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Three things we learned in the Premier League in 2018

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In theory, every experience in life — whether good or bad — is meant to be lived and reflected upon as a lesson learned with an eye toward improving for the future.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: January window opens Tuesday ]

Thus, three of the most important lessons we learned in the Premier League in 2018…

Records are meant to be broken

Manchester City smashed just about every conceivable record from the PL era en route to winning the league title in runaway fashion. The list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Man City won 32 matches, the most in a single PL season
  • Man City became the first team to win 100 points in a season
  • Man City broke the record for most consecutive wins, winning 18 in a row
  • Manchester City scored 106 goals in the PL
  • Man City won the title with five games remaining, equalling the record

It is unlikely we will again see a team dominate a single season in the same manner in our lifetimes.

$100 million isn’t a crazy price for a defender

OK, so maybe it is still a crazy amount to pay for a defender — or any player, for that matter — but Virgil Van Dijk has already, if one could possibly do so, justified in 12 months the price tag for his move from Southampton to Liverpool.

Perhaps the lesson learned here is this: if you have the chance to sign (arguably) the best defender in the world, and you are all but certain that position is the one missing piece standing between your team and PL domination, write the selling club a blank check. While the rest of the world goes crazy over midfielders and forwards — who remain plenty important in the modern game, no doubt — feel free to go left when everyone else is going right, from time to time.

Jose Mourinho and modern-day players do not mix

It’s easy to say that professional footballers should adapt to whatever tactics or management style they’re given by the manager at their employing club, that they’re paid more than enough to be expected to fall in line on command, that they know their place and don’t ruffle any feathers. Jose Mourinho believes this wholeheartedly, of course.

Thus, 2018 taught us that Mourinho’s strict man-management style no longer works with players of the present day. The vast majority of power, much like in the major sports leagues in the United States, now lies with the players.

Think about it this way: the reason a player like, say, Paul Pogba costs a club like, say, Manchester United, a then-record fee of $116 million is not only because he’s a brilliant player who’ll undoubtedly improve the first-team squad. Of course that’s a key part of it, but it’s not just that. It’s Pogba’s loud and lovable personality; his flicks and tricks on the ball; his flair and flashy hair; his name and face recognition; his marketability and brand.

It’s very simple: Mourinho doesn’t work well with — nor has he ever — players who possess too much of the above trait(s). His management style is to slowly drain — or quickly beat — it out of them until they fall in line as another nameless, faceless cog in his plain vanilla machine. Mourinho’s failure to adapt, though, was his only irreversible mistake in 2018. Never mind the fact it’s infinitely easier to replace one manager than an entire squad of players.

FOLLOW LIVE: Southampton v. Derby County

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Southampton and Derby County chase the final spot in the fourth round proper of the 2018-19 FA Cup with a replay at St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: FA Cup scoreboard ]

The clubs drew 2-2 at Pride Park on Jan. 5, with a Nathan Redmond 2-0 lead going to waste for the Premier League visitors.

The victor gets a trip to the Crown Ground to face League One’s Accrington Stanley on Jan. 26.

Full fourth round fixture list

Jan. 25
Arsenal v. Manchester United

Jan. 26
Accrington Stanley v. Derby County or Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion
Bristol City v. Bolton
Doncaster Rovers v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Burnley
Middlesbrough v. Newport County
Newcastle United v. Watford
Portsmouth v. Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City v. Gillingham
Shrewsbury Town v. Wolves
Millwall v. Everton
AFC Wimbledon v. West Ham United

Jan. 27
Crystal Palace v. Spurs
Chelsea v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 28
Barnet v. Brentford

Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied “all the rivals”; How widespread is spying?

AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File
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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

55-goal Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

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Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Men In Blazers Podcast: De Gea heroics; Liverpool, Man City wins

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Rog and Davo applaud David De Gea‘s goalkeeping heroics in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham. Plus, wins for Liverpool and City in the title race.

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