GAME OF GAFFERS
With several changes in the managerial boots across clubs, EPL 2018-19 has witnessed an exciting clash of Gaffers as their wisdom has been put to tough test
It does not take leaps of imagination to picture English Premier League's mighty magnetism in the world of football. Over the years, England's top-flight has mustered an imposing reputation worldwide to be heralded as one of the kicky, most sought after leagues in the business that not only exudes class but also comes packed with the embellishment of riches and glamour both on and off the field. The league has lured many distinguished personalities of the game in players and managers along with the millions of spectators only testifying the telltale signs of a world-class, exhilarating contest.
There's no denying the fact that change is inevitable, the only constant – the Premier League is no exception. The EPL, like every other league since its inception, has been subject to many changes ranging from rudiments of the game to the modern day possibility of VAR installation. Likewise, the past five seasons have witnessed numerous managerial changes and there were a record 15 such changes at the helm of the various clubs last season.
Interestingly, this is the first time in history of English football that three big-wigs of the top-flight have scaled an unbeaten run in the first 12 matches of their campaign, namely Manchester city, Liverpool and Chelsea. Three other teams in Europe's big leagues are also unbeaten – Juventus, Dortmund and PSG
Here are a few picks of some of the predominant transitions that teams in the EPL have undergone with their new managers.
Arsenal and Unai Emery
Having tasted UEFA Europa League's success thrice with Sevilla, Emery took control of the north London side on the back of winning Ligue 1 with French giants PSG. Filling in the void left by club's legendary manager Arsene Wenger was always going to be a daunting task for the Spaniard, more so in light of a tricky start to the fixtures – beginning with a 2-0 loss at the hands of compatriot Guardiola's Manchester City and then an agonising 3-2 defeat at Chelsea.
However, from there on, his side went on to register nine consecutive victories with seven of them coming in the league, enabling him to establish an immediate liking among fans as the song "we've got our Arsenal back" wafted in the air during their 5-1 demolition of Fulham. Under his regime, dormant players like Ozil, Lacazette and Xhaka have found their mojo and his new signing Lucas Torreira has been the standout performer in the middle of the park – a player Arsenal have truly missed in the past few seasons. However, the Gunners occupy the 5th spot on the table.
Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri
The Italian was roped in to replace Antonio Conte at the helm of the club. Steering the Blues to a 12-match unbeaten streak, the newcomer is well on his way so far to become the fans' favourite due to his attacking style of play, featuring short and quick passes. The team has reaped benefits from Sarri as they sit 3rd in the table and, moreover, unlike Conte's restrictive playing style he allows the likes of Hazard, Pedro and Willian full freedom up the pitch. He has even redeemed David Luiz by utilising the Brazilian's passing ability well to launch swift attacks from the back.
Nicknamed 'Sarri-ball', the former Napoli boss is relishing a great season. His side's draw with Everton last weekend saw him etching his name in the history books as his run of dozen matches without losing a game overtook Frank Clark's record of an unbeaten streak of 11 matches, set with Nottingham Forest in the 1994-95 campaign. Ever since Clark's feat, more than 190 mangers have tried but failed to beat the mark. Chelsea is now undefeated in their opening top-flight fixtures only for the second time, first replicating it in the 2014-15 season when they went on to win the title.
Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp
Following his laudable seven-year stay with Borussia Dortmund wherein he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and even finished as runners-up in the 2013 Champions League final losing out to arch-rivals Bayern Munich, the German then moved on to EPL, replacing Brendan Rodgers as head coach in October 2015. Three years on, it is safe to say that the Merseyside club has been transformed under him, especially in light of the fact that they ended up as runners-up domestically and in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid.
However, the major change for the Reds and its manager has been the freshness and liveliness of the young talent available at his disposal, such as Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez. The new signings in Shaqiri and Naby Keita have provided a much-required dynamism in the midfield.
Built on fast-paced counter attacking football and relentless high-intensity marking also known as 'Gegenpressing' –implemented to suffocate opponents and then capitalise on it – has led many to admire his style. Liverpool have 30 points from 12 games, which is also their combined best streak along with the 2002-03 season. They are riding hot on Man City's heels and are placed second with only two points separating them.
Manchester United and José Mourinho
In his first season at the club, he won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the UEFA Europa League. But, the Portuguese and his Red Devils have endured a miserable season so far as they continue to languish outside the top four places and the knife was further twisted when their 'noisy neighbours' outclassed them 3-1 last weekend.
In the opening 12 league fixtures, a deflated and seemingly low on confidence United has won six, drawn two and lost four. They have also conceded 21 goals and failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 of those games. Mourinho's men have somehow managed to showcase flashes of brilliance, grit and a 'never say die' attitude in some matches – almost winning against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and then defeating Juventus in Turin. Interestingly, Mourinho has never gone past the third season at a club but it would be fair to say that the performance of his team in November and December will cement whether he'll be able to see out the third season taking into consideration the forgettable set of form he and his players have had until now. The former Chelsea and Madrid manager has experimented with the line-up in almost every game, shuffling the defense line between Lindelof, Jones, Bailly and even Herrara. Similarly, up front, the likes of Sanchez, Martial, Rashford have dipped in form and been out of the pecking order – there just hasn't been any consistency in the selection process. Under pressure, Mourinho will have to scoop out something extraordinary to save the blushes of fans and to avoid the looming boot of board members.
Manchester City and Pep Guardiola
The 'blue moon' seems to be on the rise yet again – when his side became the first ever to hit 100 points in a Premier League season and were crowned champions with an intimidating record 19-point margin. This season, except the acquisition of Riyad Mahrez, nothing much has altered in the Spaniard's young squad and they only find themselves slipping deeper into his methods. The Citizens, under his regime, has played a total of 88 matches, carving out 65 wins while drawing 15 and conceding only eight losses. In the process, they have netted a whopping 222 goals in the process. Along with Liverpool and Chelsea, City also remains undefeated in the league and looks well on its way to retain the title with a far superior goal difference.