Picking one position to improve at for each of the Top 6 teams in the EPL
The traditional Top 6 teams of the English Premier League have all encountered mixed fortunes early on in this season. Let's take a look at one position that seems to be a spot of weakness for each team based on early season performances.
The defending Champions Manchester City are showing no signs of change with their smooth, yet ruthless football catching the eye once again. At the time of writing, they do occupy the top spot in the league after 7 games, only on goal difference though. A Liverpool side that looks determined to take them off their perch are right on their tail, with a new look Chelsea right behind. Spurs and Arsenal have encountered similar starts to their career, with the North London rivals sitting equal on points at 4th and 5th place respectively.
The only tragedy of the traditional top 6 so far seems to be the dismal form of Manchester United. The team looks to be going through a rut that reminds everyone of Chelsea's disastrous third season under Mourinho, with things not looking up for United if recent performances are anything to go by.
Let us now take a look at a position that seems to be an evident chink in the armor of each of these sides and look at possible solutions or transfer targets that they might look to in the January transfer window to resolve the issue in hand.
#1. Manchester United: Center Back.
Jaap Stam, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic. These were the rocks on whose efforts, the Premier League legacy of Manchester United was formed. It is of no surprise that the sad plight of Manchester United in the post-Fergie era can be directly attributed to a period where there hasn't been a notable center back pairing comparable to that of Pallister - Bruce or a Vidic - Ferdinand.
The current situation is such that with each passing game, it looks like the defenders are oozing confidence out, and even under the extremely pragmatic defensive tactician that is Jose Mourinho (also looking like a ghost of his past) they cannot seem to get a grip on games, and seem to be leaking goals. The latest reminder of this was when Mark Noble slid a pass between two center backs caught on their heels, right into the path of Marko Arnautovic who just had to pick his spot into the back of the net past a helpless David De Gea.
The current roster of Center Backs at United includes Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo. All of them have shown sparks of promise over the years, but none has been able to cement their place in the squad. Mourinho's attempt at tweaking the formation to have a three man backline also failed against West Ham and is creating further frustration amongst the Manchester United faithful.
If Eric Bailly is restored to the confidence level he showed in his debut campaign, that could be of huge relief for Mourinho, as he is a phenomenal athlete and showed incredible strength and solidity in his debut campaign for United. To partner Bailly however, none in the current roster seem ready enough.
United seemingly made a really desperate pursuit for Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld and we can all see why. Alderweireld is one of the best center backs in the world and has been consistent in his displays throughout his career. If United manage to secure his services with a lucrative offer that will satisfy his demands (which are reportedly unmet by Spurs because of their rigid wage structure), then this could finally be the solution to a very problematic scenario for United and their manager.
However, Alderweireld is approaching 30 years of age, and could only be a short-term solution. In Victor Lindelof, United have a good backup option, but he is another player who has had a mixed run of form during the course of his tenure at United. Milan Skriniar of Inter Milan and Danielle Rugani of Juventus could be realistic long-term prospects United can pursue to solve their long-standing issues in this problem.
Until then, all the United hierarchy can do is hope that this downward spiral is put to an end and that their fortunes turn a corner, as their rivals are sprinting ahead of them in the race for a Champions League spot and the Premier League title.