Mourinhos focus on details key to title race
Jose Mourinho has always been keen to separate himself from the ranks of the mere mortals and the Chelsea manager is convinced his attention to the smallest details will mean he is in a league of his own at the end of the season.
With the new Premier League campaign kicking off this weekend, the self-styled Special One has spent the last few days fine-tuning his preparations for the Blues' opening game against Hull City on Sunday.
It promises to be an emotional occasion for Mourinho, who is sure to receive a warm welcome home from Chelsea supporters six years after his first spell came to an acrimonious end following the breakdown of his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich.
But, while he will bask in the adoration for a short while, Mourinho has made it known to his players that his second coming is about prizes and not plaudits.
With that mission statement in mind, the task of wrestling the title away from Manchester United in the early, uncertain days of the David Moyes era began in the sweltering heat of Bangkok during the club's pre-season tour.
Mourinho has focused on implementing his tactical plan, which is likely to revolve around a 4-3-3 system featuring Fernando Torres in the central striking role and Oscar in an advanced midfield position just behind the Spaniard.
Mourinho has also impressed Chelsea's players by making sure even the smallest detail is taken care of.
Premier League teams will be using the new Nike Incyte Ball, an updated version of the previous design that has orange flashes on its surface.
And Mourinho wanted his players to start using them from the opening training session in Bangkok to get used to their flight and speed well ahead of the Premier League season.
The squad were put through double training sessions in Bangkok as Mourinho builds their stamina in the hope of making one his trademark blistering starts to the season.
He has also asked them to do leg exercises called 'Activation' that loosen muscles before training.
No stone has been left unturned, but Mourinho is more cautious in public and, never shy of putting pressure on the opposition, he claims big-spending Manchester City should be title favourites.
"I think they've bought very, very well. So of course people should be expecting more of them, with their experience, than my young team," Mourinho said.
"Young players are not at the best they will be. They need to learn, they need time to get to the top."
While Chelsea are primed to make an immediate impact, across London their rivals Arsenal have less reason for optimism.
Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis had promised frustrated fans that boss Arsene Wenger would be handed a massive transfer war-chest in an attempt to end the club's eight-year trophy drought.
But even with the money to burn Wenger has endured a dispiriting time in the transfer market.
First Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain opted to joined Napoli, then a tentative inquiry for Rooney was knocked back before a Â£40 million offer for Luis Suarez was greeted with derision by Liverpool.
It was the perfect summation of Arsenal's reduced status in the eyes of the world's top players and Wenger will be praying the injury-prone Jack Wilshere can stay fit for long enough to guide the Gunners to another top-four finish.
In contrast, Manchester City's new manager Manuel Pellegrini has had no problems splashing out Â£90 million (US$139.5m) on Sevilla's Spanish international duo Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, Brazil midfielder Fernandinho and Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic.
Now Pellegrini has to take his expensive buys and form a cohesive unit from a group that underachieved last season.
Navas's ability to add pace and guile to the midfield could be the key given the pedestrian nature of City's play under previous boss Roberto Mancini.
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