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Up until Sir Alex Ferguson retired, we had been accustomed to seeing Manchester United winning title after title in the Premier League era. Chelsea were rivals, Arsenal were rivals, but the team on the throne was mostly Manchester United. If you go back in history, before United’s era of dominance there was Liverpool.
Liverpool rival Manchester United in their overall trophy haul. Their era of dominance was quite impressive as well – winning or finishing the league as runners up for a span of nearly two decades. They also won four European Cups in that time, and were England’s representatives on the world stage before Manchester United took over that mantle under Ferguson.
This leaves us with a question – which of England’s current teams will be the next dominant force? Liverpool have been resurgent in recent years – almost winning the league twice, and have a squad that looks to be challenging for the title this year. Manchester United have the financial might, which they have been using in order to try to get back on their perch. Currently, however, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal are also contenders for the title. Which of these teams have the capability in the long run to dominate the domestic game?
Chelsea briefly had that look in Jose Mourinho’s first stint as manager, but things fell apart after his dubious departure from the club after winning back-to-back titles. Could Conte bring that steel back into Chelsea’s DNA? Manchester City have won the title twice in recent seasons, but can’t keep a manager long enough. Is Pep’s philosophy a long term solution for City? Arsenal haven’t won the title in over 10 years, but still have a history of three league crowns under Wenger – one of the few long-serving managers left in the game.
There are no periods for patient rebuilding anymore as evident with the constant sacking of managers. Chairmen are now results oriented and will buy to win no matter what the cost. We can see that in other leagues where there is a dominant force. In Germany, Bayern Munich. In Spain, either Real Madrid or Barcelona (with Atletico Madrid a close third). In Italy, Juventus, in France, PSG. Who is this team in England? This mantle is up for grabs. Will any one team develop into a dominant force in the foreseeable future?
Here are a few ideas:
Bernie: Manchester United
Many see Pep Guardiola as the savior of football but I think the man primed to dominate English football is the red devil of Manchester, Jose Mourinho. Both teams had good starts to the season then suffered stretches of poor form, though United went into crisis mode right after losing at home to the Citizens. The key difference is that in United’s poor run they were the better team in almost all the games they played. Arsenal, Stoke, Burnley and West Ham all undeservedly claimed points against United. Manchester City however, have been awful in their run of poor form. The six point gap between the teams is not reflective of their performances this season.
Jose Mourinho understands the Premier League while Pep Guardiola may take another season or two to really get to grips with it. Just take a look at their respective signings. Bailly, Pogba, Zlatan and Mkhitaryan are playing wonderful football and the team is clicking. Guardiola’s signings have been a mixed bag. Stones and Bravo have been woeful and Nolito is underwhelming. Gundogan has shown class when fit. Both managers have huge jobs ahead of them and will likely do battle for Premiership supremacy for years to come. So far Pep has gotten the results while performing poorly and Mourinho has gotten the performances while his team struggled to get the results. Now we’re starting to see the real Man United and the future is bright. Without wholesale upheaval at the Etihad it’ll be hard to see Pep’s side dominate.
Alex: Manchester City
Manchester City’s first five or so games of this season were a glimpse of the future. It was perhaps a bit of beginner’s luck as the players took to Pep’s new system immediately and with staggering efficiency. They have since dropped off and gone through some teething problems which is normal, but what we saw in those early victories was a blueprint for future success. A swaggering, fluid and ruthless passing style that put teams to the sword and then held them at bay by denying them the ball.
There is still work to be done on the squad. Fullbacks like Clichy, Kolarov, and Zabaleta make playing Pep-ball a little difficult – hence the club‘s desperate attempts to sign Hector Bellerin in the summer. You can be sure that Txiki will take action soon. Another quality central midfielder may also be required in Gundogan’s absence, but once the squad is more balanced I believe that City will be the strongest force to be reckoned with over the course of Guardiola’s reign.
In order to build a dynasty you have to have great young talent with enough veteran presence and a management willing to adjust to new times. This willingness to change without being rash is an extremely difficult line to walk. Ask any Arsenal fan and they will complain of a lack of change in philosophy. United, City and Chelsea all have great talent, but have been making quick changes for a few years now, whether in their coaching staff, or transfers.
In Klopp, Liverpool have one of the top managers in the world who is committed to the club for the foreseeable future. His ability to bring talent to the club and nurture it is key. The four eldest players in their starting lineup are Sturridge (27), Lovren (27), and Lallana (28), and Milner (30). Although Lallana has probably run enough for two lifetimes and Milner is closer to the downside of his career, these are players who are all still in their prime. Most of the rest of the squad is under 25, which means they still have room to grow. Players like Coutinho, Firmino, Mane, Clyne, Matip, Origi, and Can are only just starting to hit their stride. Considering the attacking verve this team has shown so far, the thought of these players getting any better should scare every team.