OpinionJohn Aldridge

New boys can take us to Euro elite

John AldridgeBy John Aldridge
New boys can take us to Euro elite

LIVERPOOL face a huge chal­lenge to fight their way back into the top four in the Premier League next season, but I believe one of the teams in front of them is vulnerable to being overhauled.

It won’t surprise you when I say that team is Man United, as even though Louis van Gaal achieved his aim of getting his club back into the Champions League last May, they did little to convince me that they will be title contenders next time.

In fact, unless van Gaal gets the right players in this summer, I suspect United will be vulnerable to being picked off by Liverpool for a top-four finish.

Of course, there is the best part of two months left of the transfer window for United to change the narrative as I see it now, but their initial attempts to make waves in the market have not yielded rewards.

Gareth Bale, Paul Pogba, Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos are some of the big names that have been linked with one of the few clubs in the world that could afford to buy those players, but none of them have shown up at Old Trafford yet.

United need to get the transfer wheels in motion quickly because Liverpool cannot be as dreadful as they were for large por­tions of last season.

Liverpool handed United fourth spot on a plate with their horrendous form in the first half of last term and their disastrous results at the end and while the odds appear to be sacked against Brendan Rodgers right now, I’m certain my old club will improve.

Liverpool’s four lead strikers scored a pathetic eight league goals between them last season and the trio of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings will need to treble that tally. If another top-class striker is added – hopefully someone like Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke – even more should flow.

Most Liverpool fans are a little pessimis­tic about next season and I can understand why, but here is my view on the four teams they will need to target as they look to get back into the Champions League mix.


CHELSEA

STATUS: Worthy champions.

AREAS TO IMPROVE: Central defence/ strikers.

You might be surprised to see me suggest that Chelsea need to strengthen the central defensive position, as the combination of John Terry and Gary Cahill did so well for them last season, but I wonder how they would cope if the inspirational Terry was out for a long period.

They also need to look at bolstering a forward line that relied far too much on Diego Costa last season. When the Spaniard was out, they had to limp over the line at the end of the season. While I suspect Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will get Radamel Falcao scoring goals again if he arrives, another striker may be needed.

ALDO’S VERDICT: They are the team to beat and don’t need to make big changes. That said, I don’t think they will have it quite as easy in the title race.


MANCHESTER CITY

STATUS: Wondering what went wrong.

AREAS TO IMPROVE: Central defence/team spirit.

What happened to City last season? The champions offered up a limp defence of their title and were out of the race all too quickly.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini will start under severe pressure from day one and they need to address the flaws that held them back throughout the last campaign. Some of their signings in recent years have been poor and that is an area that needs to be addressed, with Raheem Sterling likely to be one of their big arrivals.

ALDO’S VERDICT: They will get closer to Chelsea if they can keep the brilliant Sergio Aguero fit for the whole season, but you look at the way City’s players folded at times last season and you wonder if they have the right spirit in that dressing room. Pellegrini has to win trophies or face the sack.


ARSENAL

STATUS: The dark horse to threaten City.

AREAS TO IMPROVE: Two proven winners to add to their squad.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger defied his critics once again last season as he secured a third place finish and won the FA Cup in impressive fashion, but now he needs to prove he still has what it takes to mount a sustained challenge for the Premier League title.

Wenger appears to have the players in his squad to do just that now. Alexis Sanchez is a class act and I believe that Wenger will look to add two marquee names to an already strong squad to give it what he hopes will be a finishing touch. If he gets it right, they could be dark horses to push Chelsea for the title.

ALDO’S VERDICT: The signing of keeper Petr Cech from Chelsea was a shrewd move and Arsenal have quality in so many areas now that there is no reason why they can’t be a real force next term. Wenger cannot have any more excuses this time.


MANCHESTER UNITED

STATUS: Finished fourth last season due to Liverpool’s incompetence.

AREAS TO IMPROVE: Up front/ defensive positions.

United fans don’t need me to tell them that all was not well during Louis van Gaal’s first season at the club and only Liverpool’s abject failures allowed them a comfortable passage to fourth spot.

If Robin van Persie is on the way out they will need to sign two top-quality strikers and that will not be easy because there are not many around.

They also have problems at the back and Van Gaal will be under pressure to show he is making real progress in his second campaign.

ALDO’S VERDICT: I believe United need to make four major signings just to ensure they stay in the top four and they need to find a balance in their team that was lacking for so much of last season. There is no guarantee any of this will happen.