English Premier League

Mourinho’s third-season syndrome, Sarriball, Emery era: Talking points from Premier League

Jose Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure, disappointed at the lack of signings and lashing out at club management.

The Premier League roars back into action on Friday after another frenetic summer of transfer spending in the richest league in the world.

Champions Manchester City are favourites to become the first side in a decade to retain the title. However, hopes are high that Liverpool can end a near three-decade wait to win the league.

Chaotic off-seasons for Manchester United and Chelsea could undermine their challenge, while there is an air of optimism for a new era at Arsenal.

These five things could determine the Premier League this season.

Third-season syndrome for Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure throughout pre-season, consistently lashing out at a lack of signings.

Tension between the Portuguese and a number of key players is also simmering. Mourinho has publicly criticised captain Antonio Valencia and Anthony Martial, while his relationship with Paul Pogba remains frosty after dropping one of the heroes of France’s World Cup win repeatedly last season.

Rising tension with the club’s hierarchy and his squad before the season even begins is eerily reminiscent of Mourinho’s disastrous third seasons in both his second spell at Chelsea and his stint with Real Madrid.

In those campaigns Mourinho lost his job having won the league the season before. At United he isn’t even starting from that position of strength having failed to win a trophy last year.

As fiercest rivals City and Liverpool strengthen for an anticipated shootout for the title, the ingredients are in place for another Mourinho meltdown at Old Trafford.

City still the benchmark

Champions City remain the team to beat after smashing a litany of records in romping to the title.

Unlike Pep Guardiola’s first two summers in charge, City haven’t blown the competition out of the water financially, although they have increased their attacking options with Riyad Mahrez for a club-record £60 million ($77 million) fee.

But they haven’t needed to after assembling a huge amount of young talent in recent years.

Even more will be expected of the likes of Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus this season, while Benjamin Mendy’s return from a long-term knee injury solves City’s one issue last season at left-back.

Will Sarri be given time?

Chelsea are playing catch up from the off after delaying their move to sack Antonio Conte and hire Maurizio Sarri until four weeks before the start of the season.

Sarri moulded Napoli into one of the most attractive sides to watch in Europe in three seasons, earning rave reviews from City boss Guardiola in particular.

However, his high pressing and slick passing style requires a lot of work on the training ground. With many of Chelsea’s key players only returning to training this week after their World Cup exertions, the Italian hasn’t been afforded much time to impose his ideas.

Chelsea’s lack of forward planning was also evident in a late rush for a replacement for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who left for Real Madrid on Wednesday. The giant Belgian’s successor, Kepa Arrizabalaga, will be the most expensive goalkeeper ever once he completes a £71-million move from Athletic Bilbao.

Sarri should be able to call upon Eden Hazard, Willian and N’Golo Kante despite speculation over their futures at Stamford Bridge.

New era for Arsenal

In contrast, Unai Emery was swiftly sworn in as Arsene Wenger’s successor at the Emirates and has clearly targeted building from the back as his first priority to get the Gunners back in contention for the top four.

The recruitment of goalkeeper Bernd Leno, experienced defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner and tough-tackling Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira should provide a stiffer backbone.

And there is plenty to be excited about going forward with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette united for a full season for the first time.

Emery has been handed a baptism of fire with City and Chelsea in his first two games in charge.

However, there is the possibility for a fast start with Arsenal far less affected by late returns to pre-season from the World Cup than their competitors in the top six.

No limits for newcomers

The ambition for most newly-promoted sides is simply to retain their Premier League status, but Wolves and Fulham’s moves in the transfer market suggest they are aiming for a top-half finish on their returns to the top flight.

Wolves have again utilised their close connections to super agent Jorge Mendes to snap up experienced Portuguese internationals Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho.

Fulham beat off stiff competition for Ivorian midfielder Jean Michael Seri and have also spent big on making Aleksandr Mitrovic’s loan move from Newcastle permanent and Alfie Mawson, as well as a loan move for German international Andre Schuerrle.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.