Can the Premier League really catch Manchester?
There may be some in denial, such has the rise of Manchester City been a shock to the Premier League in recent years, but the two Manchester clubs have put some distance between themselves and any other potential title contenders.
In the Premier League era Manchester United have been unrivalled in terms of success. In the 90’s they used to contest with Arsenal for titles. In the 00’s Chelsea decided to join the party, but now the blue half of Manchester has consolidated its place as the main competition.
The ease of the 2-0 victory at the Etihad for Man City against Chelsea on the weekend emanated the difference in quality between them and their 3 London rival pretenders. Man United on the other hand are so far beyond the competition this season that mentioning any other game than the Manchester derby as a title match would be dismissed as lunacy. Robin Van Persie has had a devastating effect. It is clear those at Old Trafford have once again set the standard to chase.
Man City have been weak compared to their showing last season and it does not take a genius to work out that Mancini will invest heavily in the summer to plug the gap between his side and Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. So can any outfit bridge the gulf in class any time soon?
The answer to this lies in the next transfer window. If Wenger still truly believes he has enough to reach the top two this season, maybe he finally has gone mad. The reason why the Manchester clubs have set the precedent in recent years is the ability to call upon several match winners not just one. It is without doubt that Gareth Bale can single handedly win games at the moment but this is not enough. Tottenham may have an outstanding starting XI when all are fit but would you ever expect to see Gylfi Sigurdsson on the bench for Man United. I suspect not.
All clubs are handicapped in their pursuit of the very pinnacle of the Premier League by the financial wealth available to the clubs in Manchester. This applies to all but Chelsea. If we are being realistic the prudence of the chairman in North London will hold back Tottenham and Arsenal from having a real go at winning the title in the near future. If they go for broke then they may just have a chance of a top two finish. The hopes of a wide open Premier League hinge upon the actions of those in charge at Stamford Bridge this summer.
The most important movement of all could be regarding the managerial situation at the Blues. It would take a miracle for Rafael Benitez to remain at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of this season. Abramovich is as ruthless as they come and will be sure to be looking to find a winner. Would he dare go back and try and lure Mourinho to Stamford Bridge once more? I would not put it past him.
The squad the Blues possess has several with star quality in the shape of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar. They remain dormant whilst they do not have the potent striker leading the line who can drag defenders from side to side to open up the critical space for these playmakers to work their magic. It is interesting considering the desperation from the top sides in Europe to sign Hazard how he has failed to deliver the star quality that was widely expected, despite a bright start. This could all change very quickly. It finally takes a brave manager too to dispose Fernando Torres to the waste disposal pile where he belongs and not give him even more chances to succeed which he will continue to spurn away. If a confident and truly world class striker came in at Chelsea it could really add a new intensity to the Premier League which would result in there being far greater competition at the top.
In terms of scouting too the best players simply do not remain a secret anymore, like they did when Wenger used to plot success. If Chelsea can capture a Cavani or Falcao it could make all the difference to what is a squad which already has the foundations for success laid down. Even Roberto Mancini has conceded one transfer in the form of the imperious Van Persie has made the impact required for the Red Devils this season.
If the pattern of Manchester dominance is to change anytime soon and finally unnerve the current top two I suspect the lead character in the latest chapter of the Premier League is Roman Abramovich. The choices he makes this next transfer window will pivotal to the short term future of English future. Over to you now Roman.