Chelsea side won’t have it so easy this time around
The Premier League will be a lot closer this season than it was last time around. But it will end the same way, with Chelsea clinging on to their title in what I’m willing to predict will be a great finish.
Unless you are Manchester United, defending the Premier League is hard done. Chelsea themselves, in 2005 and 2006, are the only club other than United to achieve back-to-back victories since the PL began and they will be put to the pin of their collar to do it this time.
Radamel Falcao will be a good replacement for Didier Drogba up front. But it will be interesting to see if Gary Cahill can step into the defensive leadership role that has been John Terry’s for so long.
Why will it be harder this season as against last term for Chelsea? Because the opposition has clearly taken last season on board and built up their squads.
Manchester City will be better with Raheem Sterling to add even more attacking threat, neighbours Manchester United have definitely improved with their summer signings and Arsenal are better too and ready to pick up where they left off with a dazzling finish to last season.
To begin with the Gunners, they have confidence and drive and a better goalkeeper now in Petr Cech. But I can’t tip them to win the Premier League for two reasons.
The first is their habit of going walkabout for a month of every season.
Until Arsene Wenger eradicates that issue, Arsenal will drop too many points in that four or five weeks to win the crown.
The other issue is their lack of a truly dominant centre-half. I know Per Mertesacker is a World Cup winner with Germany, but I’d like him to have an even more pro-active and leading partner.
For me, getting Petr Cech was a great move – but not a game-changer for Arsenal. It’s the pairing in front of Cech when they are playing against Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney that is the issue.
But class centre-halves are becoming harder and harder to find and it seems the players who could do the job, like Mats Hummels (Germany) and Ezequiel Garay (Argentina), simply don’t want to come to the Premier League.
As I wrote earlier, Manchester United have bought good players over the last three months, but they also need a serious figure at the back.
The younger players Alex Ferguson bought to eventually replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic haven’t stepped up to that level and it is no secret that United coveted Hummels this summer — only to be rejected.
I worry a bit about Manchester City. Yes, Sterling will improve them and the Fair Play money restrictions have been watered down to a level where they hardly count anymore, so City can buy plenty of talent.
It’s the talent that’s already there that worries me, principally Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure. Kompany, playing as he did two seasons ago, was one of the world’s best defenders. Last season he never hit those heights at all.
He has to get back to his best if City are to challenge.
At least for Manuel Pellegrini that is a possibility.
I fear that Toure’s legs have gone. Last season he looked to me like a player who knew what to do and where to be on the pitch but his body couldn’t carry him there.
Without their big enforcer at his best in midfield City won’t have a chance of success when they come up against their rivals for the title.
Nor will Liverpool’s campaign go anywhere unless Daniel Sturridge is fit and scoring goals regularly. With Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling sold, Sturridge is now the man to whom Liverpool will turn to lead them back to the top four.
What Liverpool cannot afford is their striker having the sort of stop-start, injury-hit campaign that Sturridge endured last season.