English Premier League Preview: How Strong Do Last Season’s Top Four Look?
The English Premier League is the greatest professional football league in the world. It has great teams, excellent branding and a global fan base. As the Premier League kicks off again this new season, here is a brief assessment of the strongest starting XI’s of the leading teams as well as their apparent strengths and weaknesses.
Chelsea will most likely stick with their league title winning team and formula. With John Terry leading the defence in partnership with Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic will defend on the right while Azpilicueta protects the left side. Against mid-table opponents, Cesc Fabregas will play along with Nemanja Matic in the midfield, while Hazard, Oscar, and Willian will play behind the main striker. However, Mourinho may start with Mikel Obi instead of Willian or with Ramires instead of Oscar, depending his perception of the opposing team.
One major issue Mourinho must tackle is his weak attack. Chelsea had a poor pre-season performance and Diego Costa’s fitness is in question. The team cannot rely on either Loic Remy or Falcao; the duo lack the attacking fire that is required to help Chelsea rake up early points and stay on top of the table. It is rather surprising that Mourinho has waited so long to strengthen his front line even when he knew that Costa battled with a hamstring injury in the second half of last season.
Raheem Sterling is the latest big arrival at Manchester City and team manager, Manuel Pellegrini, whose contract was recently extended till 2017, will play him on the left alongside Navas, David Silva and Sergio Aguero (when he is fully fit). City has a relatively formidable attack with Yaya Toure, Ivorian international, operating powerfully just behind the main attack. However, Raheem’s £49 million signing may reduce strikers like Wilfried Bony and Edin Dzeko to substitutes when Aguero recovers fully.
The major source of concern here is City’s central defence. Eliaquim Mangala had a disappointing season, Vincent Kompany was rather erratic and age is telling on Martin Demichelis. It is also surprising that City did not make early efforts to sign on John Stones who appears set to join Chelsea this season.
Arsenal’s brilliant pre-season tour was crowned with the lifting of the FA Community Shield. One of the key players who made this possible was Petr Cech, a seasoned goalkeeper who joined left Chelsea to join Arsenal. Cech is expected to help the Gunners to dazzle the fans at the Emirates Stadium with his brilliant saves. Click here for Premier League tickets so you can also watch him perform live.
Wenger’s starting XI will be very similar to last season’s line up. Mertsesacker and Koscienlny will occupy center back positions with Monreal on the left and Bellerin on the right. Cazorla and Coquelin will play in the mid-field while Alex Sanchez, who just returned after his country’s Copa America victory, will play on the left. Ramsey will operate from the right flank while Ozil plays right behind Theo Walcott. Presently, Arsenal has a lineup that is bristling with power but Wenger will have to be more fortunate with injuries this season so his team can build up the type of momentum it had towards the end of last term.
Louis Van Gaal seems to be a bit uncertain about what his best defence line should be. Matteo Darmian looks like his prefered choice for the right-back position although he once said that he prefered Antonio Valencia. If Van Gaal keeps his promise, Luke Shaw will defend on the left. Center back positions will be a combination of David Blind and Chris Smalling or Phil Jones. In the mid-field, Schweinsteiger and Carrick appear to be the best options but they have an injury record that may require frequent rotation. So Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin will get a chance to play frequently.
The attack has been strengthened with the signing of Memphis Depay. Depay plays naturally from the left, but Van Gaal prefers to place him in the centre right behind Wayne Rooney while Young and Mata play on the left and right. However, first choice goalkeeper David De Gea is a major source of concern to the team. His pending transfer has affected his performance negatively so he will most likely be replaced by Sergio Romero in the first match against Tottenham.