Why the race for the Premier League title will be much tighter this time round
From the start of last season it was the widely held view amongst football pundits and fans that Chelsea would run away with the Premier League title and they delivered. The Blues had already won the league with three games to spare, finishing eight points higher than the runners-up; Manchester City. Arsenal were once teetering upon challenging for the title, but it wasn’t long before the Premier League had become, at best, a two-horse race. Meanwhile, Manchester United were adapting to a new philosophy brought by Louis van Gaal, and often had to line-up with an inexperienced defence when plagued with injuries at the back. Also, despite Liverpool’s relatively successful previous season, since they had lost key player Luis Suarez to Barcelona, and Sturridge was suffering from a recurring thigh injury, it was generally regarded that Rodgers’ boys best hope was scraping a Champions League finish. Which, of course, they failed to achieve.
Why were Chelsea so strong last season?
Well, first of all it was clear that Chelsea had been most successful in the transfer market. Finding huge transfer fees for the likes of Brazilian centre-back David Luiz and Belgian centre-forward Romelu Lukaku. This allowed the club to bring in goal machine Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid, and playmaker Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona. Didier Drogba made a return as a Player/Coach, and Loic Remy came in to add to the firepower Mourinho craved up front. However it was not just new players that lead to their domination. They went into the season already having the chance to adapt to Jose’s pragmatic style. Players such as Willian, Oscar and Hazard were beginning to flourish, it was felt that the 2014/15 season was going to be when they were at their best. Also, Matic had settled back into the squad after returning from Benfica, bolstering up The Blues midfield. A well-drilled, familiar and talented squad, Chelsea were always going to be the bookie’s favourites going into the the start of last season.
Why are there doubts that Chelsea can reproduce last season’s domination?
The only transfer activity coming into the club has been in the form of replacements; Begovic for Cech, and Falcao coming in for Drogba. Falcao only managed four goals last season, and although Mourinho has spoken highly of him, some doubt that he is the same player he once was. This means that any improvements made to Chelsea will be through a more cohesive style and individual players growing in ability.
However when other teams are analysed, you see that Petr Cech, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, has signed for Arsenal. Arsenal have also seen vast improvements made in younger players such as Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin. The Gunners have been ridden with injuries in recent seasons and if given a bit of luck, they could offer a serious challenge for the Premier League title.
Manchester United have been highly active in the transfer market so far this summer, and are looking at their most dangerous since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford. The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and world-cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger will provide quality, security and depth to Van Gaal’s midfield. Flair player Memphis Depay has also been brought in, one of Europe’s most exciting young players. Also Matteo Darmian will sure up the defence, an area which required improvement. Provided Di Maria remains at the club by the end of the transfer season, there will be no question that this squad bleeds quality. The Red Devils proved to be very impressive in retaining possession and had began to adapt to the philosophies of Louis Van Gaal. As creativity and defensive security is growing ever stronger, the club will see more goals scored and less conceded. United’s fans can hope for a return to former glory, and may see some Premier League silverware for the first time since they lost their beloved Fergie.
Then we have Manchester City, who were the only threat to Chelsea last season, and the only reason that Mourinho’s side still needed to keep up performances. However, City fans will be less than impressed with their team’s run out last season. Yaya Toure struggled to find previous form. Aguero kept up his reputation for being relatively injury prone, despite squeezing out 26 goals over the course of the season. The Sky Blues just never really felt like they possessed the ability to dominate games all season round. They found it difficult to break down certain defences, for example when they played Stoke at home and despite having the fast majority of possession, couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. They eventually lost 1-0 after Mame Biram Diouf scored after an incredible individual effort. But City will be blood-thirsty in the upcoming season and after having managed to clinch Raheem Sterling from Liverpool and Fabian Delph from Aston Villa amongst others. Energetic English talent has been brought into the club, and it is unlikely to stop there. Pellegrini has been given the go-ahead to spend big this summer, as we are likely to see some of the stars of Europe and elsewhere join the club, City will be backing themselves to match any opponent they might face in the upcoming season.
Liverpool’s chances to make a title bid are, however, doubtful. After losing one of England’s hottest prospects and still failing to properly replace Suarez, I find it hard to believe that they have the firepower to pose a threat to any of the other clubs I have mentioned. Although, they have brought in £20 million plus attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino. Englishmen Milner, Clyne and Ings have also joined the party at Anfield. If The Reds manage to find a star striker, they could go on to prove me wrong.
In conclusion, despite the growing strength of the other clubs in England, this is not to say Chelsea are by any means weak. They are still one of the major forces in European and English football. However, it will definitely be a more competitive Premier League in 2015/16 than it was the previous season. This will only lead to a more entertaining, nail-biting and dramatic close in to see who claims the throne come May.
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