The English Premier League is the world’s most followed football league, and without a doubt, by a huge distance. With at least six teams fighting it out for the trophy every year, Leicester City’s addition to the nerve-wrecking tale brings a lot of excitement and new energy to the title-battle. In one of the most exciting football scripts ever, Leicester won the League, probably even surprising themselves. The team, smartly marshalled by Italian manager Claudio Ranieri, used the least number of players among all teams in the League winning run.
Since the turn of summer, there have been instrumental changes in all the major teams. Here, we take a look at all the major sides of the Premier League, who may have a shot at the next Premier League silverware.
Leicester City:Champions Leicester City wrote several stories of winning over money by dedication and upsetting odds, but it looks unlikely that they will repeat the feat. Not writing off the quality of the team or the tactful acumen of Claudio Ranieri, such scripts look wonderful once in ages. With added pressure of the elite Champions League, it will be interesting to see how Ranieri’s team manages to cope up with the pressure.
The Foxes have performed very well in the transfer market, losing only one of their instrumental players from last season, N’Golo Kante, to Chelsea. They’ve filled in the gap left over by bringing in Nampalys Mendy from Nice, who is a no-nonsense customer in the centre of the park. Daniel Amartey, could also fill that position. The signing of Ahmed Musa gives an added impetus to the Foxes’ attack. The Nigerian striker has been signed from CSKA Moscow and has the speed and counter-attacking abilities to the likening of the boss.
Jamie Vardy, their talismanic striker, turned down a move to the Emirates, who are in talks to snap Foxes’ Riyad Mahrez, the creative lynchpin from Algeria. In a long season with four tournaments to play, it will be interesting to see how Claudio Ranieri manages to rally around his team. The odds are set at about 5000/1, and this team has already beaten an odds of 11000/1 last season. Can they do it again? It will be an uphill task, but football lovers aren’t complaining.
Arsenal: The North-London team messed up their best chance to win the league last season and to provide some relief to the ever under-fire coach Arsene Wenger. The French has the complete backing of the board, as he has been consistently putting the team into the Champions League, year-after-year.
For how long would this work as a consolation is a question Arsenal fans have been asking for a while. Gunners have not created waves in the transfer market though. They have signed Granit Xhaka, the central midfielder from Borussia Monchengladbach, giving ample cover to the injury-prone Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. The club has also bought Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers, which gives the defence some cover. Wenger needs to look at the club’s Achilles heel soon, which is the goal scoring department. With support play from Euro star Aaron Ramsey, Chilean powerhouse Alexis Sanchez and German superstar Mesut Ozil never a short-coming, Arsenal need to add a striker who converts chances to goals. Oliver Giroud is a good striker, but not one who could lead this side to trophy.
Recently, Alexander Lacazette has been associated with a move, but it has been a same old story for the club in the recent years with the likes of Karim Benzema and Edison Cavani playing the roles. Wenger is adept to various tournaments and would find a way to rally his team, but it will be interesting to see the targets Arsenal achieve this season. Atop-four finish with a FA cup or League Cup would not calm the supporters for long, and this needs to change to bring a gush of fresh wind to the Emirates Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur: Tottenham Hotspur has been on the fringes of the top-four over thepast few years and finally showed their real potential last season. Various footballers said the title was theirs to lose, which they did in abysmal fashion.
The young side, coached by Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, showed flashes of brilliance last season and were one of the in-form teams. The team presented new talents to the league in the form of Dele Alli and Eric Dyer. Christian Eriksen is finally playing his role to perfection, with Erik Lamela showing flashes of his brilliance. The defence is well led by the Belgian pair of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderwiereldand has attacking full-backs in Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. The ever-scoring Harry Kane played his role to perfection, killing all suggestions of him being a one-season wonder.
In the transfer market, Spurs have only strengthened the side with signings like Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar. The centre of the park will now be marshalled by the hardworking Wanyama and due to the long schedule, the striker duties will be well divided between the two young, yet capable, strikers. Tottenham finished the league at the third position last season and it will be interesting to see how they change their game-plans to counter the threats of changes in the big three.
Chelsea: The league champions of 2014-15 had a forgettable season last term. The team struggled till January and sacked fan-favourite Jose Mourinho, under whom the team turned from dudes to duds. With a new coach in Antonio Conte, who led Italy to a good Euro 2016, Chelsea will look to be back to the level of football they are known for. The team has seen the arrival of Belgium striker MichuBatshuyi from Marseille, who will challenge Diego Costa for the first eleven.
Tactically, Conte is revered throughout the world and Russian owner Roman Abramovich has given a long rope to the Italian for changing the fortunes of the side. At the centre of the park, N’Golo Kante has been roped in from Leicester to give competition to Serbian NemanjaMatic and to provide the much needed impetus. Attacking midfielder Oscar was rumoured to be leaving, but might stay after his outstanding performance against Inter Milan. The team has not undergone wholesome changes, and it needs to be seen how Conte implements his tactics to the Mourinho-set team. Some new names are doing the rounds to come to Chelsea Football Club, but Conte is a manager who is hard to impress.
Manchester City: The club which has been in the top league for just five years now has got world’s one of the most sought-after managers at its helm. Seldom do we see a coach making more noise than the players, but then, we’ve Pep Guardiola in the driver’s seat. Regarded as the best coach in the world by many, the tiki-taka master will have his task cut out at the Etihad.
Guardiola has already started writing his own script, with German midfield maestro IlkayGundogan being the first entrant in his list of summer transfers. Guardiola has also signed Spanish winger Nolito, under the nose of his former employers Barcelona, and Leroy Sane from Schalke 04, making his intent of outright victory clear. Guardiola is known to give his sides shape and fluidity and specific game-plans, but it’ll be seen whether these tactics work in a fast-paced league like in England.
Rumours suggest that Guardiola wants a goalkeeper in his ranks to challenge Joe Hart, who can be brilliant as well as disastrous on his days. Guardiola needs to give the mentality of champions to his side, which has seemed to be lacking. Kelechi Iheanacho’s good form would be a happy problem for Guardiola while choosing from a pool of strikers which includes Argentine superstar Sergio Aguero, Nolito and Loic Remy. Working with creative attackers has always been Guardiola’s way of playing and David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are expected to play key roles.
The ageing Yaya Toure needs to find his mojo back to lead the side in the centre. The defence too, needs a revamp as the last thing Guardiola would want is a goal-leaking side. Thus, it looks to be the most challenging project of the Catalans’ career, so far.
Manchester United: From title-winners to being defeated by MK Dons, Manchester United have had a terrible story to tell in the last three years.
David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson’s self-appointed heir, was sacked and Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal was given the hot seat. Things didn’t look very good after LVG’s two seasons and Jose Mourinho replaced him. The Portuguese looks the right fit for the Old Trafford faithful.
The ‘Special One’ has started making the team he wants, with talismanic Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining his old gaffer at United. The attacking creativity has been bolstered with the signing of last season’s Bundesliga heroHenrikhMkhitaryan. Jose is one of the most successful coaches in the football world today and is known to have tough defences.
Thus, Eric Bailly, one of the most sought-after young defenders in the world, has also signed the dotted lines. With Paul Pogba’s imminent return looming large, it is clear that Mourinho has been given a free hand by Ed Woodward. Mourinho has removed players he does not wants - most remarkably, former German World Cup winning captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Mourinho has brought a fresh feeling of free-flowing football to United, which was evident from the pre-season tour. Mourinho is the only one of the three new, highly-celebrated managers who knows the strains of the league and other competitions. United are expected to be back to the top, and Mourinho seems to be the best man for the job.
Thus, it needs to be seen as to who explores their way to the top. Is it going to be the same old story, or would it be another story of an upset from a small club? Premier League is knocking at the door waiting to unfurl one of the best stories in the football world ever. The world would be here as the new season begins.