Connect in the back of the net

Every year we see the usual title contenders as favourites for the title but the 38 game Premier League season is always full of twists and turns from league leader changes to the nail biting relegation battle at the other end.

So far this season, after only 12 games the league leaders have changed no less than 4 times and that number will certainly increase as there’s only 4 points between 1st and 5th place.

The question from the start of the season was always going to be how far can Leicester go this year? I think a top half finish is a realistic and positive result for Leicester City.

Last year they made the impossible, possible form being in the relegation battle last year to being Champions and now playing in the Champions League.

Another team the footballing world are anxious to see is Chelsea, and to see if they’ll be able to bounce back from a horrid season last year.

Chelsea seemed to have changed their transfer policy and are no longer the big spenders they once were.

With new manager Antonio Conte and 4 new signings, they have suddenly found form by switching formation and Conte playing the players that work with the new system and simply benching those that don’t.  

 

Football is still a team game

With the Ballon d’or and other individual awards, it’s hard to not focus on the individual talent certain players possess.

Daniel Sturridge, Cesc Fabregas and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to name a few, are great players who possess great individual talent but all 3 find themselves on the bench for the respective teams because they simply don’t fit in with the current set up.

A lot of top teams would be happy to have all 3 players but their current managers don’t see them as starters and except for Jose Mourinho, the other two managers have made the right choice.

The notion of dropping stars for the benefit of the team is nothing new as Sir Alex Ferguson is famous for being able to build and rebuild teams and discarding top quality players for emerging talent or team performance.

Top managers do what’s best for the team and one of the main reasons Liverpool went for Jurgen Klopp was because he does not shy from big decisions.

Antonio Conte the man many consider responsible for the development of Paul Pogba after the Italian chose a 19-year-old Pogba to play in his Juventus side stating that if a player is good enough he is old enough.

Putting the team first will lead to success more times than not.

 

Jose may no longer be the special one

Money + Jose Mourinho = Success.

Well that’s how things use to be, so when Mourinho began his reign as Manchester United boss it seemed like a match made in heaven as Tim Sherwood spared no cost after getting Mourinho the players he wanted and breaking the world record fee for Paul Pogba along the way.

It seems Jose has adopted his infamous ‘me against the world’ mentality from the jump.

There were many questions about if Jose Mourinho was a good fit for the Manchester United brand but 12 games in and £150m later, Jose claims he still needs at least two more transfer windows before he will have rebuilt the squad he inherited.

Jose Mourinho is still up to his same antics of blaming officials, taking shots at Arsene Wenger but the difference is none of this seems to benefit or take the focus away from the team and instead is harming them.

Football is a team game and at Manchester United, Mourinho still thinks it is all about him and isn’t focusing on getting the best out of his players, instead of reinforcing the stigma that he is nothing but a chequebook manager.

 

The Premier League is no walk in the park

The Premier League has always been competitive and it is this competitiveness that has made it possible for the record breaking TV deals to come into existence.

Even though the other top clubs in Europe find it easier to attract the elite players of the game, the Premier League is very attractive to the elite managers of the game.

One of, if not the greatest manager over the past 7 or 8 years is Pep Guardiola.

Now managing Manchester City, who have established themselves as one of the best teams in the Premier League over the past 5 years, many believed that Guardiola would walk into the league and City would run away with the title.

Guardiola started his first season in England with 10 straight wins which signalled that this would be the case as Manchester City won in style and Pep seeming to have the players fully committed to his philosophy of football.

Regardless of the style of football, success is not set in stone and it’s no surprise that after success in the Germany and Spanish leagues, Pep Guardiola went 6 games without a win for the first time in his managerial career in the Premier League.

Gael Clichy recently said that he is sure the team will click eventually which is true but still goes to show the Premier League isn’t straightforward for any manager.

 

Has competition weakened the teams?

Having an array of quality teams in the Premier League means no 1 or 2 teams are exponentially better than the rest.

This level of constant competitiveness is great for the Premier League but in Europe, English teams are slowly fading.

According to the UEFA rankings for club competitions no English teams made the top 5 teams in Europe and only Chelsea make it into the top 10.

This goes back to my point that because of competition and a less lopsided league, the Premier League may not create 1 or 2 elite teams but it has created 6 great teams and 2/3 good teams and a lot of decent teams, unlike other leagues who have 1 or 2 elite teams, 1 or 2 good teams, a lot of decent teams and a few horrible teams.

The competition hasn’t weakened teams, it has simply raised the overall quality of the league instead of 1 or 2 teams.

Premier League clubs broke the £1 billion mark for transfer spending for the first time this summer as smaller clubs can now buy and compete for better players.

 

The all-important Christmas period

The Christmas period is a time in the Premier League where the games come thick and fast, and teams have minimal rest between matches.

Over the years, there have been calls for a Christmas break like the rest of Europe but that doesn’t seem to be coming into fruition anytime soon.

So here we are, back to the most testing time in the Premier League calendar and usually whoever comes out of the Christmas period unscathed, becomes favourites to win the title.

The importance of the Christmas period is shown by how much the fans love it with countless derbies, crunch matches at the top and bottom of the table.

Managers also know the importance of coming out of the Christmas period as painlessly as possible and a lot of noise has been made about Chelsea’s longer lay-off this year as many believe Chelsea have a huge advantage as they have more than 4 days between their two New Year games.

 

Overall

So, what exactly has the Premier League taught us? It has taught us 5 things:

  1. Football is still a team sport
  2. Management is changing and some managers are struggling in the new age
  3. The Premier League becomes more and more competitive each year
  4. There are legitimacy 5/6 teams in the title race, which is a lot more than other leagues
  5. The Christmas period is still key in deciding who becomes champion.

 

Written by Jonathan Roberts

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @missingstuds

Check out his awesome football blog, Missing Studs Football

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