Manchester City and Liverpool sit in the top two Premier League positions. In other news, the sky is blue! These two clubs have been run expertly and managed superbly; they have left their top-six rivals behind.
Manchester City and Liverpool Proving They Are Light-Years Ahead
Top Six Struggles
Tottenham Hotspur left many fantasy football managers frustrated as they slumped to a one-nil home defeat against Newcastle United. It was a whimsical performance that lacked any attacking impetus and their defence fell asleep for the Joelinton Cassio goal.
It was a similar story at Old Trafford where Manchester United slipped up against Crystal Palace. They looked like they had snatched a late point when Daniel James curled home an equaliser but Patrick van Aanholt squeezed an effort under David de Gea in the dying moments to win the match for the visitors. The theatre of dreams became the theatre of screams.
It has already become apparent that the majority of the top-six are vulnerable and there for the taking. Chelsea would have been happier this week but they still look weak at the back and not everybody defence will be as generous as Norwich City’s.
Champions League Challenge
It is worth remembering that European competitions will be starting shortly and that will be a test on these big clubs. Frank Lampard will be putting a lot of focus on the Champions League and this could take its toll on some of the players. Lampard’s style requires a lot of energy and playing twice in a week could leave them falling short in certain matches.
Mauricio Pochettino should be more comfortable, though. He and his players have been accustomed to the rigours of the top-level European football for some time. The slip-up against Palace illustrates that they are some way off the top-two but they should still have enough to finish the best of the rest.
Europa League Distraction
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery will be taking on the Europa League. As the season goes on, at least one of them would be expected to make this tournament their primary focus with the winners awarded a Champions League position.
Emery reached the final last season, and that seemed to take its toll with Arsenal only winning once of their last five league matches. Arsene Wenger prioritised Europe even more.
In his final season at the club, Wenger was saving his strongest eleven for Thursday nights as he saw more potential in this route to the Champions League than he did in fighting for fourth.
It’s early days but Leicester City, dark-horses for fifth, have started the season strongly. Many people tipped Everton to do well but they flattered to deceive in the recent transfer window. Others backed Wolverhampton Wanderers but their squad will be heavily tested by the Europa League.
They are on course to make the group stage and have the potential to have a really good run in the competition but it will affect their league form. Their squad isn’t as big as Arsenal’s or United’s so they can’t simply change their entire eleven.
Leicester City Looking Good
The Foxes haven’t even got into their stride yet but remain unbeaten after a difficult start. They endured a stalemate Wolves, survived a first-half attacking onslaught from Chelsea to pick up a point and managed to see off a Sheffield United team that hadn’t lost in their first two games.
It is particularly impressive to still be unbeaten when you consider the level of performances haven’t exactly been there. It will be scary when the cogs to fully click into place and Brendan Rodgers has the luxury of not having to contend with European football. His efforts can be solely focused on the Premier League.
The midfield quadruple of Wilfred Ndidi, Hamza Choudhury, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison are outstanding. That contends with the midfield’s of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and even Tottenham if Eriksen departs. There is defensive assurance, goal-scoring potential and creativity with all three very cool and composed in possession of the ball.
That is what any team needs from their midfielders at the top-level. Ndidi was injured in their last match so Rodgers called in the excellent Dennis Praet to fill the void. Praet was signed from Sampdoria for £18 million and his composure on the ball will be vital to this Leicester team.
Calgar Soyuncu looks like a wonderful player. He is confident on the ball, relatively quick and has settled into Harry Maguire’s shoes really well. It was more sensible decision-making by Rodgers who preferred to promote his in-house players as opposed to over-spending on a replacement for the £80-million-man.
Stable squad, proven manager and no distractions. Keep an eye on the Foxes.
Manchester City Slickers
The Cityzens are often branded as a team that is simply better because it spends the most money but this is not the case. Remember that their record signing, Rodrigo Hernandez, only cost them £62.5m. Paul Pogba, at £89m, is the Premier League’s record transfer and Neymar’s move to Paris Saint Germain had an astonishing £198m fee.
City have a fantastic recruitment team that target top-level players who are just below the radar. Pogba, for example, cost £89m because he was a huge name that even the most casual, uninformed football fan could recite. In that summer, City went for Bernardo Silva.
Silva had carved a fine reputation for himself in Monaco but he still remained a much lower-profile option than someone like Pogba. Similarly, Aymeric Laporte wasn’t a universally known name before he came to the Etihad. Fans of La Liga would have recognised his abilities but he wasn’t this elite name. This is how City operate.
They will not target these big, marketable players. The people that they bring in enhance their reputations and forge their own reputations under the management Pep Guardiola. Raheem Sterling has become one of the world’s best wingers and could now be worth over three times the £49m that they forked out for him.
Klopp of the League!
Liverpool are largely similar. Sadio Mane may have seemed like an uninspiring signing when he first arrived but he fitted into Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy. Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker cost roughly £140m between them, although, this was funded by Philippe Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona. They look for the right kind of player and will not buy players with inflated egos.
Long story short, these club hierarchies trust their managers and they want to help them in the best way they can. Pep Guardiola is the hub of Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp is the hub of Liverpool. It is not the same for others.
Pochettino is clearly well-liked by Daniel Levy but Levy is the main man at Tottenham. He makes the decisions about who stays and who goes. Pochettino has admitted this publicly. Unai Emery is on a two-year contract as the head coach with an exterior team in charge of the transfer dealings.
Solskjaer is the perfect man for the board. He won’t complain about what goes on upstairs because he is a genuinely nice man and someone who is counting his lucky stars to be manager of Manchester United. This is his dream and the Glazers can pull the strings.
Similarly, Frank Lampard has been brought in to manage his favourite club. He is working with a transfer ban and is stuck with a patchy squad. It will be interesting to see how much he is given next year.
Elite managers demand the best. Maurizio Sarri would not adapt to his group of players as he would want them to adapt to his methods. If they couldn’t, they would be out of the door and replaced by players of higher quality.
Antonio Conte was more flexible than Sarri but was constantly unhappy with poor recruitment. Jose Mourinho was the same. They want to feel like they are backed and that they are in charge.
It’s great to see Solskjaer and Lampard given the chance to manage at these big clubs but they are vulnerable. They may well succeed but they can’t go to the board and say they want total control because they are basically on work experience.
That puts the board in charge and they will like that. Whether they actually know more than a footballing manager is somewhat questionable.
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