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The Pressures of the EPL

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The pressure of the English Premier League is intoxicating and intense. 

In the past four weeks, we have seen that pressure squeeze, suffocate, crush, and defame the reputations, hopes, and dreams of managers, fans, and clubs across the English countryside:

After a fantastic first season under Roberto Martinez, Everton found themselves in pole position in the race for a top four finish.  The Toffee’s controlled their own destiny after dominating the new calendar year with a string of victories that culminated with a much-deserved win over Arsenal at Goodison Park.

Then, Everton began to experience the weight of the Premier League, the burden of being favored.  Print media and television pundits alike sung the praises of the Spanish manager and his transformative prowess.  That exaltation quickly turned to anxiety when Arsenal secured their most important win of 2014 by beating West Ham. 

Twenty-four hours can feel like a lifetime.  The following day, knowing Arsenal had won, Everton had to be pacesetters.  Instead, they crumbled at home from the demands and never recovered.

Liverpool surprised everyone this year with free flowing, brilliant, attacking football; football that against all odds maker predictions has seen them come within a few points from securing their first Premier League era title.  The trophy was on the line as they faced Chelsea at home in their most crucial match of the season.

Say what you will about a pair of buses parked in front of the Kop, Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, and in fairness Luis Suarez and the rest of the Reds, hit a major banana skin on Merseyside when the slippery slope of being title favorites unsteadied them.  Monday’s capitulation away to Crystal Palace was the final nail in the coffin; Liverpool’s once seemingly implausible, then exceedingly likely, title challenge has been buried under shovelfuls of pressure and expectation.  Welcome to the top four Mr. Brendan Rodgers. 

But more often than not it is the managers who are first the victims of the pressure cooker:

David Moyes, a coach of integrity and success, a tried and tested veteran of the Premier League, was booted out the front gates of Old Trafford like a misbehaved dog after poor results and a turbulent first season in charge at Manchester United.

The players turned on the manager, the Red Devil supporters mocked and decried him, and with no Champions League to fill the coffers or lure in the big names, his mentor and countryman, the very person who hand-picked the former Everton manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, disassociated and abandoned Moyes.  Shameful treatment.  Following Ferguson, with a group of subpar, selfish, and aging players was never going to be an easy task.  Take note Louis Van Gaal; take note of those you are about to take charge of and their snake-like ways.

Ever since the injury bug hit Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, the Frenchman has been ridiculed and degraded by pundits, former players, and his peers for losing the plot in the title race.  They have called for his head, for Wenger to be dismembered, disemboweled, for the end of his reign atop the Iron Throne at the Emirates. 

You’d think Wenger was Joffrey Baratheon.  In the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and in the feeble minds of those who lack anything but short-term memory, the man who changed the landscape of English football forever by introducing state-of-the-art dietary considerations, training preparations, and youth development should have his head on a pike. 

All this despite qualifying for the Champions League for an amazing 17th consecutive year; for reaching the FA Cup final; for multiple Premier League Doubles and a Champions League Final; yet still there exists a vociferous many who say the Professor should go based on recent inadequacies. 

The pressure of relegation and European qualification make the Barclay’s Premier League all the more alluring. 

If you’ve tried it you’re an addict and going without a fix makes the weekends unbearable. 

But let’s leave the managers to their jobs.

The 2013/14 EPL managerial casualty list of managers include: Paolo Di Canio, Ian Halloway, Martin Jol, Steve Clarke, Andre Villas-Boas, Malky Mackay, Michael Laudrup, Rene Meulensteen, Chris Hughton, and David Moyes.

This modern era disposability, exacerbated by the 24/7 news cycle of so-called punditry, is abhorrent and cancerous.

The League Managers Association must get off the pot and do something for its constituents.

After all, there’s enough pressure on a manager just to stay up, let alone win the title.