Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho recently stated, in the build up to his side's fixture away at Sunderland, that Manchester City are the team he thinks are most under pressure in this season’s campaign.
Bold statement that, considering a certain Manchester United lie in eighth place, as defending champions (it is easy to forget that nowadays).
Question is: how accurate is this statement? Has the self-styled ‘Happy One” kicked-off his mind games a tad too early?
The Chelsea boss alluded that the reason he thinks that is because he feels the Citizens bear the best squad in the top flight. I tend to agree. City have one of the best and most complete squads in all of Europe.
Manuel Pellegrini can boast at least two good players for every position, (and that includes goalkeeper), something no other manager in the league can confidently say about their own crop of players.
However, Jose Mourinho has to come in first-runners up in this particular respect. With the exception of the departments at both end (striking and in goal), the Blues have a very strong
squad themselves. Arsenal, Tottenham and United follow in that order.
That notwithstanding, one Sir Alex Ferguson is heralded as the greatest manager of all time, not just because of his ridiculous trophy haul, but for his uncanny ability to win with, more often than not, comparatively average squads.
His successor, David Moyes, also has a reputation of getting the best out of what he has, managing to keep Everton competitive with dwarfed resources.
However, in the modern game, winning and losing can boil down to quality over quantity or team-work and, it increasingly does. Barcelona defined the last decade by not only imposing their style of play on the opposition but their embarrassingly talented squads since the Rijkaard era.
Ronaldinho proved to be the spark that catapulted Barcelona from competitors to winners. Lionel Messi then elevated them to dominators, absolute juggernauts in the Guardiola-era. But he was never alone, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, and Pedro formed part of the most talented group in Europe, and world football for that matter.
The opposite is true for their Iberian rivals Real Madrid. The Blancos had the best players at
the start of the millennium, and won everything there was to win. The Galactico era (part one), assembled the crème de la crème, a la Ronaldo, Zidane, Figo, Roberto Carlos, David Beckham, Raul, Casillas etc.
As talented as they were, they were not as much a unit as they were an individual collection.
Fragments of a whole, and that is why they probably were not as dominant as they should have been.
Sir Alex won United their 20th title with a largely average squad, so average in fact, that most pundits regarded it as the poorest of his reign.
Remarkably, it was one of the most comfortable title tilts for the legendary Scot in recent memory. However, a variety of factors could be used to explain why. There just was no competition. Roberto Mancini’s self-destruction at City, Chelsea’s chopping and changing robbed them of stability and Arsenal were just Arsenal. Not this season though, thankfully.
City may have the best squad, man for man, but it takes a whole lot more than that to win the Premier League. Manuel Pellegrini’s team have been playing like champions on their own turf but like pretenders to the throne away from home.
Chelsea have been vulnerable at times this season as Jose continues to search for his best eleven. Tottenham have bought big but have turned out small so far this season while Liverpool’s strong start to the campaign has been hampered by a long injury lay-off to Daniel Sturridge.
United are very much in transition and at this rate, it looks like a top-four spot will be satisfactory to the fans come May. Arsenal are, so far, the only team to display regular consistency and with the resurgence brought about by Mesut Ozil’s presence, should surely be considered candidates to be there or thereabouts if they can sort out their striking deficiencies in January.
Strap on for what promises to be the most enthralling season in Premier League history.
Fantastic, now, where's my popcorn?
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