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Premier League XI

We’re eleven rounds into what’s been a fantastic premier league season. Here are the top performers in the first third of the year.

GK
Joe Hart, Manchester City
England’s number one has been brilliant between the sticks for City. Ten goals conceded in eleven games.

RB
Micah Richards, Manchester City
Richards really deserved an England call during the international break–he’s unlucky to play a position that has such a glut of talent for the Three Lions.

CB
Fab Coloccini, Newcastle
The Argentine has been much maligned by the Magpie faithful in the past, but this season he’s combined defensive solidity and goalscoring and made himself a fan favorite.

CB
Phil Jones, Man Utd
The former Blackburn man (boy) has played a slew of positions this season, but in my mind he’s at his best as a ball-playing center half.

LB
Jose Enrique, Liverpool
Liverpool show signs of brilliance, but inconsistent play and injuries continue to drag them down. Enrique has been one of their only steady players, and he looks a bargain for King Kenny.

MID
Joann Cabaye, Newcastle
Cabaye is pure class. It’s that simple. He can do it all in the midfield, and I would not be surprised if he didn’t get snapped up by a club like United in the summer.

MID
Juan Mata, Chelsea
Chelsea, like Liverpool, have been startlingly inconsistent, but all of their best play has come through Mata.

MID
David Silva, Man City
The most talented player in the league, in my opinion.

FWD
Robin Van Persie, Arsenal
RVP is ‘slow’ and ‘weak’. Other than that, he’s scored 31 goals in his last 29 games and looks like Thierry Henry reincarnated.

FWD
Sergio Aguero, Man City
Kün looks every bit as good as advertised. Tevez may be in exile by City seem to have a knack for mercurial Argentine strikers.

FWD
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
This appears to finally be the year that Gabby puts it all together. His new manager has given him license to roam in a Wayne Rooney-esque role, and his play is going through the roof.

MANAGER
Alan Pardew, Newcastle
Who knew? Pardew made a few key signings and implemented some serious defensive discipline and now United are cracking the top four.

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Media Matters

The Red Sox have had plenty of backseat drivers on their road to a new manager. The media frenzy begs the question–is a media-friendly manager a necessity in today’s 24-hour sports cycle?

The answer, according to precedent, isn’t quite black and white. Take these comparisons, for example:

Terry Francona
What better place to start then the last Sox manager? Francona was a media darling for nearly the entirety of his Red Sox career. It certainly didn’t hurt when the team was successful, and it gave him a little slack during slumps–but all of that was forgotten when the media turned on him at the end of the 2011 season. It was an ugly scene, and the takeaway may be that you can’t (or shouldn’t) bank on media support, because it’s as conditional as anything else.

vs.

Ozzie Guillen
On the other side of the MLB manager’s spectrum you will find Ozzie Guillen, new manager of the Florida Marlins. Guillen is a proven winner, and he’s also a polarizing figure–to put it lightly. He once called Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a homophobic slur. Afterward, he apologized to the homosexual community, but not Mariotti. So yeah–I guess you could say he didn’t get along with the media.

Switching sports:

Rex Ryan
The New York Jets head coach isn’t a ‘little’ anything: he’s a big guy with big opinions and an even bigger mouth. He gets along great with the media, though, because he’s quick to provide a soundbyte and he’ll never shy away from a question.

Bill Belichick
The Patriots coach is maybe the best in sports at stymeing the media. In most of his press conferences, he somehow manages to say nothing at all of significance. Consider the game earlier this season, when Belichick called a timeout at a curious moment. After the game (which the Patriots lost), the media grilled Belichick about the timeout, to which he replied: “We took it. We called the timeout.”

So what’s the conclusion? It seems that media support isn’t necessary for success, although it can buy some time when the chips are down. The Sox would be wise to keep it far down the priority list, though.