It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

| May 18, 2016 | Reply

That was the line trotted out on multiple occasions when it was announced that Quique Sanchez Flores was to be let go as manager of Watford at the end of the season.

Quique, you see, had just guided Watford to an FA Cup semi-final and a safe mid-table position in the Hornets’ first season back in the top flight (which also happened to be his first season as their manager)…

Despite that success, a run of just one and a half wins (they beat one football team and Aston Villa) in 11 league games was too much for the Watford owners to stomach and poor old Quique was given the boot.

That decision has been widely condemned, the common consensus being that the manager had achieved – or even exceeded – pre-season expectations and so the poor run of form at the end of the season should be overlooked.

That’s a perfectly reasonable point of view and, generally speaking, I’m very much a member of the ‘bigger picture’ camp but perhaps, on this occasion, the Watford owners have a point.

How you finish IS how you start

Leicester’s title win couldn’t possibly have been predicted could it?

Well actually, maybe it could.

Because in the last nine games of the 2014/15 season (so pretty much the last quarter of the campaign) Leicester City won seven, drew one and lost one (against Chelsea(when Chelsea were good)) – that’s title winning form right there.

Sure, they changed manager in the summer and added one or two players but generally most of the set-up was kept the same and they continued their excellent form into the 2015/16 season.

On the other end of the spectrum there was Liverpool, who ended 2014/15 by getting hammered 6-1 by Stoke and started the new season in a not too dissimilar vein, which ultimately led to Brendan Rodgers’ dismissal in early October.

There are countless other examples too, from Palace ending 2014/15 and starting 2015/16 in fine style to Newcastle failing to arrest the slide John Carver presided over in the second half of 2014/15.

A shortcut to betting success?

It seems that unless significant changes are made over the summer (Newcastle swapping one bungling Englishman for another does not count as a significant change) then a very good indicator of side’s likely performances – at least for the first part of the following season – is the performances of the team in the second half of the season just gone.

With that in mind, here are few potential teams to follow or oppose at the start of 2016/17…

Liverpool (IF they win the Europa League): If Liverpool win the Europa League final tonight it will represent a job very well done for Jurgen Klopp, who only took over the reins at Anfield in October.

In addition to their European run, they’ve also made some gains in the league in recent months, most notably increasing their scoring rate, and as long as that momentum isn’t checked by disappointing European defeat, Klopp’s men are likely to come flying out of the traps in August.

Tottenham: Spurs didn’t so much as slip out of this season’s title race as fall off a cliff and that may just have lasting repercussions.

Liverpool’s own near miss in 2013/14 proved impossible for Brendan Rodgers to bounce back from and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Spurs take a while to get going again next season.

Southampton: No team bar Leicester has picked up more points than Southampton since the turn of the year and if that’s not enough to grab your attention after what the Foxes did this season then nothing will!

Should they keep Ronald Koeman/hire an equally competent replacement and keep hold of the majority of their best players then quotes of 100/1 for the title and 7/1 for top four may look rather interesting come August.

Watford (if they don’t get their managerial appointment right): A lot here depends on who is brought in to replace Quique Sanchez Flores but the Watford board need to be careful as the wrong appointment may exacerbate rather than arrest the late season slump.

Newcastle (if Rafa Benitez stays): If Benitez stays at Newcastle I will personally be having a sizeable bet on the Geordies winning the Championship.

They managed it with ease last time they dropped down to the second tier and that was with Chris Hughton in charge, not a man who has won two La Liga titles with Valencia and a Champions League with Djimi Traore.



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