Christmas is approaching which signals that we are into the mid-season of the world’s most watched football league. Now, before the beginning of the season I talked about the credentials of the Premier League managers who will be at the helm of the elite teams of Premier League right here. So, the mid season seems the apt time to judge their influence so far and predict what could happen towards the end.
1) Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Arrived at Etihad with crazy expectations, Guardiola is finally showing his human side in the Premier League. We are yet to see Pep’s Barcelona or Pep’s Bayern like dominance since he started playing for Manchester City. Guardiola’s men have looked threatening at times but have also failed to bring consistency to their game. Their forwards, Aguero and De Bruyne are both misfiring whereas their defense is a huge suspect. Still managing to stay inches away from the top is no less of a feat. With the right setup in place, Manchester City have definitely announced their intentions of aiming nothing short of the Premier League glory.
2) Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp completed around 3 quarters of the season last year at Liverpool and so it was expected of him to go out guns blazing for the title. And he didn’t disappoint. Their start of the campaign was not at all spectacular, but ever since, Klopp inspired Liverpool to change their fortunes to stay in the hunt. The dominance and resilience shown by Klopp’s Liverpool is brilliant and their attacking threat is second to none. With 14 goalscorers spread over two competitions, Liverpool’s attack is the one thing opposition needs to be wary of. On the contrary, Liverpool’s defense could be their downfall. A poor defense coupled with injury to key players have brought a reality check to the expectations that had rocketed sky high. Knocking at the doors of title at mid season, Klopp needs to reinforce Liverpool’s defense for the remaining half or could very well kiss the title goodbye.
3) Jose Mourinho – Manchester United
Mourinho was brought in to finally lift up Manchester United’s ailing confidence. It looked all blushes at the start when fan favorite Zlatan Ibrahimovic was acquired for free and Paul Pogba was given a hero’s homecoming. However, when it really mattered on the pitch, Mourinho failed to change United’s fortune and they looked as abysmal as ever. If Mourinho takes them into Champion’s League next season, that should be enough to call his first season a success at this stage.
4) Arsene Wenger – Arsenal
Every year, it is the same story for Arsenal i.e. an amazing first half of the season and a baffling second one leading to a finish at the fourth. But, this year, Arsene Wenger appears to be pulling the right strings. A much needed midfield general in Xhaka was brought in by Wenger in the summer and their team looks complete in all aspect. They have lost only once over the course of these four months, though have drawn four matches. Arsenal’s performance look no less deadly than their competitors for the trophy. However, will Arsene Wenger continue to hit the right notes over the course of an entire season will determine whether they will finally get to lift the Premier League title or not.
5) Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspurs
Mauricio Pochettino has definitely assembled a strong side at the White Hart Lane. Tottenham’s defense is currently one of the best in the League if not the best. They have only lost one game over the course of this season, that too to a dominant Chelsea side. However, as opposed to Manchester City and Liverpool, Tottenham’s attack is what Pochettino needs to sort out at the earliest. With nearly half the games drawn by them, a good goalscorer, or a return to form by their star striker Harry Kane is what Pochettino requires, if he wants to see his team aim for the title.
6) Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City
Claudio Ranieri did the unthinkable last season by winning the Premier League with a squad that was average at best. Therefore, when one looks today at Leicester, it appears that their lullaby has been violently brought to a halt by the big guns of Premier League. To be honest nobody expected Leicester to repeat the 2015-16 run, especially with the influx of managers with crazy CVs in Premier League. What’s even more shocking is the fact nobody expected them to perform this dismal either. Ranieri managed to retain his entire squad with a notable exception of N’golo Kante who got transferred to Chelsea. But Kante’s departure has almost made it seem as if Leicester City FC has ruptured its spine. If these performance continues, the defending champions will be battling relegation towards the end of season.
7) Antonio Conte – Chelsea
Speaking of spines, Chelsea looked spineless the season earlier but Antonio Conte has certainly injected a new life in the lacklusture team of stars at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s Premier League start was a mixed bag to begin with. But the game against Arsenal proved to be the turning point for him. Since 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in late September, Chelsea has looked a dominant force hell bent to destroy any and every team they have come face to face with. Watching Conte’s Chelsea, it is hard to digest that the Conte hasn’t had a full season in Premier League yet. Right now, nobody else is speaking about Chelsea’s title chances more than their own performances week in and week out.
As opposed to last season, this season has been a joyride in the Premier League. Still early days, but right now 4 teams are contending for the title, whereas 5 are fighting for the Champions League spot. Will there be anymore topsy turvey events over the course of season remains to be seen.
Ali Shaan Haider
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