Both Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola are used to making history, and in this respect the new Premier League season is unlikely to bring anything new.
What is unusual, however, is that Mourinho or Guardiola (or potentially both) will make history for the wrong reasons this season, as these two giants look to establish their clubs at the pinnacle of the English game.
Here, we will ask which manager is likely to achieve his objectives in the months ahead, and who will endure another blow to their hard-earned reputation for excellence?
Addressing the second season syndrome for Mourinho and Guardiola
In simple terms, the second season has become something of a calling card for both Mourinho and Guardiola during their careers. A quick glance at their respective records confirms this, with both having won a domestic title during the second season of every managerial position that they have held.
In Guardiola’s case, the second second triumph has usually seen his team retain their title, with last year being the first in which the Spaniard failed to win a domestic league during his debut season in charge of a club. In contrast, Mourinho’s triumphs have occasionally followed seasons of transition, particularly during his second stint at Chelsea and his tenure as Real Madrid manager.
The latter success was arguably the most impressive of all, as his side romped to the La Liga title in 2012 and toppled a Guardiola-inspired Barcelona side that many deemed unbeatable.
This reveals a great deal about the demands that each manager puts on their players, of course, while also showcasing the tactical flexibility, discipline and loyalty that they require from their charges. As such, it can often take some time for players to buy into their methodologies and playing philosophies, while the managers will also utilise one or two transfer windows to refine their squads.
Both managers have certainly been busy this summer, having spent well in excess of £300 million between them in the pursuit of domestic and European honours.
The challenges facing Mourinho and Guardiola
Interestingly, the respective transfer activity of both clubs offers an intriguing insight into how both Mourinho and Guardiola see the game, with the former adopting a pragmatic approach to sourcing talent and the latter increasingly keen on identifying new ways to embellish and add value to his squad.
So, while Mourinho was busy signing tried and trusted performers with innate knowledge of the Premier League, Guardiola was reported by Goal as saying that he signed new goalkeeper Ederson due in part to his “quality in the goal kicks” and “ability to put the ball in the other box.”
While there is more logic to Mourinho’s approach, history tells us that Guardiola’s eye for the unusual and attention to detail is key to his success. In truth, however, this season’s battle for glory and history will mostly come down to more simple measures, such as the ability of each manager to harness the individual talent at their disposal and correct the obvious faults that were evident last season.
For United, this means getting the very best from Lukaku and his fellow forwards, while being more ruthless in front of goal and turning potential draws into comfortable wins. For City, the challenge is to create a more cohesive and focused defensive unit, while bedding in new signings and helping Ederson to acclimatise to the Premier League.
If either side fails in these objectives, they will unable to mount a successful title challenge in an increasingly competitive top flight.
Will Mourinho, Guardiola or both fall short this season?
It is the competitive nature of the Premier League that could ultimately undermine both managers’ attempts this season, with Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and defending champions Chelsea also in the title mix-up and capable of defying Mourinho’s and Guardiola’s tilt at history.
Far from just being there to be made, however, history can provide us with a genuine insight into the future and it would certainly come as no surprise if either Manchester United or Manchester City lifted the Premier League title in May.
Mourinho arguably has a competitive edge over his rival, not least because he has won titles after a season of transition and knows what it takes to create a winning Premier League outfit. In the rough and tumble of Premier League action, this could well make the difference and enable Mourinho to continue his most impressive of records.
Manchester City close in on title after brushing aside feeble Stoke City
Manchester City have one hand on the Premier League title after victory on Monday night.
So that answers that question then – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team can handle a dark, cold and wet mid-week fixture against Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium.
Not that the result of this game was ever in doubt.
Manchester City are undoubtedly one of the best club sides in the world at this present moment in time and arrived in ‘The Potteries’ 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
It was little surprise to see them nonchalantly brush aside Stoke on Monday evening courtesy of two goals from David Silva and, in the process, increase their lead over second-placed Manchester United to 16 points.
City now require just three more wins to confirm the title and are on course to break the 100-point mark.
Guardiola’s side were dominant at the Bet365 Stadium and continued to produce the breath-taking football that has characterised their season. It is the perfect mixture of pace, precision and technique and Stoke quite simply did not possess the quality, confidence or character to muster a challenge.
This was procession more than it was a contest and Manchester City were not required to get out of first gear.
A trip to ‘The Potteries’ used to spark fear into the hearts of opposing players – facing a Stoke team that was characterised by discipline, hard-work and an up-and-at-‘em approach that was backed by a passionate home crowd – but on Monday night all of the above were lacking. The players were lethargic on the pitch and the home supporters were apathetic in the stands.
Paul Lambert and his side appeared content to lose the game as long as the scoreline was kept respectable and it was clear from the first whistle that the Potters were in damage limitation mode.
Stoke failed to muster a shot on target in the entire game and there was no purpose, urgency or direction to their play. They offered little defensively either. There was no attempt to press the visitors or ruffle their feathers, demonstrated by the fact that only Joe Allen picked up a yellow card, and the sight of Manchester City stroking the ball around unopposed at walking pace will have been a demoralising sight for the locals.
Yes, you have to acknowledge that Manchester City are good, very good in fact, but the way that the hosts simply rolled over without a fight was indicative of a campaign that will possibly result in their relegation.
Wigan Athletic, Burnley and Basel have all demonstrated since Christmas that Guardiola’s side are far from invincible, yet the Potters opted to wave the white flag from the onset.
Lambert certainly has a task on his hands at the Bet365 Stadium if he is to guide the club to safety. A predictable loss to the champions-elect will not define their future, but the upcoming home fixture against Everton on Saturday certainly will. Stoke supporters can only hope that their team shows more character, fight and direction at the weekend than they did on Monday.
For Manchester City, the Pep Guardiola football revolution continues to roll on. The focus now for City will be to wrap up the Premier League title as soon as possible so that additional emphasis can be placed on progressing to the latter stages of the Champions League.
Beyond this season, the future continues to look bright.
Guardiola’s squad consist primarily of young starlets or players that are in their mid-late twenties and are at or just entering, the peak of their powers.
Raheem Sterling (23), Leroy Sane (22), Bernardo Silva (23), Gabriel Jesus (20), John Stones (23) and Ederson (24) are all under the age of 24 whilst Kevin De Bruyne (26), Kyle Walker (27) and Sergio Aguero (29) have yet to hit their thirties.
The Premier League must now face up to the prospect that the current crop of Manchester City players, under the guidance of one of the best coaches of the modern era, have the potential to dominate the domestic scene for the foreseeable future.
If the runaway train is to be stopped, teams will have to demonstrate a much more positive attitude and a desire to compete than that shown in the performance by Paul Lambert and his players on Monday evening.
Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Three talking points from the Etihad
Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea for the second time this season as they continue their march to the Premier League title. The contest was far from entertaining, as the visitors showed no interest in playing football and instead to soak in pressure.
Pep Guardiola’s team didn’t have to get out of second gear and it was a more comfortable victory than they would have been expecting. The Citizens are now 18 points clear at the top of the table and remain on target for 100 points, which would be a superb achievement.
Meanwhile, Chelsea sit outside of the Champions League places and are now five points behind Tottenham in fourth position. They will need a near perfect end to the season if they are to avoid missing out on qualification for next season’s competition. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium…
David Silva showed his class
The 32-year-old has been at Manchester City for the majority of their journey from Premier League also-rans to elite super club and he remains a crucial player for them under Pep Guardiola.
If he had been in the team for the entire campaign, he would be running Kevin de Bruyne close for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is a classy operator who seems to get better with age.
He got the important assist for the winning goal with a superb piece of play and that is becoming par for the course for the Spanish international. Silva completed 95% of his passes and made three key passes during the contest. Meanwhile, he was very good out of possession as he made three ball recoveries.
It has been incredible to watch Pep Guardiola get all of his attacking talent on the pitch at one time, but the improvement of both Silva and De Bruyne off the ball has helped achieve that.
They are now complete midfielders and capable of thriving in both halves of the pitch. The midfielder is a club legend and supporters will be hoping that he has a few years left in him.
Antonio Conte continues to make puzzling decisions
Last season, the Italian was lauded every week as his side won the league title comfortably, but he has failed to follow it up with a good second campaign. There have been a lot of problems for Chelsea this season including recruitment, tactics and player performance.
They have been reliant on Eden Hazard and as the campaign has progressed, the team have lost their intensity, which suggests they no longer believe in Conte.
Their 3-4-2-1 formation was revolutionary, but they have moved away from it frequently this season and haven’t been able to settle on a first eleven. That was one of Chelsea’s strengths last season. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been sidelined, while Alvaro Morata has failed to replace Diego Costa sufficiently.
On Sunday, Conte chose to field Hazard as a lone frontman, but he struggled to impact the game in that role. He is best when having space in front of him to run into and he didn’t have that against Manchester City.
The Belgian international was isolated and touched the ball only 31 times. It was a tactical error and one that blunted Chelsea’s attack before a ball was kicked.
Ilkay Gundogan is flourishing in the middle of the park for Manchester City
The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has had his problems since arriving in the Premier League.
He has suffered a few injuries and that has seen him struggle to secure a regular starting berth, but he has featured prominently in recent weeks and is perfect for the system. Gundogen recycles possession effectively and that is required, especially when the opposition team sits deep.
Gundogen touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch with 181 touches and was very good at distributing the ball quickly. He finished the match with a 96% pass success rate, which shows his role.
He wasn’t taking any risks and he didn’t have to. City have a lot of attacking talent and the German international isn’t required to try risky passes to influence the game.
Although Chelsea didn’t get on the ball much, Gundogen broke up the play when required with four ball recoveries. Fernandinho’s absence could allow the 27-year-old to secure the place on a permanent basis and he does offer more in the role, especially in possession. It was a strong performance and one of the standouts in a dull affair.
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from the Emirates
Jake Jackman brings us three talking points from the Emirates Stadium as a Leroy Sane masterclass saw Manchester City overcome Arsenal for the second time this week.
Manchester City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Arsenal for the second time in less than a week, further underlining the problems at the Emirates Stadium.
These performances are becoming too common for the Gunners that they can no longer be seen as embarrassing. They are expected in matches against the top six. Pep Guardiola’s team were far superior in every department and excellent value for the three points.
There are now 30 points separating Arsenal from Manchester City in the league table. To put that into context, the Gunners are close to the relegation zone than they are the title. For a team that has ambitions to challenge for major honours, that is a worrying statistic.
Here are three talking points from the Emirates Stadium…
Arsene Wenger needs to leave
This has been a raging debate within the Arsenal fan-base for a number of seasons. He had more supporters than haters when he was regularly leading the Gunners to top-four finishes, but they are now ten points below the Champions League places. It is difficult to see them qualifying for the competition and their failure is no longer a surprise.
Arsenal have been regressing as a club since their last league title win in 2004 and they are now the 6th best club in the country. They are regularly outperformed by local rivals Tottenham and until Arsene Wenger leaves, their decline will only continue. He has been left behind by the game and he no longer commands respect in the dressing room.
It is easy to target the lack of fight and desire in the squad, but they are a problem. Players were once again going through the motions after the third Manchester City goal and showed no interest in trying to get back into the game.
If there isn’t a managerial change this summer, it will be another huge mistake by the board.
Leroy Sane deserves to be talked about as one of the best in the league
The young German winger has been taken on as a project by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. The Spanish manager was quick to bring Sane to the club and clearly sees huge potential in him. He was initially used in a squad role but has since emerged as a key first team player and this could have been his coming of age performance.
The 22-year-old was unplayable at times when running with the ball and his dynamism is a joy to watch. He completed six dribbles during the match.
For the first goal, he beat a couple of Arsenal defenders before playing the ball to Bernardo Silva to finish the move. It wasn’t a straightforward finish, but the goal was down to the individual flair of Sane.
After impressing with his dribbling ability, Sane scored a well-earned goal to put the result beyond doubt. It won’t be remembered as a classic, but it was good movement to get into the goal-scoring position.
Guardiola will be pleased with the winger’s distribution considering he only misplaced two of 35 total passes. If he can consistently perform to this level, he will be talked about as one of the best players in the Premier League.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t added anything to this Arsenal team
It is early days and it may be too soon to be overly critical of Aubameyang, but he has been totally anonymous in the majority of his matches in a Gunners’ shirt.
The 28-year-old is renowned for having a lot of pace and that was his most feared attribute during his time at Borussia Dortmund. However, at Arsenal, he looks uninterested and isn’t making the runs in behind that made him dangerous in the Bundesliga.
His pass success rate shows how he is struggling to adapt to the Premier League. Aubameyang completed only 55% of his passes. In addition to this, he has failed to win a single aerial duel and isn’t concerned about working hard for the team defensively. He is a passenger in matches and hasn’t offered an upgrade on Alexandre Lacazette.
Aubameyang’s short career at the Emirates Stadium was symbolised best by his penalty miss. It was encouraging that he had the confidence to take the responsibility, but his kick was tame and he made it easy for Ederson. Given his price-tag and reputation, he needs to be offering a lot more to the Arsenal attack.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Sevilla triumph will have Everton fans regretting Steven N’Zonzi failure
Ryan Sessegnon should look at Tottenham pair and make switch
Tottenham Hotspur2 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool2 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season
English Premier League2 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Chelsea19 hours ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?