Antonio Conte May Be Able To Have A Quiet Laugh At Pep Guardiola And Jose Mourinho After Manchester City And United Have Contested The Derby

Posted: September 7, 2016 in Arsenal, Chelsea, European Football, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
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What is the significance of a local derby game to a Premier League team? In the cases of Manchester United, City, Everton and Liverpool it is, basically, six points and bragging rights for a few days. Gone are the days when it really was a “local” derby.

With the possible exception of Marcus Rashford, who may or may not play in the upcoming game this weekend, the Manchester United player born closest to Manchester will probably be Wayne Rooney, who is a Scouser, not a fact which particularly endears him to the fans. Of the rest, it is quite possible that Luke Shaw will be the only other Englishman in the team!

Manchester City can boast, as their “local boy,” John Stones from Barnsley, another who, in any other guise, would not be welcome in Manchester. He will, more than likely, be joined by City’s only other Englishman in Raheem Sterling.

So the game on Saturday will be contested by a collection of multi-millionaires from all parts of the world and by managers from Spain and Portugal. At least the referee will be English even if his name does sound like a German cake involved in an accident!

The real passion on these days is to be found on the terraces. As previously stated, for a few days, fans of one team or the other will be able to boast about how their team of foreigners beat that other team of foreigners.

In London it is even worse. The Premier League is now home to five London clubs, (six if you cheat and include Watford). This situation has resulted in some local derbies being deemed as far more important than others. The Arsenal-Tottenham rivalry, for example, is far greater than Arsenal-Crystal Palace or Arsenal-West Ham. This has meant that a few derby games have had their importance considerably diminished.

One of Arsene Wenger’s famous complaints of recent years has been the amount of derby games that Arsenal have to play. What is he smoking? It’s the same for all the London clubs in the Premier League but, apparently, it is only a problem for Arsenal.

Whilst I have to admit to a certain ignorance of the intensity of the London derbies, as previously mentioned I also think that it must be diluted due to the sheer number of them! Cities where there are only two big teams, by definition, will generate a far fiercer rivalry between the supporters and so it follows that the games in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and even Sheffield will have more riding on them than just the points, especially from the point of view of the fans.

Thus, this weekend’s derby game in Manchester, early in the season though it may be, will give an early indication as to who, at present anyway, has the upper hand. Whichever team deals with the intensity, pressure and everything else which comes with these occasions, better than the other will, predictably, be pronounced title favourites immediately after the game.

For this reason neither Jose Mourinho nor Pep Guardiola will want to lose. This type of game is more suited to Mourinho, who is used to setting up teams not to lose. His conscience though, has to decide whether or not he should go all out to try and win the game. It is, after all, at Old Trafford and the fans will expect such defensive minded tactics to be reserved for the game at The Etihad.

Pep Guardiola much prefers to send his team out to score more goals than the opposition but he is mindful of the defensive side of the game, even though he wants everybody, including goalkeepers and centre backs, to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. Again however, in this game he would prefer not to lose rather than to go all out for a win.

The downside of having two managers who would really like to win the game but really, really don’t want to lose it is that the usual upshot is a draw. Sometimes a boring 0-0, sometimes an entertaining 0-0 and occasionally a high scoring draw, but a draw all the same.

Assuming that this is the case on Saturday then, down in London, there will probably be at least one Italian with a large smile on his face.

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