Welcome to the first in a new bi-weekly wrap-up of the successes and failures of former Blues who are plying their trade as managers across the globe. In this extended special edition we pay added attention to Gus Poyet's adventure in Greece and the nervous times ahead of Dan Petrescu in China.
Resurrecting a Titan in Athens
Gustavo Poyet and his title chasing AEK Athens have had a fixture crammed January culminating in a whopping eight games. Incredibly AEK has won each of these, including a tense 1-0 league victory over rivals PAOK (in what is known as the 'double-headed eagles derby'). The victories also included a 4-1 dismantling of Iraklis in the Greek Cup on the 28th and a comfortable 3-0 win versus Veria on the 31st. AEK's unbeaten 2016 has seen them score 18 goals while only conceding a measly 3. The perfect run of form has seen them climb to 2nd in the Super League table, trailing bitter city-rivals Olympiakos by 16 points.
Poyet joined AEK on October 29th, 2015. The iconic Athens club - with 11 Super League crowns to their name - is coming out of one of the worst periods in their storied history. For the first time ever, AEK was relegated in 2013. The demotion was not helped by a three-point deduction they incurred thanks to their fans invading the pitch after a demoralizing loss to Panthrakikos. For financial reasons AEK decided to convert the club to amateur standing and thus self-relegated to Greece's League Two. Kept afloat by an investor group made up of famous fans and former players, AEK easily won League Two and League One in back-to-back seasons to re-enter the Super League in 2015. Expectations for AEK are on the rise, with fans hoping Poyet (whose contract expires this summer) can transform what was an epic Greek tragedy into a comeback story for the ages.
Is Dan the Man for China's Big Spenders?
Poyet's former teammate Dan Petrescu is another Chelsea old-boy suddenly feeling the pressure from increased expectations. The well-traveled Romanian is currently the gaffer at Jiangsu Suning. His club made a big splash this past week, signing Ramires for around £25m. Jiangsu are currently in pre-season gearing up for the beginning of the Chinese Super League. The club was purchased this January by Suning Commerce Group, who swiftly changed the club's name (prior to this they were known as Jiangsu Sainty). Jiangsu finished a disappointing 10th out of sixteen clubs in the last campaign, which was Petrescu's first season at the club. In 2015 Petrescu's men only managed 4 wins and suffered 10 defeats. Though their league form was poor, Jiangsu did win the Chinese FA Cup and thus earned a berth in the 2016 Asia Champions League.
This will be the second time Jiangsu has competed in Asia's most vaunted football competition. This year Jiangsu has been drawn in Group E alongside South Korean champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Vietnamese champions Becamex Binh Durong. The final place in Group E belongs to the winner of a playoff game between FC Tokyo and either Thailand's Chonburi or Myanmar's Yangon United.
With new management investing in talent and expecting a return, Petrescu could find himself in danger should Jiangsu not get off to a hot start. Both the Chinese Super League and the Asia Champions League begin in March. In preseason games these past two weeks Jiangsu fell to Slavia Prague 5-1, and lost a close game to Dynamo Kiev 3-2.
Nicolas Anelka may be fired in the coming days from his post as player-manager of Mumbai City in the Indian Super League. Both the league and team were established in 2014 and in Anelka's first season the club disappointed, finishing 6th out of 8 teams. Anelka's season was marred with arguments with his board and a sideline dust-up with his assistant coach. On the pitch Anelka failed to score in the 6 games he appeared in. It's rumoured that Roberto Carlos will take over at the club.
In Qatar Gianfranco Zola has Al-Arabi at a somewhat disappointing 5th place in the Qatar Stars League after 16 games played. Zola, who has Pierluigi Casiraghi as his number two and Kevin Hitchcock as goalkeeping coach, is still well liked by fans - thanks in part to his popular punditry on local TV. Al-Arabi, who Zola began managing in July 2015, are yet to win in 2016; drawing to Qatar SC last time out and losing to Al-Khor before that.
Hernan Crespo is in the thick of a relegation battle with Modena in Italy's Serie B. Crespo took the Modena job after Parma, where he was youth coach, disbanded in 2015. Modena avoided relegation by the slimmest possible margin last year and were expected to struggle again this season. On January 16th Modena lost 2-1 to Vicenza, getting two men sent off in the process. Modena drew 1-1 with Avelino on the 23rd and lost 2-1 versus Ternana on the 30th (where they had another player sent off). Modena are now 18th in the table.
In the Championship Slavisa Jokanovic is having a hard time at Fulham, who he joined on December 27th, 2015. In 7 games with the Cottagers he has had only 1 win to go with 3 losses and a draw. Fulham currently sits 19th in the league. Fulham were also booted from the FA Cup by Sheffield Wednesday on January 9th.
Also looking up at the Premier League is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who took over at QPR on December 4th, 2015 - leaving Burton Albion, the current leaders of League One. QPR's January form under Hasselbaink has been mediocre. They had bore draws (Wolves, Forrest, and Blackburn), but pulled off a nice 3-0 victory over struggling Rotherham on the 16th. The Hoops currently sit 13th in the table.
In the lower leagues Frank Sinclair's Hednesford Town had 1 win and 3 losses in January and now find themselves 18th in the Vanarama Conference North table. Former Chelsea youth prospect Leon Knight's rollercoaster ride through management continues at Barnton FC. Knight's club currently lead the North West Counties Division One League Table after 20 games played, scoring 15 goals in their last 3 wins.