I’ll be producing a new series called “Brian’s under Duress” List aka as the BUD List. Every week players, teams and managers will be assessed and narrowed down to a list of 5 who I believe are under the most duress/pressure heading into the upcoming Premier League game week. Starting off in 5th place is:
5th: Romelu Lukaku
After such a promising start where he sent Arsenal’s Pablo Mari into early retirement, Lukaku’s performances have been fairly inconsistent. So far, his second spell at Stamford Bridge has been hindered by niggling injuries and matters off the pitch haven’t helped him resettle in London. Recently, the Belgian striker took part in an interview with Sky Italy, which sparked major outrage within the club and fanbase. In the interview, Lukaku criticised Head Coach Thomas Tuchel’s system and expressed his love for Inter Milan, even stating that he plans to return to the San Siro when he is still at the peak of his powers.
Since Lukaku’s return to the squad, he has been nothing short of average, scoring only 1 goal against League 2 Chesterfield. In Chelsea’s recent must-win league game at the Etihad, he missed Chelsea’s best chance of the game, lost all seven of his aerial duels and had a 58% pass accuracy as City edged the game 1-0. Lukaku then followed that up with a non-existent performance against Brighton where the £100m struggled to see the ball and he was even booed off by small sections of the Chelsea fans. Just this weekend against League 1 Plymouth in the FA Cup, he was once again very mediocre, he only had 31 touches in 120 mins and won only 1/10 duels. His form is of considerable concern going into a critical month for Chelsea as they have big upcoming games in the Club World Cup and Champions League.
Next game: Al-Hilal (N)
4th: Eddie Howe
The former Bournemouth coach is under immense pressure because it would be implausible for Newcastle to get relegated given the takeover by the Saudi-led consortium who possess ambitions to transform Newcastle into a global powerhouse. The added pressure also comes from the fact that Howe has been given the funds to bring in the likes of Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Matt Targett, Dan Burn and Brazilian International Bruno Guimarães who was linked with the likes of PSG and Arsenal. Howe has absolutely no excuse but to get the Geordies out of trouble. Although Newcastle won their last game at Leeds, they are still well in the midst of the relegation zone just two points above bottom club Burnley who have two games in hand. Howe must start delivering results given the additions to the squad or he may find himself following the same path of Rafa Benitez and Claudio Ranieri. They have a huge fixture against Everton at home next, who are also creeping around the relegation zone.
Next game: Everton (H)
3rd: Ralf Rangnick
Since Rangnick’s arrival, he hasn’t had the desired impact that United fans may have been expecting. The reds have frequently struggled to impose their will on games and lack a clear identity. This is highlighted in their encounters against Norwich and Newcastle United, both relegation-threatened sides, who were by far the better team against them in both games.
The shock defeat in the FA Cup to Championship opposition Middlesbrough adds more pressure to Rangnick as United are nearing 5 years since their last piece of silverware. Due to their inconsistency, the reds currently find themselves in the midst of a 5-horse race for the final top 4 spot alongside the likes of Arsenal, West Ham, Tottenham and Wolves. Furthermore, Rangnick may be losing the trust of the players after recent quarrels with Ronaldo, Lingard and Martial. The reds go to bottom of the league Burnley where anything but 3 points will be simply unacceptable.
Next game: Burnley (A)
2nd: Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal Board
Firstly the Arsenal board has come under scrutiny after the club failed to add any significant first-team additions during the January transfer window. It was evident that Arsenal at the minimum needed a central midfielder and a striker to give themselves a real opportunity of making the top 4. However, Arsenal will remain as currently constructed for the remainder of the season.
The pressure is also back on Manager Mikel Arteta after he sanctioned the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Although the Gabon International has been in bad form this season, he has still managed to net more league goals than Alexandre Lacazette. The falling out between Arteta and Aubameyang is no secret and the striker even confirmed when he signed for Barcelona that his problem was with Arteta. Given that there has been no replacement for Aubameyang, fans are bewildered as to why Arteta could not swallow his pride to bring the striker back to aid Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations and given that Arsenal are out of all domestic competitions, playing one game a week, fans see no excuses for Arteta not to deliver a top 4 after back to back 8th placed finishes. Arsenal will need a response at Wolves after a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to bottom of the league Burnley in their last outing.
Next Game: Wolves (A)
1st: Brendan Rodgers
Undeniably, the most under pressure in the Premier League is Brendan Rodgers and bookies have Rodgers as the favourite for the next manager to be sacked. By their standards, The Foxes are enduring a below-par season. In the last two seasons, Leicester have been in the conversation for a Champions League place and they should have achieved it both times but for final day capitulations. In their most Premier League game, they played out a disappointing 1-1 draw with Brighton and before that they were 2-1 up heading into the 95th minute, only to be 3-2 down to Tottenham by the 97th. Their substandard season has seen them drop into the Europa Conference League, after finishing third in their Europa League group, and they bowed out of the League Cup quarter-finals on penalties to a weakened Liverpool side – not to mention leading 2-0 and then 3-1 in the first half. It’s evident that the supporters are losing patience with Rodgers and the most recent embarrassing 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup to their rivals Nottingham Forest may have been the last straw for some fans. Rodgers even questioned the hunger of his players as the holders went out with a wimp at the City Ground. Things don’t get any easier as he heads back to his old stomping ground in Liverpool who may be able to put the final nail in his coffin.
Next Game: Liverpool (A)