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Would the signing of Leonardo Bonucci make Manchester United favourites for the title?

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Manchester United have entered the transfer window with a bang, under Jose Mourinho.

Having already brought in Eric Bailly from Villareal, Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund and Zlatan Ibrahimovich on a free transfer.

There’s no doubt that the Portuguese manager isn’t done yet with the signing of Paul Pogba imminent and now the club are linked with another Juventus player in the shape of Leonardo Bonucci.

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The Italian centre-back has been the subject of much discussion following an impressive Euro 2016 campaign that saw Bonucci score the penalty that took his country to penalties against world champions, Germany.

Despite then missing a penalty in the shootout, United have now joined the race to sign the 29-year-old and if the Red Devils were able to pull off this signing, they would become the favourites to lift the Premier League title next season.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who guided Italy to the quarterfinal of Euro 2016, was understood to be keen to bring has fellow countryman to Stamford Bridge but the lack of Champions League football may have hindered the Blues’ chances.

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No matter what happens between now and the end of the summer transfer window, the Old Trafford club will be a force next season with Mourinho leading them.

If the club were to complete the signing of Bonucci then surely the Red Devils have to be one of, if not the favourites to win the league next year, assuming they also complete the purchase of Pogba.

A defensive line consisting of Italians, Matteo Darmian and Leonardo Bonucci, alongside Englishmen, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw would be a frighteningly tough wall to break down.

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With strong backup from Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, along with a host of young defenders, including Timothy Fosu-Mensah, United will have depth and quality in abundance.

The signing of Bonucci could also spell the end for a number of other United players, with Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo looking increasingly likely to be overlooked by Mourinho.

United’s competition for the defender comes from their fierce rivals, Manchester City who will have no trouble in matching them financially.

Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

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Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

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Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

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Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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Manchester United

Toby Alderweireld makes case for FA Cup inclusion with Brighton display

The Belgian international returned to starting action in the Premier League.

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Toby Alderweireld
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For the first time since October, Toby Alderweireld started a Premier League match for Tottenham Hotspur, turning in an imperious defensive display as Tottenham drew Brighton 1-1.

On the back of his flawless performance, the 29-year-old Belgian centre-half surely deserves to start in Spurs’ FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday.

On Tuesday night, the defender was seemingly unperturbed by the contract controversies that have overshadowed his season as he confidently marshalled the Tottenham backline while barely putting a foot wrong all match.

The centre-back dealt easily with 12-goal striker Glenn Murray, snuffed out many a through ball from the Seagulls, and contributed a number of intelligent slide tackles.

Alderweireld’s immense passing range was also on show, releasing Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura down the wing with delightful clipped balls.

It was an assured display that was in stark contrast to Davinson Sanchez’s hectic match against Manchester City on the weekend. The young Colombian defender, who has started in the place of the Belgian for all of 2018, looked out of sorts and shaky against City’s robust attack.

With Tottenham’s most important match of the season approaching against United, manager Mauricio Pochettino needs to restore Alderweireld to the starting lineup to avoid a similar defensive collapse against the Red Devils.

A defender of Alderweireld’s experience is far better suited to the enormous occasion and pressure of an FA Cup semi-final than the youthful Sanchez.

The Belgian dispelled any fears of rust after months out of the first team, easily slotting back into the squad and partnering well with international teammate Jan Vertonghen.

Pochettino must put petty contract disputes out of the way and focus on Tottenham’s best defensive set-up on Saturday, which means picking Toby Alderweireld alongside Vertonghen against Manchester United at Wembley.

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Manchester United and Tottenham stars break the mould of the ‘modern midfielder’

Mousa Dembele and Paul Pogba are often criticised for not scoring more goals.

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Goals win games. This fact makes them the most coveted commodity in football.

Teams will pay players 100 times their weight in gold in modern football if that player can fire in 20-30 goals a season.

As tactics and strategies become more complex and players are required to be able to perform multiple jobs simultaneously, the player who occupies the most diverse position on the pitch, the midfielder, is under increasing pressure to perform these tasks.

Goals are becoming an increasingly important metric in gauging their performance levels and value.

Is it accurate to use goals to measure the performance levels of every midfielder, though?

Or should fans be more considerate of specific midfielders roles in their respective sides before making sweeping statements about their ability based on a single metric?

Goal scoring vs non-goal scoring midfielders

Modern football has seen the rise of players who deal mainly in goals.

The likes of Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard in previous years and the rise of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Dele Alli has seen the modern fan begin to view midfielders as players capable of achieving 15+ goals in a season.

Some of these players are. However, the players who do are usually given the greatest level of freedom.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba had been lambasted by critics for going 21 games without a goal, a period stretching to around November.

This stat has divided opinion, with many using it as a evidence of the Frenchman’s supposed failings since rejoining the Manchester side.

Despite the fact that Paul Pogba plays predominantly as a central midfielder for a defensive coach, many critics have sneered at his goal return and labelled him an overpriced flop, following his £89 million transfer from Juventus.

However, Pogba has scored five times in the Premier League this season, putting him third in the rankings for Premier League top goal scoring central midfielders.

The top scoring central midfielder has only two more goals than the Frenchman, so either every central midfielder in England is having a bad season or their role makes it difficult for them to achieve high goal tallies.

Tottenham midfielder Moussa Dembele is another player who has come under increasing scrutiny for his lack of goals.

The Belgian has not recorded a single Premier League goal contribution this season. However, he plays a very defensive role.

Dembele’s primary responsibilities are to provide defensive protection and aiding his team in the transition between defence and attack.

The Belgian was widely heralded following his performances against Juventus where he dominated the midfield and helped Tottenham to secure a foothold in the game.

Dembele has performed like this, in the same role, consistently over the past three seasons.

Prior to the Juventus game, however, whenever Dembele received praise it was followed by the usual chorus of, “but he doesn’t score enough goals”.

Dembele plays in an already attacking side with striker Harry Kane winning back-to-back golden boots and more advanced players, in Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, also recording double digits last season.

For the Tottenham team, Dembele’s power and dribbling is more important to them than his goal-scoring prowess.

As football fans and critics, alike, begin to judge footballers on stats rather than with their eyes, the importance of the most trusted stat of all, goals scored, will grow in importance, while other attributes will likely take a back seat.

Dele Alli and Aaron Ramsey are always going to score more goals than Dembele and Pogba for the simple reason it is their jobs to do just that.

Critics should take the time to take player’s roles and responsibilities in their respective teams into account before making comparisons.

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