The mid-season review
Division 4 has been called a lot of things this season, competitive, close, inconsistent. It’s certainly the most interesting league in that any team can beat any other on their day.
With the much quoted 11 points currently separating very bottom from very top it’s the league where anything really is possible.
One of the biggest surprises this season has been seeing West Ham languish around the foot of this division. Just 5 wins & 31 goals conceded has manager Thompson pondering their lack of form whilst murmurs of discontent can be heard in the pubs around their new stadium. Is the loss of atmosphere in the new ground to blame or is it niggling injuries & suspensions to key players?
West Ham have the big name players in Mertesacker, Payet, Adrian & Cresswell but if they don’t start performing soon might Thompson have to sell young starlet Reece Oxford to bolster the 1st team?
AZ are a Jekyll & Hyde team. One one hand they are the league’s top scorers with 34 goals, but on the other they have shipped a whopping 36 goals, the worst in the division. Clearly defence is a problem for the leagues bottom side & if manager Guttmann can find the solution then AZ could fly up the table.
Torino have a team with strength in depth but recent losses to Malaga, Feyenoord & River Plate has seen them slip down the table. With tough fixtures to come manager Hudson will certainly be earning his wages in the dugout.
Lille got off to very poor start, winning only 1 of their first 6 league games. However their form, although inconsistent has seen them climb above the relegation zone by a point.
Manager Paddy D’s season at Chievo Verona has been one of big change at the club. Not only have they resurfaced their car park but as many as 20+ players have been brought in by the gaffer. Verona also have a player who is constantly the source of transfer bids & speculation, Jean Marie Dongou.
Verona clearly have some talented players, but asking them to gel as a team may prove a goal too far for Paddy this season.
Feargal Hickey at Stuttgart is another manager who has invested in a wholesale change of personnel to improve his team. However although they sit in the lower reaches of the table they lie second in the form standings with 13 points from a possible 16 & will be hoping that marquee signing such as Doumbia & Hulk will help turn some of those draws into 3 points.
Sampdoria manager Marco has also bought in a slew of new players but he is fast becoming the division 4 draw specialist as Samps rack up those single pointers. Discipline is also a problem with needless bookings costing Marco key players.
Dynamo Moscow are currently THE form team of Division 4 although you wouldn’t think it from their attendances. A measly 20,600 average attendance has seen them gain maximum points from all but one of their last six league games, maybe it’s the state of the halftime pies?
Das Hamburgers have some real quality in their side with Chiriches gaining player of the week awards like nectar points & Gignac topping the scoring charts with 12 goals in 18 appearances. However the reality is that manager Marsden has his work cut out to halt their recent side which before yesterday saw them notch only one win in six games. However a massive 2-1 win against Feyenoord gives them a great base on which to build their recovery.
Both Hellas Verona & Malaga are teams that have seen inconsistency hamper their drive for the division 4 summit. Both Libras-Boas & Bilboa have well organised teams with decent youth set ups but have lost points where they would have expected to pick them up. However they are right up there just behind the leaders and at this stage of the season anything is indeed possible.
River Plate are unusual in this league in that they only have a small 1st team and a large youth set up. The 1st team is strong & has done them proud so far this season but one can’t help wondering what will happen if injuries & suspensions take their toll.
Feyenoord are having a good season, only losing top spot due to a defeat at home to Hamburg. Griffin has assembled a well drilled, youthful squad with the obvious exception of Kazu Miura who at 49 must be older than most of the fans & the pies. Griffin also has a strong youth team with the likes of Vilhena & Basacikoglu on the 1st team fringes. When asked what’s the secret of Feyenoords great team spirit manager \Griffin cited the weekly bingo sessions hosted by Miura, in Japanese of course.
Sao Paulo stand out as the surprise package this season, promoted last year & sitting atop the division at the half way stage. Despite their many publicised fan problems ‘The spoons’ have managed 9 wins with only 18 goals conceded, the lowest in the division. Manager Wheels will cheerfully admit that spoons are not the strongest team in the division, in fact many of their victories are by a single goal to nil but 3 points are 3 points. Much of the plaudits must go to Victor Ibarbo, scorer of 11 goals this season & keeper Onur Kivrak, signed from Trabzonspor he’s been a revelation between the sticks.
However success rests on keeping a fit squad with few bookings as without a few key players, the spoons could start bending.
Tip for the Top
Villarreal despite having Villa in their name have a strong & capable squad & I fancy manager Kelly to spur them on in the second half of the season to become real contenders. They have quality right through the team & in joint top scorer & MoM front runner Sigurdsonn have a star player to lead from the front.