Premier league stars are busy contributing for their respective national teams at the international break after seeing through almost a quarter of the English Premier League. Indeed, it has been an eccentric yet fluid beginning to the otherwise shallow football league, marked by lack of flair and abundance of physical browbeating. Having played seven games each, different groups and pairs of teams are perfectly juxtaposed to each other in terms of points, placement and traditional rivalry, with the most sought after spots, i.e. the top four, being occupied by Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs and Chelsea.
However, what differentiates this season from the previous ones is the way Manchester teams are performing. From the outset, both City and United have made such statements from which only the signs of glory can be discerned. The blues and the reds have consistently shown tactical flawlessness, attitudinal ruthlessness and an insatiable goal-scoring eagerness. While Manchester City have scored five or more than five goals in three consecutive matches, Manchester United managed to edge past the net four times in four different games. Such massive scorecards have resulted in exorbitant goal differences for both teams after just seven fixtures: +20 for the City and +19 for the United.
What is proving to be a cherry on the top of this multi-layered cake of Manchester enmity is the perpetual rivalry between Pep Guardiola, the City’s manager, and Jose Mourinho, the United’s boss. Their ever-seething competition is said to have begun in 2008 when Mourinho was reportedly denied an opportunity to become FC Barcelona’s manager, as the then Barcelona president Joan Laportafavoured a manager who was less defensive in approach and belonged to Spain. In the end, Pep, Spanish, who had successfully led Barcelona ‘B’ in the 2007-08 season, was given the charge of the larger-than-life club Barca. Thereafter, Mourinho and Pep came face to face in La Liga, leading Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, and where this fledgling feud matured.
Now, here is the string of facts associated with Mourinho which would give chills to the fans of other teams in general and Pep Guardiola in particular. Ever since joining FC Porto in 2002, Mourinho has never failed to win the league in his second season as a manager. He did this with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, and Chelsea again. Now with United, there is no reason why Mourinho won’t able to continue this pattern. And the situation could never be more similar for Jose, as, in 2011-12 season, he was managing Real Madrid, and was up against what football commentators dub as the most immaculate footballing side ever, Pep’s Barcelona. This did not stop the stubborn Mourinho to win the league in his very own second season. This season, likewise, Pep is leading a team that is playing the most artistic of football, is tactically impeccable and talent-wise ferocious. Mourinho, meanwhile, is lukewarm to all this and remains fully focused on the doctrine of ‘not losing any match’.
Where does this leave other contenders for the top-tier English league? We are not sure. What we are sure of is the fact that current champions Chelsea are struggling – struggling with the squad depth, tactical coherence and overall team form. Despite being in top four, they are nowhere near the level of precision and accuracy that marked their entire previous season. Players like Pedro, Willian, Hazard and Costa would never miss anything within 25 yards radius around the goal post. This season, it’s exactly the opposite: they are missing chances more than they are missing Diego ‘the beast’ Costa. Save the Morata heroics, who, much to the chagrin of Chelsea fans, is out for six weeks after an injury, other forwards have been below par. The champions would do well then to divert their focus and energies on the Champions League rather than trying to sail in the unassailable storm of the premier league, being dominated by the formidable sailors from Manchester.
Tottenham, as usual, is doing tremendously well while playing second-fiddle to the toppers. Arsenal, it seems, are finally vying for something other than their permanent love affair: 4th position. Liverpool is blessed with an extremely charismatic manager who manages an extremely exasperating team. Fun fact: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool right after losing 4-0 with Arsenal at the hands of Liverpool, and lost 5-0 in his very first Liverpool game at the hands of Manchester City. On top of it, the Mayerside team has managed to grab only one win since Ox’s signing. Wenger dispatching his sleuths to the Anfield may be? Who knows?
‘I don’t like international breaks’, Mourinho admitted a few days back. So do we.