The 2014-2015 Premier League season is about to begin, and at the moment, it seems like one team from last year’s title challenge is dropping out of the wuthering heights (Liverpool) at the expense of a familiar contender (Manchester United), while Chelsea and Manchester City, just like a year ago, seem like early favorites to finish on top. Arsenal? We still can’t take them completely seriously.
Why not? They have made some interesting signings, as the war chest remained open this summer. Mesut Ozil came over last year, and this season another La Liga star (Alexis Sanchez) arrived. With him came Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina while Arsenal, for the first time in quite some time, haven’t lost anyone of importance during the last couple of months. Maybe they don’t have anyone a big club wants, or maybe they’re just better at keeping their own stars.
Is Alexis Sanchez enough to make the upgrade from fourth place specialists to something bigger and brighter? As usual, mental ability and not technical ability will be the deciding factor. Arsenal’s centre back situation is pretty thin as well, but the most devastating injury they could sustain will be to Aaron Ramsey, their most important and best player. Getting Olivier Giroud some rest from time to time and lose quality or goalscoring ability (not that his is the greatest) would be nice as well.
Manchester United managed to beat Arsenal last season, their only win against top four teams. It’s been a busy summer for the Red Devils after their worst season in more than 20 years. The biggest change has been the arrival of Louis van Gaal. With all the signings (Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, more coming on the way) and departing of excess baggage (Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and others), getting someone players actually want to play for has been crucial.
Van Gaal has lack of balance in his squad, problems with his central midfield and an uncertain situation with his defense. He has shown with the Dutch team in the World Cup and throughout his career that he often finds tactical solutions to individual inferiority, but despite his incredible talent up front, it might not be enough to take Manchester United from going nowhere last season to champions. However, no European football is going to help.
If Manchester United return to the top 4, it might be at the expense of Liverpool, who let go of their best player in Luis Suarez. They’ve been busy finding solutions to their depth problems, considering they have Champions League football coming this season: Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can and Rickie Lambert. Taking care of problems across the board, but nothing that might put them over the hump.
Last season was lost when Steven Gerrard slipped and Chelsea won at Anfield. Last season no one expected to win the title and Liverpool found themselves in the mix for the entire season. Once again, the expectations and ambitions this season are humble – a top four finish will be great. Anything else? That’ll be just a bonus, and managing success with European football is something new to Brendan Rodgers as well.
So who remains? Manchester City are the defending champions. One thing we’ve learned from last season was that Jose Mourinho is overrated. Both as a tactician and as a mental warrior. His words meant nothing in the end, because his team lost simple matches. Making shifts from parking the bus to gung ho football didn’t work down the stretch, and last season could be declared a failure, while Manchester City, who some thought were inferior because of their manager, found themselves lifting the trophy.
City purchased Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando, Willy Caballero and Bruno Zuculini. Nothing fancy, and nothing that makes you think they actually got better this season. Maybe there will be more focus on the Champions League after another disappointment last season, losing to Barcelona in the round of 16. Maybe they’re still the best, but they’re not quite the deepest team in England anymore.
The pillaging of Atletico Madrid makes Chelsea the owner of that title. Thibaut Courtois is back, along with Diego Costa and Filipe Luis who were signed for a lot of money. Cesc Fabregas completed the money spent on La Liga players, giving Mourinho talent pretty much everywhere, which means that if he fails to win the league this season, the excuses we’ll hear from him will be even more ridiculous.