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Yesterday I talked about the 3 out of 6 teams that could challenge for the Premier League title, according to Arsene Wenger. Today we’ll complete the look at the other half of those 6. The post is not necessarily in the order of those who could mount the most serious challenge, that is according to my views anyways.
We restart with Manchester City, obviously the biggest spenders of the transfer season. Their outlay for the new season have already surpassed the £100 million mark with the signing of Aleksandar Kolarov, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Jerome Boateng with Javier Garrido going the opposite direction as Kolarov. Except for a striker, they have practically strengthened every department in the team. This would be Roberto Mancini’s first full season and he will be under a lot of pressure to deliver, maybe a cup triumph is the target but ultimate goal is definitely to achieve Champions League qualification.
Those signings have affected those home-grown talents currently within their ranks. The likes of Stephen Ireland, Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha and Michael Johnson among those that will have to move on to achieve first team football. Even their most effective player last season, Craig Bellamy is being shunned with a view of the new ruling in terms of squad registration for the English league. New players takes time to gel, regardless of how good they are. Silva is the one to look out for and I suspect they will creep in for the last of the Champions League spots.
Next, we have Liverpool, who disposed of their underachieving manager, Rafa Benitez and have gone British with Roy Hodgson taking over the reins. There were a lot of transfer activities at Anfield with Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, Danny Wilson and Jonjo Shelvey coming in and Yossi Benayoun going to Chelsea. However, their biggest triumphs is not who they brought in but rather the two which they have managed to keep. Stalwarts, Steven Gerrrard and Fernando Torres have both chose to remain with the club and needless to say, Liverpool’s immediate success depends on the duo’s performance.
Hodgson’s more immediate task is to advise Javier Mascherano against his wish to follow Benitez to Inter Milan or a move to Barcelona. Replacement will be hard to find with just less than a week to go to the start of the new season. Much is depended on Torres to stay fit throughout the season as Liverpool has a dearth of creditable goalscorers in their squad. Hodgson has both the experience and nous to manage big players and they will push Manchester City for the last Champions League spot (this is of course me saying that Arsenal, United and Chelsea will take the first 3 spots). Ultimately, I think they will not make it and will have to be satisfied with Europa League for the second consecutive season.
Last but not least is Aston Villa, who other than releasing Wilfred Bouma, have been fairly quiet in the transfer market. Manchester City have been pursuing James Milner for the whole of the summer and their tactics looks to be working with Milner’s head already turned. At the moment, they are managerless. Martin O’Neill have just resigned from the job at the start of this week . The search for a new manager will take time and that is a luxury which Villa does not have.
It is hard to see them challenging for anything this season. Time and again, they have shown that they have a very small squad and tends to suffer in periods when most of the players are overplayed. The have a solid defence with Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar the stars in their back four/five. If luck is on their side, Aston Villa will get to play in Europe next season but mid table obscurity is not beyond their fortunes this season.
That is all for the look at the challengers that Arsenal will have for the coming season. We will be thereabouts this season, that much I am sure. We are definitely good enough to reclaim the league title once again but any winning side needs to have an element of luck to them, in terms of injuries or suspension for crucial games or refereeing decisions. I’m hoping lady luck is on our side for the next 10 months.
Thanks for reading, more tomorrow.