By Jonathan Blaustein
My kids asked me to watch “Minions” with them a month or so ago. I quickly remembered the opening montage, as I must have seen it before, so I begged off a repeat engagement.
But before I did, I giggled at the site of the yellow dudes inadvertently killing off Dracula. They didn’t mean to, as he was their boss. Through simple hijinks, though, the evil blood-sucker was turned to dust.
With the nastiest monsters, it’s best to be perfectly sure they’re dead before you dance on their graves. “Fatal Attraction,” and many a movie before and since, has proven the error in premature relaxation.
As such, I’m not yet ready to declare the end of Jose Mourinho. Right now, as I type this, Manchesters United and City have just begun the 2nd half of a very boring EFL Cup game.
It’s so boring, in fact, that I sat in front of the TV writing emails. I knew that by the tone of the announcer’s voices, I’d be clued in to the good stuff. When their voices rise, I thought, I’ll look up from the screen.
It never happened. (Other than an Ihenacho miss in the first minute.)
The funniest thing of all? Jose Mourinho is actually trying to win the game. Guardiola ran out some second stringers and kids, but not Jose.
He’s fallen so far, so fast, that he actually had to field his first team regulars for the EFL Cup. This not 24 hours after Arsene Wenger ran out Ashley Maitland-Niles as the starting DM against Reading.
Fuck Boy George, Jose Mourinho is the real karma chameleon. Since gloating and trolling during Chelsea’s triumphant 2014–15 campaign, the Special One has seemingly gotten what he deserves.
But it’s not over yet. (And United went on to win the EFL Derby.)
That said, we have seen enough of the 16’–17’ season to make some realistic judgements. Pep needs at least another year of buying before his City becomes unstoppable. We’re lucky we played Chelsea when we did, because Conte has since unearthed a new formation, with some new players, (Victor Moses) while also rejuvenating the most important one. (Eden Hazard)
Tottenham get by on their press, and have seemingly discovered a plan B behind Harry Kane. But they are certainly less talented than Arsenal.
Liverpool too are system-based. Coutinho is a star, for sure, but how many of their starting 11 would make Arsenal’s first team? I could certainly see Coutinho and Mane starting on the wings, but that’s about it. (And not over Walcott on current form.)
And as for Arsenal? In particular, what have we learned over the last run of 4 games?
Well, first off, we would have likely lost or tied the Swansea game last year, and probably lost against Middlesbrough. Don’t you remember Bafetimbi Gomis snatch and grabbing a goal that barely crossed the line?
Not this time.
It might have been a bit dodgy there at the end of the Swansea match, but Arsenal gutted out a win. These little tests of mental strength are reassuring, even though we won’t know answers to the biggest questions until early January.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is serious about taking Alex Iwobi’s starting spot. Or Theo Walcott’s. The dude means business.
AOC really put it together with the goals against Ludogorets and Reading. Weak competition, yes, but it wasn’t just the scoring. I know he had at least one assist, but the through balls? There had to be 3 or more in a couple of matches.
Adding that in, on top of his 5-tool package, means he might not have a realistic ceiling. If… you know the rest. If… he can stay healthy. Let’s make that an acronym, b/c it’s going to come up again. IHCSH
Theo Walcott, another winger, also has come to play. None of us saw this coming. We all watched him jump out of that tackle with Younes Kaboul. We all thought he was done.
It’s not uncommon for players to need more than a season to truly recover from an ACL tear. He built up a body that’s now compact, with a low center of gravity, rather than being a short flamingo in a red-and-white shirt.
Seeing him flourish like this is a crazy story. Can he keep it up? IHCSH. Certainly he learned to be more clinical in his striker run, but in this fluid line-up, he’s in a striker’s position half the time anyway.
Alexis Sanchez has begun to play like Chile-Alexis, now that AW has liberated him from the wing. The dude who helped blow up Mexico 7–0 this summer was a tornado. Pressing, playmaking, scoring, more pressing. He and his Chile teammates were simply everywhere, overwhelming the Mexicans with power, desire, speed and skill.
And his playmaking has allowed Ozil to become the goal-scorer Wenger hinted at last year. In the first two weeks of the season, as I watched Kevin de Bruyne score with cold-hearted precision, I thought he might be the best #10 because Ozil doesn’t score like that.
Now he does. Which means he’s a freakishly dangerous footballer at the moment.
The hat-trick against Ludogorets was really amazing. I remember Cazorla had one that good a few years ago, but this was a hell of a performance. The guy has a nose for it now. Just how good is Mesut Ozil? A super-duper star? Could he score 20 goals in a season? IHCSH.
Pay him and Alexis as much as they ask for. And do it quickly. Because I don’t care what the Ballon d’Or people say. I think Alexis and Ozil are both among the 10 best players in the world right now.