Jose Mourinho, the best manager in world football at the moment, will do everything to ensure Chelsea successfully defend their Premier League title
Jose Mourinho is in retrograde mode. If the tirade against Montserrat Seara, Rafa Benitez’s wife, had been gross, throwing the Community Shield runner-up medal into the crowd was unbecoming of a Chelsea manager. Heat is on and the Portuguese is firing the first salvo. Seara barely makes public appearances apart from accompanying her husband to functions and parties, and odd football matches. After Benitez was appointed Real Madrid manager, she gave an interview to Spanish newspaper La Región and spoke about ‘tidying up’ the ‘mess’ of Mourinho’s stint at Santiago Bernabeu. The latter took offence and described Seara as ‘confused’, advising her to take care of her husband’s ‘diet’. Mourinho gives a damn to dignity.
He also hates to lose, which is the reason why he gave away his runner-up medal. “It’s the medal for the loser,” Mourinho said. The best manager in world football at the moment will do everything to ensure the Blues successfully defend their Premier League title.
Chelsea had won the league last term with three games to spare and they start as overwhelming favourites this time.
In fact, the defending champions are so far ahead of their rivals that complacency could become their only bugbear.
Mourinho has been relatively quiet in the transfer market, but his squad needs very little surgery. Chelsea have quality everywhere and a super player in Eden Hazard. The decision to sign Radamel Falcao as Diego Costa’s partner upfront is a little surprising. The Colombian centre-forward looked a complete misfit in English football during his loan spell at Manchester United last season. Mourinho’s challenge would be to make the dead man walk. His managerial genius can do that. Once again, the Premier League title is Chelsea’s to lose but they would like to progress further in the Champions League. They had punched below their weight last season, losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16. Roman Abramovich won’t tolerate a repeat.
Not many moons ago, Mourinho had branded Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure”. It was another case of hitting an opponent below the belt, but the fact of the matter is that Arsenal haven’t won the league since 2004. Of late, they’ve become a Cup team. Time for Wenger to mount a title challenge. He has the team and now a top-class goalkeeper in Petr Cech. The Czech keeper is a very big addition and will offer an extra layer of stability. But to upstage Chelsea, Arsenal have to be ruthless like Chelsea. Wenger has broken the Mourinho hoodoo with the Community Shield victory. It was his first win over his bête noire in 14 attempts. But Premier League would be played at a different intensity. Arsenal have to show steel to win the title. Wenger must change his approach and the mindset. Fans are suffering. Unlike their manager, they don’t believe that finishing top four, itself, is a trophy.
Up north, Manchester City once again hold an edge over their more celebrated neighbours. Manuel Pellegrini rightly hasn’t gone for a full squad overhaul after finishing second last term. Bringing Raheem Sterling for £49 million from Liverpool, however, borders on ‘kamikaze’ spending. Sterling, still a kid at 20 years of age, is a prisoner of poor advice from his agent. He might find the record price tag a little too heavy to bear. City will suffer if the Aguero-Sterling axis doesn’t work well.
Louis van Gaal has already spent £230 million in 12 months. Bastian Schweinsteiger (if he’s not walking limp), Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay are good additions, but without a world-class centre-half and a striker (Wayne Rooney is past his prime), Van Gaal’s team still lacks balance. They don’t have a Hazard-like creative force either, and if David De Gea eventually leaves for Real Madrid, United would be without a top goalkeeper as well, Sergio Romero’s inclusion notwithstanding. The 20-time Premier League champions are in pursuit of a galactico and ready to fork out a staggering £100 million for Gareth Bale. The biggest brand in world football, indeed, needs a game-changer to earn the bragging rights again. They’re expected to be busy in the transfer market till the deadline day. After that they will have no excuse. United had finished 17 points adrift of Chelsea last term, but Van Gaal had been rebuilding the side and deserved the leeway. It’s his team now and anything short of a title challenge would be considered a failure.
It’s very unfortunate that a football institution like Liverpool have lost ambition. Luis Suarez last season, Sterling this year; the five-time European champions have become a selling club. Steven Gerrard has left to ply his trade in Major League Soccer, so Liverpool must find a new leader on and off the pitch. Brendan Rodgers have brought in Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke to shore up the attack, but the Merseysiders have to punch above their weight to earn a top four finish. All along, Rodgers would be walking a tightrope.
Tottenham Hotspur have a very good manager in Mauricio Pochettino, but at White Hart Lane, it’s always a case of not fulfilling the potential. Chairman Daniel Levy has told the fans that reaching the Champions League remains his holy grail and the team can get there if they get rid of inconsistency. Harry Kane’s form is going to be hugely important. The striker was the find of the last season with 31 goals across tournaments. He needs to avoid second season blues.
Football is back and it’s time to surrender to the spirit…