris Morgan, had scarcely endeared himself to the Gunners by punching the volatile Dutch striker, Robin van Persie, in the stomach, unnoticed by the referee.

In further mitigation, it should be pointed out that in attack, the Gunners were not only without their supreme spearhead Thierry Henry, but also the tall Togan Emmanuel Adebayor, who, of late, had been running into exceptional form. Wenger could do no better than use up front the so seldom deployed young Frenchman, Jeremie Aliadiere, with scant impact. Yet, three of Arsenal's talented and effective young strikers have all been out on loan; of whom the Irish teenager Stokes actually ended the year as top-scorer of the Scottish Championship with humble Falkirk, another teenager, Denmark international Bendtner is top-scorer for Birmingham City, while a further gifted young striker, Arturo Lupoli is similarly out on loan.

As for Chelsea, they are substantially possessed of an embarrassment of riches. The irony being that when the ever arrogant and voluble Mourinho said at the start of the season that he wanted a smaller squad so that everyone would get a game, largely he has been lamenting the fact that the squad is so small. Though you could hardly blame him for letting that versatile French defender William Gallas leave for Arsenal; so bitterly out of love with the club that he was even threatening to give goals away.

Yet, however much a manager emphasises that he too must take the blame — none too convincingly in the case of one who had constantly been proclaiming his own merits — it is surely a dubious and dangerous policy to impugn members of the squad as Mourinho has now done. Among them Andrei Shevchenko the celebrated Ukrainian striker bought from Milan for over �30 million, and so far a pale copy of his once formidable self. The precocious but seemingly undisciplined Nigerian teenaged attacker Jon Obi Mikel, prised away from Manchester United and Lyn Oslo at such expense and with such difficulty, has also been named and shamed by Mourinho. Both he and Chelsea must now be wondering why both were so keen to prevent him going to Manchester United.

As to the bruising Dutch international defender Khalid Boulahrouz alias The Cannibal, whose signing never made sense to me after I'd seen his thuggish display for Holland against Portugal, I'm not a bit surprised that he, another of Mourinho's targets, has failed to make the grade, and fill the great big gap in central defence left by the recent back injury to John Terry.

And what has been happening at West Ham (now thrashed 6-0 at Reading) and Charlton has been the stuff of fiasco. Having barely appointed the competent Iain Dowie as their manager, luring him from an outraged Crystal Palace, Charlton abruptly fired him after a poor but not catastrophic start to the season, replacing him not with another established manager but with an elderly coach, Les Reed, who'd never managed at all. When Spurs then thrashed a chaotic Charlton 5-1 the club promptly gave him a three-year contract only to sack the poor devil after just 41 days in charge: and appoint Alan Pardew, just sacked himself by the new Icelandic owners of West Ham.

Poor Reed has tried to justify in a long apologia in which he tells us how the Charlton chairman Richard Murray and chief executive Peter Varney both assured him of their belief in him and promptly dismissed him. "My position had become untenable in circumstances not of my making and beyond my control," said the poor fellow, whose forgiveness came at Christmas time in the true Christmas spirit. Charlton fans, though Pardew, an ex-player, seems to have steadied the ship, may be less forgiving.