Arsenal. It’s been 11 long and often arduous years since Arsenal last tasted Premier League success but there are certainly signs of progression at The Emirates. The signing of Petr Cech means Arsene Wenger has top quality in every position and Sunday’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea highlighted Arsenal’s new-found strength which will be vital in the title race. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side will be the main obstacle in their way, however the continued absence of Diego Costa is sure to worry blues fans with deputies Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao both failing to set the world alight at Wembley. Both Manchester clubs have signaled their intent to bring the title back to the north west after Manchester City spent out £49m on Raheem Sterling and United spending £31m on Memphis Depay. However, both these sides have failed to fully address the underlying weaknesses that saw them come up short last season. We could have a genuine four-horse race this time out but it just feels like it is Arsenal’s time to reign supreme once again; there are certainly no more excuses for Wenger’s men.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. It’s almost impossible to see Arsenal, Chelsea and City not making the top four with the strength in depth their squads possess. This leaves one Champions League spot left for Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham to fight for. Indeed, Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino are well capable of surprising a few people and could claim fourth place with their attractive brand of football coupled with the defensive reinforcements of Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer. Liverpool, on the other hand, have rung the changes this summer in what seems like a desperate bid by Brendan Rodgers to cling onto the Anfield hot seat amid growing discontent. James Milner is sure to do a steady job in the Reds midfield but their season hinges on Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings and Christian Benteke hitting the ground running. United claimed fourth spot this season and have improved their squad for the coming campaign by signing the likes of Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger. However, Van Gaal has failed to address the defensive frailties that have held his side back over the last couple of seasons and for that reason it is unlikely to see them improving on last season’s fourth-placed finish. Nonetheless, it would be a big surprise to see them fall out of the top four.
Bournemouth, Sunderland, Aston Villa. The Bournemouth story is a real-life football fairly tale but like all fairy tales there has to be an end. This season could be a real struggle for Bournemouth. Eddie Howe has shown faith with the squad who earned the Cherries’s historic promotion by not making too many drastic changes but scoring goals could be a real problem for Bournemouth as Callum Wilson lacks Premier League experience. Watford, Norwich and Leicester City are sure to be involved in the relegation scrap but they seem to have more strength in depth in their squads that could be enough to see them retain their Premier League status. So that leaves perennial strugglers Sunderland and Aston Villa to finally succumb to second-tier football. The re-appointment of Dick Advocaat for a further season certainly raised eyebrows and there seems to be an absence of a long-term strategy and the Stadium of Light. Meanwhile Aston Villa, who showed signs of improvement under Tim Sherwood last time out, will be without their talisman Christian Benteke this season. If new recruits Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede can fill the goal-scoring void the Villains may just battle their way to safety. If not, Villa could be facing their first ever season outside of the Premier League.
Manchester United. If the Premier League title once again proves elusive for Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman will be desperate to ensure his spell in charge at Old Trafford isn’t completely baron. It’s been two years since United last got their hands on some silverware and for a club so accustomed to winning, they won’t want to go too long without something to celebrate. Arsenal will prove a major obstacle for the Reds as Arsene Wenger’s side look to win the famous old competition for a third successive year.
Petr Cech. The 33-year-old keeper could well prove to be the missing piece of Arsenal’s title-winning jigsaw. Gunners fans have already seen the calming influence he has on the team during their pre-season games. There were those who questioned the £11m fee for a 33-year-old but that will seem like a small price to pay if the Czech international can turn Arsenal from nearly men to number one.
Watford. A team that people seem to be putting in the same bracket as Bournemouth, presumably because they haven’t been seen in the Premier League for some time now. However, Watford have more about them than Bournemouth. Typically, nine out of their ten summer signings have been bought from overseas but that hasn’t halted their progression over the last few seasons. Nor has the constant managerial changes. Indeed, the Hornets secured promotion last season with five different managers in charge over the course of the season. Expect good attacking football, plenty of open games, and a significant contribution from Troy Deeney.
Tim Sherwood. After his interim spell in charge at Tottenham and his honeymoon period at Villa last season, now is the time we really find out what Tim Sherwood is made of as a manager. Villa avoided the drop by just three points last term. With the loss of Christian Benteke, Sherwood’s managerial expertise will be severely tested and there has been little to suggest he is tactically adept.
Memphis Depay. United’s marquee signing from PSV Eindhoven has all the attributes required to light up the Premier League. He also possesses great hunger to prove himself at a giant club. The mixture of talent and desire is sure to see him light up Old Trafford with many sparkling displays this season. It will be interesting to see who has a better season between Depay and Sterling with all the pressure on the latter given his £49m transfer fee.
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