Assessing title hopes of Arsenal’s rivals
As expected, this season’s Premier League title race will be another difficult call to make. It is easy to see any one of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea being crowned champions while the usual dark horses are likely to be Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Despite the 4-3 win at the Emirates stadium, Liverpool are perhaps the least fanciable of the trio of outsiders since they possess arguably the weakest defense of any team from the so called ‘Big Six’. However, they do make up for that with a rampant attack and an ambitious manager.
Beginning the individual analysis with Manchester United, the Red Devils have a strong squad and a proven manager who wins everywhere he goes. Along with that, there is a formidable spine which boasts big personalities like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba; something the club has lacked in the absence of Sir Alex Ferguson. A period of acclimation is expected under a new and completely different manager in Jose Mourinho, but United look good in all departments for now. The only question about this team is whether they can break down the smaller sides since that is what lost Mourinho the title in his first season after being re-hired by Chelsea.
Manchester City have the deepest squad in the league and possess a wealth of attacking talent, as well as decent potential with the likes of John Stones, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus. The blues now have a much-needed injection of youth to what was an ageing and injury-prone team, even though their squad still looks slightly unbalanced. As for Pep Guardiola, his ‘tika taka’ could excel in England but he may be trying to be too clever (Clichy and Sagna experiment for example) when he could field a normal side and easily beat minnows of the league like Sunderland. Against better opposition – of which there are many – his meticulous football approach could come unstuck.
Chelsea are still an enigma since they are now taking orders from a third different manager in less than 12 months after under-performing so drastically last season. Eden Hazard is gradually threatening to return to his best and if that is the case, Roman Abramovich’s side is in it with a shout. With that being said, Chelsea refused to neglect the issue of an ageing defence and addressed it with the signings of a new centre-back and left-back even though David Luiz is hardly a solution. In addition to that, Antonio Conte will make them disciplined and defensively organized nonetheless while the addition of N’Golo Kanté takes their security to a new level.
Liverpool may be erratic but through their enthusiasm in attack, they can outscore their way to the top. It was clear how much the absence of European competition aided them a couple of seasons ago and that could prove to be a huge plus this season. Then again, there will be no Luis Suarez or Raheem Sterling to help out this time. Jurgen Klopp having a full pre-season to work with his team could be a difference-maker which practically ensures they will not be as bad as they were last year. Sadio Mane is a huge addition and on their day, the reds have as much swagger as anyone going forward. On the flip side though, they are so suspect defensively and play at such a frenetic pace that it is almost naive. The ‘gung-ho’ approach could be costly.
Arsenal and Tottenham were close runners in last season’s title race but that is unlikely to repeat this term. It is now apparent that Arsenal’s usual few signings matter because with Arsene Wenger in charge, they are simply unable to compete till May. Such is the mental fragility which stems from the manager to be brutally honest. The usual likelihood is another top four finish, but Arsenal may be playing a dangerous game this year if they rest on past assurances of a top four finish. Tottenham on the other hand, will be tested by midweek duties in the Champions League which they are not used to. And considering the fact that they always finish below Arsenal, the title cannot be within reach.