This time last season, Chelsea were unbeaten, six points clear at the top of the league and the clear favourites for the title. Twelve months on and they are languishing in the bottom half of the table; a shadow of the side that terrorised teams last season. Whilst Leicester are currently top, the popular consensus is that they do not have the squad depth to maintain their current form until the end of the season. This leaves a title race between five teams; Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool. Whilst City are the definite favourites, the race is plausibly open for any of those five teams – with intelligent investment in January and a bit of luck – to win the title.
Manchester City are the favourites to win the title this season for a reason. They have the best striker in the league in Sergio Aguero and a superb midfield that includes Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure and David Silva. This quality is matched in experience; this is a team that knows what it takes to win the title. Players like Silva, Toure and Aguero are veterans of two previous title wins. Indeed, after five games and five wins pundits thought they could easily claim a third Premier League title.
Yet they have failed to build upon this early dominance. Defeats to West Ham, Tottenham and Liverpool have exposed the fragility of their defence and vulnerability in combatting the pressing game. Furthermore, they lack a top quality back up for the injury prone Aguero; Wilfried Bony has struggled to replicate his form at Swansea whilst Kelechi Iheanacho is not yet ready to lead the line. If they can keep their key players fit, Manchester City will win the title at a canter, but sadly for the Citizens that’s more easily said than done.
So, if not Manchester City. then who? Most commentators would point you to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Indeed this is the Wenger’s best side for years, with the signing of Petr Cech and the rise of Francis Coquelin complimenting their attacking potency. Their attacking fluidity can be attributed in no small part to Arsenal’s two true superstars in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. It appears Wenger has built an XI that has the quality to win titles. Yet the annual Arsenal injury crisis is threatening to derail their title challenge in its infancy. It seems no sooner is a player back from injury than another gets injured: Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Coquelin, just three of the Arsenal first team players currently injured. So whilst Wenger has an XI capable of winning the league he may not have a squad capable of doing so.
If the idiom that a sign of a good team is ‘playing badly and winning’ is accurate, this season’s Manchester United side must be a very good team. They are one point from the top of the table despite rarely looking convincing.
A Team THAT PLAYS BADLY and WINS IS A TEAM TO BE FEARED
This is built on the best defence in the division, inspired by a rejuvenated David De Gea, coupled with a strong defence and protected by the imperious Morgan Schneiderlin. Yet, despite United’s watertight defence, there are concerns at the other end of the pitch. Wayne Rooney is having one of the worst seasons of his career and it is unrealistic to expect 19-year-old Antony Martial to lead a title challenge. If they are to win the league, investing in a striker in January is paramount.
At the beginning of the season if you’d suggested Tottenham could win the title you’d have been laughed out of the room. Yet, unbeaten since the opening day, Spurs are in the race without a doubt. Their squad is young, fit and totally devoted to Mauricio Pochettino and his philosophy.
There are no players who are irreplaceable, yet the team is laced with quality from the likes of Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen. However, whilst this is an exciting time for Tottenham, they have not won the league since the 1960s, and have not finished above fourth in the Premier League era.
Furthermore, over the past few years Tottenham sides have collapsed in the spring; this, coupled with Pochettino’s high intensity football, breeds real concern that this young side could simply run out of energy in the final part of the race.
With one of the most exciting managers in the league in Jurgen Klopp alongside a talented squad, it would be foolish to count Liverpool out of the title race. With the likes Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, they are a potent team going forward, demonstrated in their 4-1 demolition of Manchester City, 3-1 conquering of Chelsea and their 6-1 annihilation of Southampton. Furthermore, they’ve already played each of the title contenders away from home, which means that if they are still in the hunt come January they have an easier second half of the season.
an error always seems to be just around the corner
The Liverpool is defence is a major worry for their fans. Their weak defensive play was epitomised by Simon Mignolet’s error of holding the ball for too long against Bordeaux; an error always seems to be just around the corner. It is imperative that this issue is resolved by Klopp if Liverpool wish to be considered true title contenders.
1) Manchester City
3) Manchester United
5) Tottenham Hotspur