Image Source: Aleksandr Osipov (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The big story swirling around the Premier League this week and weekend was of course Jose Mourinho who returned to the dugout as manager of Tottenham after Mauricio Pochettino was sacked.
It is questionable whether Pochettino deserved the sack after all of the good work he had done at the club in the past few seasons. Tottenham under his guidance had stepped out of Arsenal's shadow, continually qualified for the Champions League and even reached the final last season. Players such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli had grown under the Argentine and at times the club were playing brilliant attractive football. Indeed it is hard to remember a Tottenham team this consistent in the last 30 years.
However despite that Pochettino won nothing but for a few hearts. He bizarrely said earlier this year that trophies were not important. It was interesting as at that time he was being linked to Real Madrid who cooled off their interest directly after his remarks. Then on the eve of the Champions League final he declared that if Tottenham win he could leave. Is that something that a team who is preparing for their biggest match of their careers wants to hear? Then there was the behind the scenes falling out with club owner Daniel Levy. Usually these things come down to money, and it was reported that Levy would not spend £80,000 on new camera equipment for the training ground, which Pochettino had requested. That seemed to be the final straw with it all starting when Pochettino requested funds. He kind of got that wish this past summer when the club spent around £60m on Tanguy Ndombele. But one can sympathise with a manager who knows in order to stay in the top 4 and then challenge for a league title your club needs to be spending double that.
Then stories started to emerge that he had lost the dressing room and of course if that happens then your number is up. Having said that, some of the senior players upon learning he had been sacked went to social media praising him and calling Pochettino their friend. Where will Pochettino end up next? The favourites to employ him are Manchester United at 2.50 followed by Arsenal at 2.75 (wouldn't that be fun?!) and Bayern Munich are 3.50. For sure there will be no shortage of teams after his signature with the belief that he is an outstanding coach that just needs a bigger purse.
Bigger purse, the chequebook- all of this relates to Jose Mourinho and so it was a surprise to see him take the job at Tottenham. One can only imagine the arguments between the Portuguese and Levy over transfers. At the same time it appears that they both share the same vision, are friends away from football and Levy has always admired Mourinho, maybe just maybe it can work.
Mourinho will be delighted by his salary which is reported to be £15m a year but he is a football man and will also be delighted by some of the talent he now has under his wing. After all he has admitted trying to sign some of Tottenham's players and in Harry Kane he does have a prolific goalscorer. Mourinho's goals are many and one of those will be convincing want away player Christian Eriksen to stay, he may just do that now. The other will be shoring up the Tottenham defence. On Saturday Mourinho oversaw a 3-2 victory at West Ham- Tottenham's first away win in the league since January. But it would have been a little bitter sweet for Mourinho whose side raced into a comfortable 3-0 lead only to get pegged back in a match, which in the end, could have finished in a draw and that would have felt like a loss. Tottenham should improve four fold now the special one has arrived and the club have been reeled in to 3.00 to finish in the top 4. The clubs next game is the Champions League fixture at home to Olympiacos by far the weakest side in the group. If Tottenham win they will have qualified for the knock out stages. Their next league game is at home to Bournemouth but it will be the week after where interest will go into hyperbole when Tottenham will travel to Manchester United, Mourinho's former employers and it is obvious he will want to get one over them.
Speaking of Manchester United one has to wonder how long Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has at the club? Yes they drew 3-3 at Sheffield United having been 2-0 down and actually took the lead in the game but United were very poor but for a brilliant 10 minute spell and their defeats and draws are becoming very predictable. They are 6.00 to finish in the top 4, and one feels the bookmakers are showing too much respect for a club who have next to no chance to achieve that goal.
What Premier League manager will be next to pack their bags? You can take your pick. There is Unai Emery at Arsenal whose side grabbed a very late almost last kick of the ball equaliser at home to Southampton a team they should be beating. Another two points dropped and the club are now in 8th position. Everton were poor, losing 2-0 at home to the bottom club Norwich was simply unacceptable and surely Marco Silva has at most one more game in him before the board react? Then there is Manuel Pellegrini who one would suspect could be the next to go as West Ham lost again at the weekend and are heading for a relegation fight. Having said that it is Silva who is the favourite to be sacked at odds of just 1.20, Emery is 3.50 and Pellegrini looks great value at 11.00.
Finally it is interesting to see how Manchester United and Arsenal have both fallen in recent times. It was only at the turn of the century that the teams were the only ones able to win the league and no one will ever forget the mind games and incidents between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Whilst it's true that Arsenal were on the decline even in Wenger's final years with the club, they seem to have reached a new low now. As for United they are not even the shadow they once were. Both teams had long serving managers that between them were at their clubs for 48 years to put that into perspective that is nearly 40% of the history of the league championship in England. So both clubs had that in common and one wonders obviously with hindsight if managers who have been with a club for so long shouldn't be able to retire on the spot. Would it have made sense to act as a number 2 for the incoming manager?
For example Rio Ferdinand freely admitted to having no respect when David Moyes walked through the doors at Old Trafford. Would that have changed had Fergie stayed to guide him? Would Emery have felt the understanding of Arsenal as a club had Wenger nurtured him behind the scenes? It's perhaps worth a thought especially so when one looks at their respective positions in the league this season. And now something we will never know.