With the new Barclays Premier League season well underway, it is clear that there only two legitimate title contenders: Chelsea and Manchester City.
Last season, we saw Manchester City clinch the league title, just beating Chelsea and the surprise package Liverpool. During the summer, Liverpool lost what was their most talented player in Luis Suarez, who headed to Barcelona for £75m. Brendan Rodgers put this money straight back into the side and attempted to build a squad that was capable of winning the Premier League. Having played five games so far, it doesn’t look like the side he has built will be able to do that. For all the goals they scored last season, Liverpool could not defend and that proved to be the difference in the race for the title. The combination of Sakho and new recruit Dejan Lovren at centre back looks incredibly shaky, with Sakho looking more and more uncomfortable every time he touches the ball. Rodgers looks to have solved his left back problem, with Spaniard Alberto Moreno looking impressive in the early stages of his Anfield career, but this side looks a shadow of the one that came so close last year. They are also competing in the Champions League this season, following a lengthy absence, meaning they will have to play more games. Will Brendan Rodgers be able to find the balance and play a suitably strong team in Europe and the Premier League week in week out?
One of the biggest shocks last season was the performance of Manchester United, who finished 7th in their first season without Sir Alex Ferguson. David Moyes was subsequently replaced with Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, which restored hope to the Manchester United fans. During the summer, Man United brought in Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. All very good players, but Van Gaal appeared to ignore the most glaring problem; centre back. Over the summer, two of the clubs most senior players departed, with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand moving to Inter Milan and QPR respectively. Instead of adding a world class centre back to the ranks, United moved for Colombian forward Radamel Falcao, adding to their already impressive forward line. As good as United are going forward, their fragility at the back is blinding and will stop Louis Van Gaal from mounting any sort of title bid.
Arsenal are the only side that look as if they can compete with Chelsea and Manchester City, but even they will likely come up short at the end of the season. Arsenal still lack a striker that will guarantee them more than 20 goals a season. Danny Welbeck will prove to be a very worthwhile investment for Arsene Wenger, but unless he can begin to score goals regularly, then it is unlikely that Arsenal will be able to challenge for the title. For all the creativity they have in midfield, they still lack some steel in the middle, which is what Sami Khedira would have added had he arrived during the summer. Their lack of depth in defence is also a worry, with injuries already taking their toll this early in the season.
Chelsea and Manchester City are the only two realistic contenders this season. Chelsea fell short last year due to lacking a guaranteed goal scorer and they have filled that void with Diego Costa who has been in scintillating form so far. City have strengthened their side by finally adding another centre back, bringing in Eliaquim Mangala from Porto, who looked very solid alongside captain Vincent Kompany against Chelsea last Sunday. Both Mourinho and Pellegrini have a wealth of talent at their disposal, and that strength in depth will be crucial. I can see the title coming down to which team can keep their strikers fit. Will Costa or Aguero win it for their side? Only 33 games to go…