The Premier League 2017/18 season is well underway with 5 game weeks completed, giving us some shocking results and some big scoring games. Chelsea made a nightmare start to title defense but got back on track. Arsenal and Liverpool have not got off to a flying start that was expected after the arrival of big names, with Liverpool sitting on 8th in the table and Arsenal on 12th. Huddersfield have made an immediate impact by bagging 8 points in 5 matches and are on 6th on the table. Tottenham have been experiencing Wembley curse and are struggling as compared with last year with 8 points off 5 games. But analysis reveals why Premier League 2017/18 trophy to Manchester is a possibility.
The two clubs that stand out as the strongest candidates to take home the coveted trophy are Manchester United and Manchester City. These are the only 2 clubs that have been unbeaten in the league so far.
After game week 5, the two Manchester clubs have identical stats with equal points and equal goal difference. But there is much more to the story that one of the Manchester clubs will beat rivals to the Premier League trophy, than just the table above. These two clubs stand out as the strongest candidates not just because of the table or standings after game week 5, but because of what history says about the two managers.
Jose Mourinho: The king of second season
Jose Mourinho has won the league trophy during the second season of every top flight club he has managed starting with Porto. Many have given him the name “king of second season” owing to this record.
Jose Mourinho’s independent top flight success started at Porto and there has been no looking back since then. He has won every major trophy there is, including the Champions League which he won twice. During the second season at Porto, in 2003-04, he won 25 games out of 34 with a win percent of 73.53%. The Portuguese won the Primeira Liga & Champions League that season.
Chelsea under new owner Roman Abramovich signed Jose Mourinho to build the club and this move brought their first Premier league trophy in 50 years. During the second season under Mourinho, Chelsea won 29 games of the 38 played with a win percent of 76.32%. Chelsea finished the season with a staggering 91 points, 8 more than second placed Manchester United.
His biggest triumph came at Inter Milan where he won the treble in the second season. In the second season, Inter Milan won 24 of 38 games in Serie A and lifted the league trophy despite a win percent of 63.16% and 82 points. During his second season at Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid won the league with 100 points, 9 more than second placed Barcelona. Many records were broken during this season including most points earned in La Liga by a team (100) and most goals scored by a team (121). Real Madrid were also able to break the curse of the Champions League round of 16 and eventually become a regular semi-finalist. All this was down to Mourinho’s influence and winning mentality.
During the second season of the second spell at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea absolutely dominated the Premier League with 26 wins and 87 points, 8 points more than Manchester City at second.
One of the major reasons for Mourinho doing incredibly well in second season has been due to the fact that he has utilises the first season to assess the weaknesses of his own teams and immediately address it during the summer. The team that he referred to as a “small pony” quickly became giant league winning squad in 2014-15. The addition to the squad during the summer before the second season has always been swift by Mourinho camp.
During this season’s transfer window, the Portuguese also admitted to have given Ed Woodward a list of players for specific positions as far back as April. This shows the level of swift pragmatism that he works with. While most clubs were frantic to close final deals during the transfer day deadline, Old Trafford was quiet and content with what was achieved during the window. Manchester United fans would be hoping that the same trend of second season success is continued by their manager at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola: Hungry to crack the Premier League
Unlike Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola played football at the highest level in La Liga. He was a midfielder at Barcelona when Mourinho was an assistant coach at Camp Nou. Guardiola made the natural transition from a player to a manager by first coaching Barcelona’s B team and eventually being appointed as the club manager. Guardiola, often called Cyuff’s spiritual child, is credited for perfecting the tiki-taka system during his tenure at FC Barcelona. Though he has managed only top clubs, Pep Guardiola has become one of the most successful coaches in modern football.
At Barcelona, Pep Guardiola won La Liga 3 out of the 4 seasons he was there. In the 2008-09 season, Barcelona had a win percent of 71.05%, winning 27 games. This increased to 81.58% the following season with 31 wins from 38 games. In the 2010-11 season, the win percentage was 78.95% with 30 wins from 38 games. This was the same season that Mourinho joined Real Madrid. The following season, Barcelona lost the La Liga to Real Madrid under Mourinho’s second season but yet had an impressive 28 wins with a win percent of 73.69%. Barring his debut season at Barcelona as a first team manager, Guardiola finished above 90 points in all other seasons.
Guardiola’s impressive managerial form continued in Bayern Munich. He won the Bundesliga 3 seasons in a row in Germany and completely dominated the German league. The first season (2013-14) saw Bayern Munich under Guardiola finish top with 90 points, a massive 19 points ahead of second placed Dortmund. In the following season (2014-15), Guardiola’s Bayern finished top with 79 points and 25 wins. In the final Guardiola season (2015-16), Bayern Munich finished top again with 88 points and 28 wins.
Guardiola’s first season at Manchester City was far from perfect. Last season was his most challenging as a manager of a football club. He won 23 games and lost 6 which is his worst record so far in the managerial campaign. He finished 3rd with 78 points (15 points behind champions Chelsea), which is also his worst ever record. Last season was the first time Pep Guardiola finished outside the top 2 in a league table as a manager.
Many believe that Pep Guardiola has not been tested as manager and that his stints in La Liga and Bundesliga have been far too easy. At Barcelona, he had arguably the strongest team in football history at his disposal. At Bayern Munich, he inherited a Champions League winning squad from Jupp Heynckes. Considered by many as the most challenging league in the world, Premier League has long been mooted as the place where the ability of a manager is truly tested. It is here, that Pep Guardiola will have to prove himself and answer any questions raised on his credibility as a manager.
Manchester City spent €213 million on new players in the 2016/17 season. This summer transfer window saw City splashing the cash again with £219.87 million spent on new players. Manchester City have spent more than £408 million on new players under Pep Guardiola so far. His worst track record as a manager along with millions spent on new players, has added extra pressure on Pep Guardiola to deliver the results at his City project. While this is a challenge, it is an opportunity in disguise for Guardiola. Manchester City is the right platform for Pep Guardiola to silence the critics by winning the trophy in the most competitive league.
Chelsea do pose a threat to both the Manchester clubs but the threat seems rather diminished from last season with the departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United. Conte has admitted that the new players will need time to adjust to the Premier League. The disciplinary record of Chelsea and squad depth is also a cause of concern for the West London outfit. Tottenham will need to adjust to their new home at Wembley but their Wembley record is not helping in any way and Liverpool’s inconsistent form puts a question mark on their title hopes. This puts both the Manchester clubs ahead of their London rivals in the title race.
On one hand, there is Jose Mourinho, the charismatic lord of dark arts who has established himself as the king of second season at every club he has been with. With just one aim in mind, to win trophies, he is engineering a return of the glory days similar to that of Sir Alex Ferguson by helping Manchester United get out of the dark abyss they have been in since 2013. On the other hand, there is the master tactician in the form of Pep Gaurdiola who has kept the spirit of Johan Cruyff alive through him by adhering to his principles. Jose Mourinho would want to keep his record intact and add more silverware to his trophy cabinet and Pep Guardiola would like to satiate his hunger to conquer England and prove the critics that he is on the same pedestal as the greats.
Both the managers, legends in their own sense, will go head to head for the coveted trophy. They will leave no stone unturned to make sure that the silverware comes home to them. While the Premier League may go down to the wire, there is a high probability that the league trophy will end up in the North-West.