John Giles: Chelsea have lost the hunger to win a title
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Published 19/08/2015 | 22:01
Just two weeks into the new season and a couple of things have become clear. Manchester City have prepared better than anyone else and the Premier League is a bigger circus than ever.
On the pitch, Manchester City have emerged as the club with most of the right answers but only 12 months ago, it was Manuel Pellegrini facing hard questions.
The year before that, Manchester United came to the starting post as Champions and fell apart rapidly. David Moyes was not backed in the transfer market and the same group of players that delivered a title in Alex Ferguson's final year collapsed.
This time, José Mourinho is in the firing line and although I'm not suggesting that they will collapse completely this season, Chelsea look ill at ease wearing their champions' crown.
From all the screaming headlines we've seen around Stamford Bridge for the last three weeks, it is obvious that there is no stability there at the moment and that Mourinho and his boss Roman Abramovich are not seeing eye to eye.
At the best of times, it is always very difficult to bring a group of players with freshly minted medals in their pockets to the starting line ready to go again. Hunger, the one vital ingredient, is eroded by success and time off.
The hardest job of all is to reinvigorate a group of winners and even the best can take their eye off the ball and believe that they are too good to lose.
I see it clearly in Vincent Kompany, who dropped his own stan dards last season but wants to prove a point this time out. Pellegrini is a smart enough manager to tap into that. So much so that in the early moments of this title chase, Manchester City look head and shoulders above everyone else.
Arsenal dug out a gritty win against Crystal Palace at the weekend and based on what we have seen so far, Arsene Wenger has also done a good job with his players in pre-season, even allowing for the perennial problem he has with his defence.
I watched Liverpool struggle with Bournemouth at Anfield on Monday night and while there is no doubt that Brendan Rodgers has bought reasonably well during the summer and has a six-point start under his belt, he has a lot of work to do.
James Milner was a great buy and by the looks of things Christian Benteke is another one. He's a big, strong, talented young lad and Liverpool have already changed the way they play to accommodate the fact that they have a target man.
Of course, Rodgers still has problems. The camera shot of Mario Balotelli sitting in the stands highlighted one of the big ones.
I should be frothing at the mouth at the crass stupidity of Balotelli's antics but to be honest, I've run out of froth.
Balotelli is a personality, a celebrity and the society we live in seems to value that above all else.
Nominally, he's a professional footballer but he's not like anyone I played with or anyone I've ever seen before. He doesn't want to play and has somehow managed to get intelligent people to pay him an awful lot of money to sit and do nothing.
This is definitely something new. Think about it for a moment. He's a footballer who doesn't actually have to play football to bank £250,000 a week. It's absolutely incredible.
But as I said, he's a personality and there's always someone out there who will see a way to turn a profit from his notoriety.
And lo and behold, I read that Baltoelli now has his own line of football boots aimed at children. Greed is at the root of this and many other problems in the game but to me, this is a new low. How anyone in Puma could think that this lad is a role-model for kids is beyond me.
It is utterly inappropriate. There is no way on this earth that Balotelli should ever be promoted as a someone worth copying but greed means that big companies don't care about things like that and see him as a merchandising dream.
He casts a shadow over the rest of the Liverpool squad and even Rodgers has stopped defending him.
For his sake and Liverpool's I truly hope that Rodgers' employers are doing everything they can to get this man out of their club even if they have to take a financial hit to do it.