Analysing Premier League's big teams and their title chances
It’s that time of the year when the colours shall be flashed pompously, the songs shall be sung vociferously and the adrenaline pumping through the veins for one the most popular footballing leagues gets underway this weekend. Each season is something new and whilst the last could have been closer up the table, this season could see much more than one contest for the coveted throne of Champions of England.
Chelsea cruised home with the title last time around with an eight-point gap to closest rivals, Manchester City. No one will deny that Chelsea were probably favourites all through the year last time around, but this time could be a tighter affair with more than one team looking to oust the holders.
Let’s take a closer look at how each team that could seriously contest or alter the title race, are shaping up -
The holders under Mourinho are probably the most balanced squad in the Premier League. They haven’t added too many players this season, with only Begovic and Falcao joining the squad until now with Cech and Felipe Luis outgoing.
Mourinho doesn’t like tinkering with his squad too much and rightly so. He boasts of the strongest defence and a midfield that is second to none. The likes of Terry and Cahil have been rock solid with Ivanovic and Azpillicuetta in front of an in-formThibaut Courtois.
With Matic as insurance, the likes of Ramires and Fabregas have it easier going forward. But the game-changers are Hazard and Costa for Chelsea. Mourinho has great trust in the Belgian international and thinks Hazard isn’t far away from scaling the heights of Messi and Ronaldo.
While that still irks the pessimists, not many will doubt Hazard’s gift. The former Lille man was instrumental last season notching 14 goals and 9 assists in the league. Willian is another player who has blossomed under Mourinho. Not only is he a threat going forward but the Brazilian tracks back and fits his manager’s defensive set-up really well.
Chelsea’s striking options have only been diversified with the addition of Falcao, but the Colombian will find it hard to displace a certain Diego Costa, a man he knows all too well from his Atleti days. Costa notched up 20 goals in his debut season and was a menace up front. His combative style is second to none and he really digs his heels in to get the Blues firing.
A lot this season will come down to his fitness, for without him, the Stamford Bridge outfit do fall short at times. The Community Shield was a great example of that but when the season kicks on, there aren’t many managers in the world who know how to get 3 points on the board better than Jose Mourinho.
Rewind to two years ago and a significant amount of Arsenal fans wanted Wenger’s departure. His squad was too young, one that could be overpowered and they had a series of high-profile names walk out the door with no back-ups lined up.
The Gunners now seem to have been revitalized. Their French manager has loosened his purse and bought players who have truly led their revival. Ozil, Sanchez and Cech have been major additions but Wenger’s faith in Ramsey and Coquelin has seen these players really come of age.
Coquelin is an unsung hero of sorts who has really solidified Arsenal’s midfield and provided good protection to their defence. His interceptions and ability to get stuck-in have helped his team immensely. His stats are one thing but his ability to get back in position and pace are traits that have kept his French boss away from the transfer market.
Going up-front the Gunners have always been a treat to watch. They now are firing on all cylinders with a rejuvenated Alexis Sanchez, who not only had a great season with the Emirates outfit, but also won silverware back home with Chile in the form of the Copa America. He’s been a revelation of sorts, not only giving them pace and trickery but also a final product as he finds the back of the net regularly.
The likes of Koscielny and Mertesacker will be licking their lips knowing they have Petr Cech behind them and if Ramsey steps in with Cazorla and Ozil, Arsenal could find the back of the net quite easily. Some might argue they’re probably one striker away from being favourites for the title but there’s no doubting that the confidence is sky high after back to back FA cup triumphs and a psychologically important win over Mourinho’s men at the Community Shield.
A headstrong Van Gaal was what fans and the staff would have wanted post the Moyes debacle, but then he has caused quite a stir in the red half of Manchester. After spending oodles of money on big names, the Old Trafford side now find their best player of the last two 2 seasons wanting to walk out the door, their most expensive signing in Di Maria heading to sunnier Paris and a strike-force that is now depleted with Van Persie and Falcao having departed.
Though the Dutch manager has had to make some harsh decisions in letting players leave, he has brought stability to a side that looked out of sorts under David Moyes more than a year back. United have played some spectacular football in patches and they’ve made some stellar additions in Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin.
Depay is still an unfinished article, but not many can doubt his talent that saw him lap up rave reviews and take home the Eredevisie’s top goalscorer’s spot. The Red Devils are still a few additions away from being serious title contenders, but there’s no doubting that they will flex their financial muscle before the end of the transfer window.
Van Gaal still needs to figure out his best formation and starting lineup. His captain, Rooney has been handed an uphill task of banging in 20+ goals but the former Evertonian is no slouch and can definitely give the likes of Aguero and Costa a run for their money purely in terms of goals/game. The Old Trafford outfit’s build-up play sometimes has been tedious and boring and might need some changes of personnel in the right positions to truly unlock their offensive potential.
Depay who was played upfront during preseason, might still be better off on the wings with the industrious Mata better off in a central role where he tends to find space and create goalscoring chances. The fans are still patient and resigned to the fact that an aging squad that won the title two seasons back was in need of a overhaul and that a true challenge for top honours in the league and in Europe might still be a while away.