The Premier League is set to experience a new dawn in the 2016-17 season, as the days of ‘one club domination’ is set to be surely over. With Mourinho’s takeover at Manchester United set to be completed on Tuesday, the Pep vs. Mou clash is set to recommence in due time.
However, that’s not the only rivalry for Pep, as he’s also got to look out over the shoulders for the ever-energetic Jürgen Klopp. And then, there’s the case of the new managerial prodigy in the making of Mauricio Pochettino and his Spurs team, who, I’m sure, are suffering from a case of St. Totteringham’s disease which they hope to find the cure to by beating Arsène Wenger’s side next year on the table.
Added on to that, Ranieri might not be done just yet. And then added on to that addition, Antonio Conte, a serial winner, is keen to make his mark again in club football.
Oh my goodness.
There used to be a time when the Premier League was dominated by one team and one team only. Not to mention, when foreigners talked about it, they knew one team and one manager only. The name of Sir Alex Ferguson (without the ‘Sir’ back then) and Manchester United was ever present in the media come talks of title contenders both in Europe and in England. They were the strongest team on the land by far; whether it be the famous Class of ’92, or that team with Ronaldo, Rooney, and Scholes, Nistelrooy, and Beckham, and…you get the drift. Even the then young prodigy Arsene Wenger had to settle in for the title of underdogs. Though to Wenger’s credit, he might’ve had the single biggest impact in asserting any sort of dominance over United, or even match them in terms of the squad talent and effectivity, with his ‘Invincibles’ making history by winning the league unbeaten in all 38 games.
However, without anyone else to help him out (Liverpool were too busy winning the Champions League), no one could effectively form the demise of Manchester United’s league prowess. Obviously, Roman Abramovich’s billions helped take away some of the glory every now and then, but it wasn’t until now that we have the privilege, if you want to call it that, of having five or six genuine title contenders.
Guardiola and Mourinho, when paired together in the same league, can have a devastating effect on the other teams. It is kind of like the Messi and Ronaldo rivalry. Neither of them will likely admit which one is better out of humility, but each of them knows that to be the best, they have to beat the other. And that is what produces the marvels we see from them each and every game. That is their fuel, to keep raising their game, the desire to beat the other man, the desire to be the best in the world. Mourinho and Guardiola have the same ‘mutualistic’ relationship. In person, they probably would die out of respect for the successes they’ve both achieved. Okay, Mourinho might not die out of it, but he will likely do something in accordance to those lines. They’re both driven, if not by nature, then due to the desire created by them, to be the best. And that can sometimes have a crucifying consequence on the rest of the league.
We saw exactly that during the years that they both spent together in La Liga. Although the Spanish league is devoid of any true title challengers other than Barça and Real even now, the sheer difference between them and the rest of the competitors was just staggering. Mourinho had to finish second in his first season at Real, with 92 points. The same amount would’ve won them the league this time around. And that’s counting the fact that Barcelona went on a 39-game unbeaten run midway through the season.
Both Guardiola and Mourinho revel when faced with competition, and they’re both so much better that they can just out-think and completely alienate their other opponents.
However, starting next season, their more ‘minor’ opponents are notching up another gear.
Jürgen Klopp is anything but the ‘normal one’ that he claims to be. Although his Liverpool team isn’t ready just yet to compete for the big honors, he will make sure that they’re ready to go at full steam starting next season by acquiring more stars, with the brilliant eyes that he has for scouting class players. His ever-energetic attitude gets through to his players, and if the early signs are anything to go by, this Liverpool team is heading towards something special.
Meanwhile, there are talks of a new ‘Fergie’ in town in Mauricio Pochettino. His Spurs team, spearheaded in attack by England’s new rising star Harry Kane, is a joy to watch, but more importantly, they also know how to get the job done. When they are at their best, they’re arguably the best ‘team’ out there, as each player perfectly complements and contradicts one another’s attributes and weaknesses to ensure that there aren’t any holes for the opposition to take advantage of. This team would’ve arguably been the story of this season had it not been for their late demise; those were the only signs of youth that they showed all season, and that’s an amazing achievement given the average age of their entire squad is only 25 years.
The team credited with bringing about much of this demise, Chelsea, are set for a new main-man again, though, with them, it’s much a case of when rather than how and why. However, this time, it seems as if the hierarchy are getting tired of toying with that particular job position after every two or three seasons, as they’ve made Antonio Conte sign a five-year deal. Conte’s reputation was built at Juventus, where after the Turin club had finished in 7th position when he’d been hired, he took them to 3 consecutive league titles, along with other domestic honors. What’s even more remarkable is that in his first season, his team went unbeaten to the Serie A title, showing how much of an effect he had on the then struggling Juve team.
Conte’s career is much aligned with that of Diego Simeone, as they are both former midfielders who weren’t known more so for their technical ability, but their leadership qualities and thunderous energy. Conte’s ever vibrancy in the Juve locker room propelled them to domestic and European trophies galore. He has carried that energy with him as a manager, as well as his grinding work ethic. So, one thing’s for certain: he will always have his team amongst the winners.
The unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome, sight of an underdog story in the Premier League this season will help bring about this end to the era of Manchester United’s dominance, as it has instilled a sense of unpredictability to this league that will help fans, as well as the hierarchy, realize that finishing as the top dog might be too much of an ask to give to a manager for every season. Ranieri might not be done just yet, though.
He will certainly want to make his mark in the Champions League, where, for the most part, he’s been worse off than with his league winning record before this season. However, Leicester will have a tough job on their hands to keep their star players, and should they fail to do so, this team spirit is something so unique that it might never invigorate the same sort of performances from the players again.
On the opposite end of the spectrum in regards to team spirit are Arsenal, who, contrary to the denials of Wenger, lack leaders in the dressing room, and thus are in a quite peculiar situation. Their star players in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil are understandably quite frustrated at the Gunners’ lack of guile when it comes to winning things. However, unless Wenger significantly changes his mindset, Arsenal will have a tough time even finishing in the top four, seeing as they are led by the most inept of managers out of the pile.
The Premier League is set to be a bigger stage for the eyes of the world with its new acquisition of the best managers on God’s Earth, and the contest will be more unpredictable than it’s ever been. Winning and losing the league will come down to a matter of just a few points, but in the end, entertainment will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen served by a footballing organization.
Manchester United, though, should wave goodbye to the era in which they made their mark on English and European football, and thus prepare themselves for a hectic ride, where standards will need to be set much lower for them to gain any joy. However, in Mourinho, they’ve got the man with the immediate solution to that problem. Question is, how long will we be living in this dreamland of football?