The curtain drops on a terribly taxing Premier League weekend. If the trailer has been anything to go by, we are in for a bit of a ride, in a league which Arsene Wenger aptly named, “The World Championship of Managers.” Not since the inception of the sport – a Victorian age attempt by the Great Empire to abstain the young Englishmen away from the handy art of masturbation had there been a league which had a league of such extraordinary gentlemen so worthy of a cerebral rub-off for the sapiosexual football fan. The iron-jawed Italian style of Antonio Conte, the arrhythmia-inducing football of Juergen Klopp, the bus-w*nker opportunism of Jose Mourinho, the Professor Xavier messiah-complex of Pep Guardiola, in a battle of wits against the continental class of Ronald Koeman (Everton), Walter Mazzarri (Watford), and Slaven Bilic (West Ham), the restlessness of Francesco Guidolin (Swansea City), Claude Puel (Southampton), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham Hotspur), and Aitor Karanka (Middlesbrough) – all for the prize of the Iron Throne of the wizened, Claudio Ranieri. And Arsene Wenger.
JD of The 4th Official had the front-row seat of the curtain raisers of the traditional Big Four, and critiques how each manager fared in their fixtures – and what they would bring to remedy so of the aching ailments of each of the heavy-hitters.
Fans’ Expected Result: Win for Chelsea
What Really Happened: Chelsea 2 – West Ham 1
There’s something about Antonio Conte. His squared jaw, eyes that carve up the soul and broad shoulders carry an aura of un*uckability. He’s precisely the disciplinarian those overgrown, spoilt brats over at Cobham need. Slaven Bilic’s giant-killers, West Ham were entertained at Stamford Bridge, and for a change, so were the home fans. The shoulders didn’t drop as West Ham found the equaliser to Hazard’s penalty strike, and Chelsea kept prodding until a goal from the unlikeliest of sources, Diego Costa, gave the Londoners a much-needed shot in the arm.
Mental resilience is the signature of Conte’s style along with the highest level of concentration – their win against Liverpool at pre-season and on the back of this game, it looks like it won’t take long to the clenched-teeth Italian to emboss his boss style.
Fans’ Expected Result: Win for Arsenal
What Really Happened: Arsenal 3 – Liverpool 4
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – The Goddamn Batman.
It was utterly unanimous, the boos that rang around the posh seats at The Emirates. The resentment was palpable. Arsenal Wenger has probably stayed in the job long enough to be deemed as the pantomime villain. The lines on his face looked saggier than before, and the tooth of time has done its work, in the words of the great Johan Cruijff, who was in 1996, timely or prematurely relieved of his duties at Barcelona for the general betterment of the football club.
It all started off well enough, as Arsenal had Liverpool back-peddling for the entirety of the first forty-four minutes. But that splice of 1 minute before the stroke of half-time is all it took for Coutinho to crush their collective spirit.
Wenger’s motivational qualities and a lack of Plan-B have again been thrown out for censure, as a resurgent Liverpool trounced them – with the scoreline flattering a keeled-over Arsenal. The confidence is waning, the patience is running on empty.
Manchester United FC
Fans’ Expected Result: Win for Manchester United
What Really Happened: Bournemouth 1 – Manchester United 3
An effective performance in a routine win, but not necessarily a good one. Sounds familiar? That’s the calling card of serial-winner, Jose Mourinho. One of the easier fixtures Manchester United would have this season, this display didn’t really raise too many eyebrows – as the big boys took the advantage of a Bournemouth error to take the lead, Juan Manuel Mata – one of the players who has his head on the chopping block – the beneficiary of an undercooked back-pass, and since, without much ado, dominated possession.
To Jose Mourinho credit, his new team did have a show of direct muscularity about it – an attribute that had since gone missing from the time of David Moyes and Van Gaal. Two quickfire goals from Wayne Rooney and Zlatan, first cancelled out Bournemouth equaliser, and then eased the second-most successful club in England, in front.
Fans’ Expected Result: Draw With Arsenal
What Really Happened: Arsenal 3 – Liverpool 4
Juergen Klopp is the cheery, hipster uncle who everyone would love to have. Saying that, however, he’s as likely to share a hug as he’s likely to dish out a proper bollocking. Liverpool’s second-half display at Arsenal further adds weight to the duality of Juergen Klopp’s nature. A fearsome motivator, not unlike Tony Conte, made his initially hapless bunch, drop bombs all over the Emirates. Unfortunate analogy aside, this quality of his may prove to be pivotal for the Jekyll and Hyde side of the Premier League.
Going down from a goal from Theo Walcott, Coutinho’s worldly lit the touchpaper, as further embolden after half-time saw them rallying with goals from Adam Lallana, a second from Phil and a rampaging run from Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s shakiness at the back made the competition seem closer than it was.