Soccer Stories: Two Month Takeaways

José Mourinho, manager of Premier League club Manchester United. Photo by Steindy via Wikimedia Commons.

By: Rusty Gorelick

The club soccer world, except for America’s last chance hotel that is Major League Soccer, is in the midst of an international break. While most soccer fans would cry into their pillow as they watch Kylian Mbappe score a late brace to bring France to a draw in a meaningless international friendly, here are my takes on the first two months of the club season.

It’s a great time to be an Arsenal fan.

It looks like they have finally brought back the early-2000s sauce they had when they tore through the Premier League with Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. Lucas Torreira has provided some balance between attack and defense, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have as much chemistry as Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson (that’s a good thing), and the club has played soccer so attractive that its social media admins have made memes of goals the team has scored.

Arsenal hasn’t set the league on fire, but considering they have already played Manchester City and Chelsea and still won nine straight games, things are looking up in their first season under Unai Emery. Arsene Wenger perpetuated an unwelcomed trend of underperforming against lesser teams, but Emery’s attention to detail has helped propel them back into the conversation for a top-four place by the end of the season.

While the Gunners sit in fourth place in the league, another huge English side is currently down in eighth place, five points off a top-four spot. Jose Mourinho might not know why his Manchester United team has performed so poorly, but here’s why:

Mou relies solely on Paul Pogba for providing passes to the attackers, he trashes Pogba in the media routinely, and he is an awful person to work under. Many of his players, specifically Scott McTominay, Eric Bailly, Alexis Sanchez, and Antonio Valencia, are simply not cutting it. The Red Devils barely squeaked past Newcastle United, needing three goals in the final 15 minutes to secure the win.

And speaking of Mourinho, his old team has not started the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era well at all. Real Madrid has taken four points from their last four matches heading into the international break. They have plenty of attacking talent in Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, and Isco, but ultimately lack the go-to-guy who can take over a game and snag a goal on demand like Ronaldo did so often.

Real has not relied on Bale, who they paid a ton of money for in 2013, to play that role in a while, mainly because they had Ronaldo. He played that role at Tottenham, but that happened half a decade ago and he didn’t win anything with them when he was the star. He had an insane half-season with Spurs in 2013, but that could have been a fluke all along, that wasn’t exposed until now because of Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance. Considering he spent the formative years of his career with Tottenham, don’t rule anything out.

Renato Sanches continued his revenge tour after a couple seasons down the drain, taking home Bayern Munich’s Player of the Month award for September. I called it, just saying. In absolutely related news, Bayern Munich are in crisis mode as they sit in sixth place in the Bundesliga, four points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund.

That’s it for the two month review. With an exciting start to soccer season, I’ll be here with updates when the action resumes.

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