The last part of this 3 part Premiership preview looks at last season’s top 6. Will the top 6 remain the same? Can anyone stop Chelsea winning back-to-back titles? Let’s take a look.
Liverpool (Last Season – 6th)
After overachieving in the 13-14 season, Liverpool clearly underachieved in the 14-15 campaign. Manager Brendan Rodgers’ tenure is under threat and how well 32.5 million pound gamble Christian Benteke can do will virtually decide his destiny.
Losing the ‘prized asset’ Raheem Sterling will hurt, but if Jordon Ibe who Rodgers has announced will feature heavily this season fulfils his potential then the wound Sterling aborting has caused, will not run so deep. A more significant addition than Ibe is the new ‘game changer’ Rodgers hopes he has recruited in the shape of Brazilian international Roberto Firmino, who joins from Hoffenheim for an initial 21.3 million pounds.
Nathaniel Clyne comes in from Southampton; the England international immediately upgrades the right back position, from the aging Glen Johnson whose form had declined (no pun intended). Clyne’s arrival also surely allows Emre Can to play in his natural position in central midfield. Youngster Joe Gomez came in from Charlton to provide youthful competition to Alberto Moreno at left back.
James Milner turned down a new deal at Manchester City to be used more in central midfield at Liverpool, and signed for 150k a week on a free transfer, providing a wealth of Premiership experience that will help a relatively young squad. Up top, Danny Ings joins from Burnley, a player who is a willing runner, but needs to improve his finishing to be accepted by the Anfield faithful. Divock Origi has come back after spending last season on loan at the club Liverpool purchased him from, Lille.
To do list – If Daniel Sturridge’s injury troubles are gone when he comes back in September, he’ll basically feel like a new signing; he is imperative to their style. If he is not, they may have to buy another striker. Alan Bogdan came in on a free to back up Simon Mignolet. Liverpool fans though would have liked someone to replace Mignolet, and this is despite him improving from last season. Asier Illaramendi is wanted from Real Madrid and his passing ability would be welcome to the midfield if Liverpool are to properly compete for a top four place. Liverpool will be better than last season, in spite of losing Sterling and the legend that is Steven Gerrard, but getting into the top four may depend more on how well Manchester United balance the league and returning to the Champions League. The central defence is a concern as Liverpool concede far too many goals and 5th place might have to be the realistic place for them unless they improve defensively.
Tottenham Hotspur (Last Season – 5th)
Though they managed to get to fifth place last season, Spurs’ squad is rather thin as it stands now. To add to that, Emmanuel Adebayor who Aston Villa want and winger Aaron Lennon have not been given squad numbers, so are obviously surplus to requirements.
Toby Alderweireld, who spent last season on loan at Southampton was bought; a versatile defender who can also play in midfield. Kieran Trippier who had a decent first Premiership season with relegated Burnley joins and Austrian centre half Kevin Wimmer arrives from Cologne.
Etienne Capoue, Lewis Holtby, Paulinho, Younes Kaboul & Vlad Chiriches are all part of a summer White Hart Lane exodus.On top of this, Benjamin Stambouli was surprisingly taken by Paris Saint Germain for £6m after barely starting any games for North London outfit. All this leaves Spurs’ squad looking like the local record store since downloading music came to the fore.
To do list – With Danny Rose & Ben Davies on the left, and DeAndre Yedlin, Trippier and Kyle Walker on the right, Tottenham are more than comfortable in the full back areas. Alderweireld can also operate at right back when needed and Eric Dier can play anywhere along the back line. Spurs though require another centre half I feel: a more established name than Wimmer. They leave Hugo Lloris far too exposed sometimes and with him struggling to make the start of the season this could be a problem if Michel Vorm is rusty. A combative central midfielder is needed, they have legs in there in Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, but they need more quality. Up front is the biggest concern. If Kane gets injured then there is no one to rely on to find the net as Soldado is heading for the exit door. They will definitely buy a striker before the window closes and it may be West Brom’s Saido Berahino, I do not think I’m being harsh in saying they probably need two strikers if they are to avoid finishing lower than last season.
Manchester United (Last Season – 4th)
Anyone who watched United regularly last season would’ve noticed that their central defence needed strengthening. So what has Louis Van Gaal done so far this summer?…yes you guessed it, strengthen basically every area but the central defence.
Though United’s football was far from attractive, they managed to accumulate the points they needed to take the last Champions League slot. Just as much as this though it was also partly down to Spurs not being clinical and Liverpool’s terrible end to the season that basically handed United the spot.
Indeed, the only defensive reinforcement the Red Devils have made is Italian international Matteo Darmian, who can also play at wing back – a solid purchase, and one who would’ve been seen properly for the first time in the 2014 World Cup where he did well against England. The deal to bring forward Memphis Depay, the top scorer in the Dutch League in 2014/15 was actually done before last season had officially ended. Morgan Schneiderlin joins from Southampton for £25 million, another good buy, a player who will tirelessly work in the midfield, break up play and last season he showed an eye for goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger comes in from Bayern Munich. If he can stay fit then he adds quality and composure to the midfield; they will hope his not past his best.
The eccentric Sergio Romero arrived on a free from Sampdoria, with David De Gea’s future up in the clouds. Robin Van Persie, Nani and Tom Cleverley all depart (Van Persie mainly looking disinterested at the club since Sir Alex Ferguson retired). United lose creativity in midfield and work rate with Angel Di Maria abandoning ship after only one season to join Paris Saint Germain. A man who though derided last season, still managed 10 assists in the League.
To do list – The aforementioned central defence needs not just one, but two additions. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in my eyes have not come along as expected and United can be punished if they don’t buy there. The midfield looks good, but it’s up top that needs more. Rooney will get goals, but the team functions better with him deeper I believe. An Edinson Cavani or a Gonzalo Higuain is needed; Pedro at Barca could be on the cards which would be a great buy. Primarily, an out and out goal threat is essential if they are to compete for the title, otherwise the likelihood is that it could be 4th again.
Arsenal (Last season – 3rd)
Arsenal are always a hot debating topic. When non Arsenal fans feel Arsene Wenger does not have an excuse for Arsenal’s inability to push on and challenge for the title during the closing stages of the season, he finds a reason for us to believe it’s not his players fault but inconspicuous circumstances weighing the team down.
I know more Arsenal fans than any other club. I have spent the summer asking them all what their starting XI would be, and no one’s (and I mean no one’s) team has matched. Some have Mathieu Debuchy at right back, some have Hector Bellerin, some have Kieran Gibbs at left back, some have Nacho Monreal: and it goes on.
Their midfield is the most scrutinised area. You feel Arsenal need that box to box midfielder to take them closer to that next level. Even now, player for player in the midfield and attacking areas, no one has depth like they have. They always have injuries however, so you actually don’t always notice. Coquelin, Flamini, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky look daunting on paper. Though Arteta’s legs have gone, there are enough names there to fill two different teams. Add to that Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott who can all play in inside forward positions in front of the midfield, the minimum expectation should be a title challenge. Wenger will try and convince us otherwise.
Why this could be their breakthrough season rather than any other recent campaign is probably the signing of the summer, Petr Cech, who has come in from Chelsea. Cech gives Arsenal stability that they have not had for quite a while, and he will earn them points that previous keepers would not have been able to do.
To do list – Though Arsenal have had representatives in Madrid possibly trying to tie up a deal for Karim Benzema, Cech remains the only significant summer signing as of now. You would think Flamini’s days are numbered at the Emirates. yes they have a plethora of midfielders, but in terms of a consistent ball winner (or someone who drives the engine room), Arsenal are an injured Coquelin away from being back in the same previous hole. They should have tried to nab Schneiderlin from Southampton ahead of United as they need someone of that ilk. Arsenal will challenge for the title but will again fall short as while they now have Cech, they still need a better striker than Olivier Giroud and maybe another centre half.
Manchester City (Last Season 2nd)
With the players City have, they really should have pushed Chelsea further for last season’s title. For all the money they have spent there is something missing from this side. With Edin Dzeko heading on loan to Roma and Stevan Jovetic having departed for Inter, they are looking lightweight up top. Although they have the best out and out striker in world football in Sergio Aguero he picks up his fair share of injuries and that as it stands only leaves Wilfred Bony to lead the line.
Their defence looks extremely random in certain games, mainly because of their captain Vincent Kompany’s capitulation, especially in the last 15-18 months. Fabian Delph comes in to the midfield after initially rejecting a move to the Etihad from Aston Villa. He changed his mind because of a conversation with Micah Richards, who probably told him something like ‘you’re not going to play much mate, but at least you’ll earn more money’. If David Silva stays fit and Yaya Toure gets his hunger back their midfield can blow anyone away.
Raheem Sterling controversially left Liverpool for a record breaking 49 million pounds, making him the most expensive English player ever. He adds pace and if he works on his shooting and decision making then the sky’s the limit. On 200k a week though, even if he does not fulfil his potential,he can be comforted by the words of his agent ‘at least you’ll earn more money’. Another player with mass potential is youngster Patrick Roberts, who joins for an initial £8 million from Fulham. How much of a chance he gets remains to be seen, don’t be surprised if he is loaned out,despite City’s need for English bodies in Europe, hence the Delph and Sterling purchases.
To do list – An additional centre half to insure against Kompany’s indifferent form, Demichelis’ age and Mangala’s naïve reading of the game. The midfield should be fine as long as severe injuries are avoided, but it’s up front where Aguero needs help. They were the top scorers in the league last season, but that will not happen again unless they purchase, otherwise Chelsea will not be stopped by them.
Chelsea (Last Season – Champions)
Though Chelsea are my favourites to win the league again, Jose Mourinho’s lack of transfer activity as things stand, is what may cost them in Europe.
The only significant signings to date are Asmir Begovic who comes in for 8 million pounds from Stoke to replace Chelsea legend Petr Cech who joined rivals Arsenal. The other important deal was Falcao coming in for the season from Monaco. Despite not setting the world alight on loan at Manchester United last season, Jose (knowing his pedigree), has decided to link him up once again with Diego Costa. The two terrorised defences briefly at Atletico Madrid. With Costa’s questionable hamstring, Mourinho shall pencil Falcao in for enough games to get him firing regularly again.
Defensively Chelsea need bodies, after a season where he barely played, Felipe Luis has returned to Atletico. With young Tomas Kalas returning on loan to Middlesbrough, Chelsea are serenading Everton’s John Stones after having a couple of bids rejected. Augsburg’s Ghanaian left back Baba Rahman is being lined up to replace the void left by Felipe Luis; a move that would allow Cesar Azpilicueta to cover at right back, giving the option of Branislav Ivanovic to play centre half when needed.
Spurs’ Moussa Dembele and Barca’s Alex Song have all been linked with Chelsea over the summer; whether they tried earnestly to sort a deal for any of them is not fully known though.
To do list – The aforementioned defence; but knowing Chelsea they will get what they want and will strengthen. If the Falcao experiment misfires they may have to buy up front in January. Another area I personally think is a slight concern is the midfield. When I first mention that, you may think what am I getting at?…but wait. Chelsea are littered with defensive midfielders and players who can run the engine room; (Mikel, Matic, Ramires & youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek), but attack-wise Eden Hazard needs help. Chelsea’s cautious style hinders him sometimes, making them twice as reliant on him. With Oscar playing deeper since Cesc Fabregas joined last season, they need more pace and creativity as Mourinho seems reluctant to use Juan Cuadrado. Willian used to wow audiences when he used to play in a ‘number 10 role’ in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, but he is basically a central midfielder now as Mourinho has decided to exploit the fact he likes to work hard. The Premiership will be won again but I feel they will come undone in Europe.