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Off You Pop

5 min read

Off You Pop

Welcome! As the famed, to me at least, Get In You Beauty blog makes its new cozy home at eterno, we just want to kick things off correctly. This will be a space where we rant about football (for ease, we will be referring to the most beautiful of games as football here), mainly of the English variety, in all of its wonderful forms. Said rants will include everything from kit designs to hella shite formation choices by overrated managers. What can I say, we do it all!

So, let's begin!

To kick on, it is imperative for you to know that the author of this post and every single post on this blog hails from Northern England. The area has shaped my thinking of football and my love of the sport. I am from other places and am a proud citizen of 3 countries, but for the purposes of this splendid little think tank, I am English and I am a Manchester United fan. Sorry. But also, not.

OKIE DOKIE, here we go.

We are in back stretch of the European leagues and things are hotting up big style. Funnily enough, the only major league without a proper title race is the Premier League! What happened there then??

Manchester City have sown up the title with a little less than half of the season left. They simply do not lose. Their biggest defect from last season, their defence, has been tightened up thanks to two significant factors. One, City and their limitless resources purchased Rúben Dias from Benfica. He is a central defender who is tall and robust. He's quick. He commands his area. He can read the game and he shows no fear. He is a leader. Something City have truly lacked at the back since the departure of Vincent Kompany. Dias is more of a dog and complements his partner perfectly. Which leads us to the second factor. John Stones! The resurrection of John Stones. Now listen, John and I are from the same town in England. I like that about him. I don't generally like how he has carried himself the past couple of seasons. It seems as though he dropped his concentration and let the limelight get to him. That now has changed. Drastically. Stones has usurped the formidable Aymeric Laporte and is now the designated colleague of Dias. Stones is more of a cat, as they say. He can play with the ball. He has a presence. He may not punch you in the face, but he's going to stop you from scoring. He's a clever player and together, Dias and Stones, have the right alchemy to not concede. Add that to the resurgence of Ilkay Gündogan (having the best season of his career), the genuine emergence of Phil Foden as an attacking threat from either flank, one of the best players in the world in Kevin de Bruyne, and Raheem Sterling still scoring goals in the absence of Sergio Agüero, and you have the most dangerous team in the world. Yes, they are Champions League favorites, too.

Now, City have prospered and excelled, but the rest have seemingly imploded. The constant dark shadow of COVID means that a team with obscene depth like City will not be flustered. Take a look at the sides without that elite depth -- Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal -- and it's easy to see why this title race is nonexistent. Those aren't excuses, that just sheds light on why you may be wondering how City have so easily surpassed all of their rivals. The Premier League is operating, unlike the rest of Europe, with 3 substitutes. Fitness levels are down, thanks to the virus and limited time between matches, and injuries have been increased. Again, not excuses, but definitive aspects of this novel 2020-21 season that certainly are relevant. Manchester City's bench on any given day would start on any Premier League team. 

What that means more than anything is that teams in Britain need to re-tool and strategize on the best way forward to try and find their way to the top. Finances have been crushed from the pandemic (which, again, hurts teams like Abu Dhabi City much less) so focusing in on academy players is crucial. Investing in players that scouts see on the rise instead of already established world beaters is now vital. Less splashiness in the market and just better strokes overall. Teams need to have plans in recruiting talent and only recruit talent that fit the system employed at the club. That means standing by managers, giving staffs time, and implementing a style of play. Build around the pieces you have playing in a manner that gets you results. Take a look at what Marcelo Bielsa is doing at Leeds United or Graham Potter at Brighton or Dean Smith at Aston Villa. These clubs aren't amassing points and results randomly. They win and lose playing their style with players who fit the profile. It, in the long term, is an effective strategy.

Teams aren't faraway. This season has been a test and the kinks are getting ironed out. After City, the vast majority of Premier League teams are largely quite close to each other. Liverpool once fully fit again (assuming they can keep hold of the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané) will instantly be in the title mix and massive contenders for the Champions League. They also have some promising youth products (Curtis Jones, for one) bubbling up. Chelsea have spent humongous amounts on attacking flair and now have Thomas Tuchel at the helm, so will be looking to take the time to gel and adapt and make a proper challenge next term. Manchester United with a defender and goal scoring winger (and keeping Paul Pogba) are not too far behind. Tottenham need a manager who can turn them back into the free-flowing forward-driving team they were under Mauricio Pochettino and need someone to help Harry Kane and Heung-min Son pop the goals in. It's there. The league is jam-packed with quality (as you're seeing with the likes of Leicester City and West Ham United battling for the top 4 this go round) and next season will be more of a dog fight for the spoils.

But, there's still plenty to play for. One of the most fascinating storylines going into the business end of the season is if any of these English teams can try and wrestle the Champions League away from Bayern Munich. Now is certainly the time. With Spanish teams vulnerable, Juventus on the slide, PSG having proven to be beatable and at times underwhelming, the trophy is there to be pillaged. Bayern will need a stretch of blistering form that saw them lift ten thousand trophies in the last 12 months to retain the pot. But, City and Liverpool and even Chelsea have, on paper at least, what it takes. No team is so awe-inspiring as to discourage the Premier League clubs from making a run. So, watch this space as it might be coming home!

So, there we have it. Enjoy the daily barrage of matches and gear up for one of the most tense and desperate transfer windows this upcoming summer. We are in never-before-seen territory and it's at the very least incredibly entertaining.

- Rajat


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