Pressure on Salah to repeat wonder year as Jose feels the strain

Salah a one-season wonder or the real deal?

Pressure on Salah to repeat wonder year as Jose feels the strain

Darren Norris

Five plotlines to follow...

Salah a one-season wonder or the real deal?

As magnificent as Mohamed Salah was last season, there remains a slight nagging doubt: Can he repeat the feat?

Given the Liverpool talisman is only 26, it may seem a silly question.

However, last season’s sensational golden boot-winning return of 32 goals from 36 Premier League was by far and away the most prolific output of his career.

To put those exploits in context, the previous season, his final one at Roma, saw the Egyptian net 15 times in 31 Serie A appearances, a respectable return but nothing comparable to his debut season at Anfield.

After underwhelming in his previous incarnation as a Chelsea player, he carried an element of surprise last season but his achievements in 2017/18 mean expectations are now sky-high. How he deals with the additional scrutiny promises to be fascinating.

Does Poch have to win?

At what point does Mauricio Pochettino have to win something at Tottenham to keep his job? Come to think of it, at what point do Spurs have to win something to keep Pochettino?

The Argentine has done a fabulous job at Spurs, transforming a club that was notoriously flaky into one of substance, a team that can compete with just about anyone. That’s no small achievement but the fact remains they have yet to translate their ability and toughness into silverware.

The meek way they folded in last season’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United was an unwanted return to the bad old days, a surrender that will have given the ultra-ambitious Pochettino sleepless nights.

There was a sense that Pochettino might walk after that body-blow but he opted to stay, having called on the Spurs hierarchy to spend big.

That call went unanswered so Spurs find themselves in a familiar position on the brink of a new season, good enough for a top-four spot but not quite up to winning the title. At some point, something’s got to give.

Another Mourinho implosion?

Jose Mourinho famously began his Premier League adventure by modestly referring to himself as The Special One.

On his return to Chelsea, he rebranded himself as The Happy One but as he begins his third season as Manchester United boss, he could best be described as The Grumpy One.

Mourinho has cut a disconsolate figure throughout his time at Old Trafford and his unhappiness with life has frequently been transferred onto the pitch where United, once the great entertainers, have all-too-often been a tough watch.

Mourinho has upped the misery ante in recent weeks and history suggests season three is when things start to unravel for the Portuguese. He and United have never looked a convincing marriage and it would be no surprise if there’s a painful, acrimonious divorce at some point this season.

Life after Arsene

It’ll be a strange sensation not to see Arsene Wenger in the Arsenal dugout when the Gunners begin their Premier League campaign against champions Manchester City on Sunday.

The Frenchman may have lost his way in his final years at Arsenal but his achievements in his first decade at the club mean his legacy as an Arsenal great is secure.

Bringing Arsenal back to the summit of English football looks a massive challenge for Unai Emery but his signings suggest he has quickly identified arguably Arsenal’s biggest problem: A lack of physical power and mental resilience when the going gets tough.

Emery has quickly and efficiently set about getting rid of Arsenal’s soft centre and the expectation is they’ll be considerably less brittle this season. And if Emery can guide the club back into the Champions League, whether through the Premier League or the Europa League, he’ll have made a fine start to life at the Emirates.

Green shoots

The days when Irish players were at the forefront of the top flight of English football pre-date the Premier League era but Martin O’Neill will hope a few Irishmen can shine over the next nine months.

That, however, is easier said than done. Take Damien Rice for instance. The 19-year-old emerged as a player of real talent last season, making 26 Premier League appearances in total for a struggling West Ham side.

However, the Hammers have heavily backed new manager Manuel Pellegrini over the summer and it remains to be seen if those additions spell bad news for Rice.

On a more positive note, there remains a large Irish presence at Burnley while Seamus Coleman remains an integral figure for Everton. Those are good news stories but it’s safe to say O’Neill needs a little more.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox