Lots of goals across the Premier League this weekend and after six games, champions Leicester City are already trailing Man City by 11 points.
I watched some of the City game and Kevin De Bruyne was out of this world. He prevented an almost certain Swansea goal, running the length of the pitch to make a last ditch intervention, then intercepted the resulting corner and ran half the length of the field again to set up Raheem Sterling who bagged three points for the away side.
De Bruyne would not have done that for Manuel Pellegrini, and I doubt the reprised Sterling would have had the confidence to finish his goal with such aplomb either.
Even at 3-1, Pep Guardiola was going berserk on the touchline. In victory, he was both complimentary and abrasive, suggesting his team is nowhere near the finished article. Man City had a similar start last season and faded badly, but Guardiola will not allow that to happen under his watch.
If they fail, it won’t be for the same reasons that Pellegrini failed, Guardiola’s players are too motivated. Everyone is fighting – not just for their place, but for the manager’s respect. And, of course, Guardiola lives and breathes the game and demands flawless focus and preparation from his underlings. That’s why the mercurial, but idle, Yaya Toure has been discarded quicker than a toilet wipe.
When asked in a press conference whether Man City could win the quadruple, Guardiola’s response was, “what the f*ck?” The question, although not entirely unrealistic, is an insult because it assumes that Guardiola’s meticulous pursuit of perfection is based on anything other than countless hours of surgical tactics and training.
Liverpool continue to batter teams out of sight, but most impressive is how they are now capable of squeezing results out on the road. They’ve already taken eight points away from Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs on their travels, which could be meaningful at the end of the season. Their goals are coming from everywhere and Adam Llalana and Roberto Firmino, in particular, have been rejuvenated.
Top-class managers can squeeze talent out of players that would otherwise be ordinary. Some managers sacrifice individual talent to create a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, but managers like Klopp enable individuals to sparkle while remaining an integral part of a team’s collective resonance.
Klopp and Guardiola are truly modern managers. Mourinho is a supreme organiser and man motivator, but is currently being made to look one-dimensional by comparison. Still, he’s capable of creating a powerful dimension and there’s more than one way to skin a cat. As Utd proved on Saturday having humbled the champions 4-1, his squad may be flawed but they’re ready to share his ambition.
Having watched Chelsea feebly succumb to Arsenal on Saturday, it makes you realise just how great a manager Mourinho is at squeezing blood out of a stone. Without John Terry changing his diaper, Gary Cahill is a donkey, Ivanovic is a rudderless brute and Edin Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are almost impossible to motivate. They both want to be the centre of attention – in adversity they’re utterly useless. Cosseted by Wenger for eight years, Fabregas has failed to develop any mental resistance, but Hazard’s perpetual refusal to work hard for his team is utterly loathsome.
When Cahill gifted Arsenal a one-goal lead, the Gunners went for the throat and blitzed Antonio Conte’s slothful mercenaries who finished 10th last season because they’re egos would not climb down from the pedestal that Mourinho put them on. I always said that Chelsea made a mistake sacking Mourinho and should have just written off the season and started ditching tossers like Hazard instead.
As for Arsenal, they don’t beat so-called ‘good’ teams very often, and when they do it’s invariably because the opposition plays beneath themselves. Sometimes managers make laughable decisions (Coquelin/Cazorla) and still win.
But let’s be realistic. We’ve been here before – countless times. The pressure for Arsenal to get off to a flyer resulted in five points dropped, but now the pressure is off the handbrake is released. History has told us again and again and again that Arsenal fall apart every season because of Wenger’s inability to inspire or provide a semblance of tactical flexibility. Anyone who’s optimistic that things will be different this season is either naïve or an idiot.
As Pochettino proved again on Saturday, last season was not a flash in the pan for Spurs. They have the best defence in the Premier League, depth and quality in midfield and numerous options up front. They are the most resilient team in the PL.
Last season, I mentioned how much I liked the look of Son Heung-Min, but he struggled to get into a side that was performing optimally with him on the periphery. Now with Harry Kane injured, he has an opportunity to show what he’s all about, and did that scoring twice against Middlesbrough.
The wheat is already being separated from the chaff. After Saturday, I’m throwing Chelsea out of the title race.
Note: Arsenal Truth is now on Twitter @TruthArsenal.
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