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I think it was Tony Pulis who said that perception is reality, and it’s hard to argue with a man that wears a baseball cap with so much style. I was reminded of the great man’s words when I stumbled across a survey conducted by Barclays of Premier League managers of their thoughts on the season so far. I think it is widely accepted that the media has a huge influence in forming and shaping the opinions of ordinary fans. A cruel word by Gary Neville can ensure that a Brazilian international becomes a figure of fun, while Alan Hansen still has enough influence to persuade a lot of people that Liverpool are not as shit as they seem to be.

Unless you agree with these men, you are totally wrong...

This is fair enough, we the unschooled masses can’t be expected to know anything about the game and hence when the experts speak we listen. It is a depressingly familiar scenario when you hear the opinions of the great and the good in the media parroted back to you by someone in the pub or at the ground. This is unsurprising as obviously a lot of people are not capable of thinking for themselves but what of the managers themselves, would a survey of their thoughts reveal interesting and hitherto hidden information? Hmmm, anyway, here goes.

Which Premier League manager has impressed you the most this season?

1 Brendan Rodgers 47%, 2 Paul Lambert 40%, 3 Roberto Mancini 6%, 4 Steve Kean 6%

Interesting phrasing of the question perhaps but can’t dispute the results. The newly promoted teams of Rodgers and Lambert have both been fearless, stylish (in their own ways) and crucially both look very well placed to stay in the EPL, great seasons for both men.

Who has been the signing of the season so far in the Premier League?

1 Demba Ba 56%, 2 Phil Jones 13%, 3 Scott Parker 13%, 4 Sebastian Larsson 6%, 5 Juan Mata 6%, 6 Craig Bellamy 6%

Phil Jones? He may go on to become an excellent player but so far he has looked like an average central midfielder, an average/poor right back and I am not sure he has played at centre half despite all the injury problems that United have had in that position. Scotty Parker is another case of media hype over reality, he is a decent player but has he been a better signing than Yakubu or Cabaye?

Which current Premier League players do you rate as the best in each position?

Goalkeeper

1 Joe Hart 69%, 2 Pepe Reina 13%, 3 Brad Friedel 6%, 4 Shay Given 6%, 5 Tim Krul 6%

Can’t really argue with Hart but as for 2, 3 and 4 if the respondents were not EPL managers then you would say that they must have stopped watching football years ago. Reina in particular has been decidedly dodgy for a long time. Where are Al-Habsi, Vorm and Szczesny on that list?

Defender

1 Vincent Kompany 88%, 2 John Terry 6%, 3 Thomas Vermaelen 6%

I am an Arsenal fan and I will categorically state that Koscielny has been much, much better than Vermaelen this season, not that I am saying that he is one of the best three defenders in the EPL. How about Martin Skrtel or Jonny Evans?

 

Midfielder

1 David Silva 31%, 2 Yaya Touré 25%, 3 Leon Britton 13%, 4 Scott Parker 6%, 5 Gareth Bale 6%, 6 Moussa Dembélé 6%, 7 Ramires 6%, 8 Luka Modric 6%

I think the inclusion of Leon Britton here is interesting, Swansea’s passing style of which Britton is the pivot has got a very high level of praise and media attention this season (and rightly so) and lo and behold he is now rated as the 3rd best midfielder in the EPL by the managers themselves. This has to be nuts and is the kind of glitch in perception that ends up withLiverpool signing Charlie Adam, maybe they will sign Britton next summer? I am however pleased to see Dembele in that list as he does not get enough plaudits for his classy play.

Another quick word on Scotty P. Why is it that defensive midfielders who can only defend like Scotty, and the archetype of that role Claude Makele, get loads and loads of praise whereas a more multi function player like Michael Carrick or Alex Song, who does a great deal of defensive work but is also good enough to join in the build up play, often get slagged off despite clearly being superior footballers? Surely this is a gross misunderstanding of the roles they are playing in the team?

Forward/striker

1 Robin van Persie 25%, 2 Sergio Agüero 19%, 3 Demba Ba 19%, 4 Luis Suárez 13%, 5 Wayne Rooney 13%, 6 David Silva 6%, 7 Gareth Bale 6%

Wouldn’t it terrify you if your club was run by a manger that was part of the 13% that thinks Luis Suarez is a better striker than Robin van Persie?

Who has been the best young player in the Premier League this season?

1 Phil Jones 31%, 2 Daniel Sturridge 25%, 3 Kyle Walker 25%, 4 Oriel Romeu 6%, 5 Scott Sinclair 6%, 6 Chris Smalling 6%

Phil fucking Jones again… James McCarthy, Junior Hoilett, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Kyle Walker will go the same way as Glen Johnson in my opinion, although I am not saying that he will start stealing toilet seats.

Who will win the Premier League?

1 Manchester City 67%, 2 Manchester United 33%

I wonder if this answer would change from week to week like it does in the media?

Which player do you think has been most influential in the Premier Leagues’s 20 years?

1 Ryan Giggs 50%, 2 Eric Cantona 13%, 3 Paul Scholes 13%, 4 Alan Shearer 13%, 5 Thierry Henry 6%, 6 Cristiano Ronaldo 6%

I am not sure what this means, influential in terms of what, haircuts, hemlines? As if an individual footballer is influential in the way bands like The Velvet Underground, The Sex Pistols or Public Enemy were. Will a critic ever write that Ryan Giggs changed forever the way tricky wingers run at full backs? This is a bloody stupid question but the real answer is Michael Brown, who despite the huge crackdown on brutal and thuggish play in the EPL years managed to remain a brutal thug, his artistic influence can clearly be seen on the modern Stoke team.

Other than your own ground, which stadium/fans create the best atmosphere?

1 Liverpool (Anfield) 50%, 2 Stoke City (Britannia Stadium), 3 Newcastle United (St James’ Park) 4 Everton (Goodison Park) 7%, 5 Tottenham Hotspur (White Hart Lane) 7%

Every time I have been to Anfield it has been a morgue with the away fans chant of ‘where’s your famous atmosphere?’ always being the loudest thing to be heard in the ground all day (unless they are having a Hillsborough Protest). It is quieter than the Highbury Library but I guess those Special European Nights there this season have gone a long way to influencing this answer… oh.

It is quite possible that the managers giving the replies here were not giving the questions a huge depth of thought but overall I am pretty unimpressed with the answers. Quite frankly you could have taken a random fan of each EPL club and got the same set of results, this uniformity of opinion is troubling I think. Could it be that EPL managers are as prone to fall for media hype and perception as anybody else and thus become as lazy and predictable in their opinions as a lot of fans? It would certainly explain a lot of the transfer activity that goes on.

by Nilesh Bhagat

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