The 2015-16 Premier League season kicks off this Saturday. After Chelsea took the title with three games remaining, this campaign appears to be much more of a challenge.
Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Manchester City have all made a significant investment in their squads, which has helped make this season’s title race the most anticipated in Premier League history. Arsenal has added an elite goalkeeper in Petr Cech; Manchester City signed an exciting prospect in Raheem Sterling; Manchester United finally has a defensive spine in the center of midfield with the signings of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger; and Liverpool, after a dismal campaign for their goalscoring forwards, has signed the lethal Christian Benteke.
Predicted Order Of Finish:
- Manchester United
- Manchester City
It’s not that Chelsea has had a great summer in the transfer market, as they remain largely the same team, but their rivals simply have not improved enough. Even with key players like Eden Hazard, Willian, and Oscar entering into the prime of their careers, expect Chelsea’s pursuit of the league title to be much more difficult this time around. Although there are not glaring weaknesses in the squad, there are some potential areas of concern. The most evident area of concern has to be depth at the striker position.
With 20 Premier League goals in his first season at Chelsea, Diego Costa is the elite center-forward the club has craved since 2010. Due to Costa’s delicate hamstring, as well as, his propensity to pick up suspensions, Chelsea’s other strikers are going to be vital this campaign. Loic Remy was a reliable deputy last season, with 7 goals in 21 league appearances. However, manager Jose Mourinho’s loan signing of Radamel Falcao is arguably the most baffling transfer of the summer. After a knee ligament injury and disastrous 2014-15 season on loan at Manchester United, Chelsea convinced the former Atletico Madrid striker to halve his wages and join them, but his style as a poacher simply does not suit what Mourinho looks for in a center-forward. Whatever his goalscoring record was at Atletico and Porto, Falcao is not Mourinho’s prototypical big target center-forward that holds up the ball.
Arsenal has made only one major acquisition, which is Petr Cech, but it’s an important one because it gives the Gunners a top-class goalkeeper at last. Additionally, it gives Arsene Wenger a player with an abundance of experience at the highest levels of European football, and is the only starter who has won every major trophy in England. Even though they finished third last season, recent signs indicate that Arsenal are on the up. Arsenal has a reputation lately of being able to beat England’s “smaller clubs,” but struggles against the very top of the division. Last season, they won at Manchester City and got draws at Anfield and Old Trafford. Wenger’s critics in recent seasons have blasted him for being too attack-minded in big, away matches, but last season’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium demonstrated a stronger defensive mindset. They also have won the F.A. Cup two years in a row.
However, there will come a point soon where the fans will want more, especially with the finances Arsene Wenger has access to. Wenger filled their need for a solid keeper, but they still need a world-class striker, a defensive midfielder, and a physical central defender to be on the same plane as Europe’s elite teams. In spite of their improved record against the country’s top clubs last season, Arsenal still has a reputation as more of a finesse team that has a tendency to get physically bullied by teams with bigger players. An additional area of worry for this team is its attitude. In recent seasons, Arsenal players have thrown celebrations at simply making the top four. While Chelsea is currently the best team in London, Arsenal is historically London’s best club and in terms of major trophies won, and they are third in the country for all-time. It is unconscionable that a club with the stature and history of Arsenal would celebrate finishing fourth or third. We’ve said this about Arsenal many times, but they are indeed very close to becoming true contenders for the biggest prize in English football.
Out of all the clubs in competition for the title, Manchester United is the biggest enigma. In the spring of last season, the Red Devils had a stretch of games that saw them beat Tottenham, Liverpool at Anfield, and Manchester City. When it finally appeared that United found their form, they turned around and lost three straight games to Chelsea, Everton, and West Brom. Although the ingredients at the back and the depth at the forward position aren’t quite there yet, expect Louis Van Gaal’s side to compete for the league this season. Even after a full year in charge at Old Trafford, because of the slew of injuries, Van Gaal still probably doesn’t know his best defensive combination. The signings of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger definitely help stabilize the midfield, especially with Michael Carrick’s injury problems. However, at the age of 30 and being a player who seemingly has constant fitness problems, the jury is out regarding how much United will get out of Schweinsteiger. If they can fix their defensive issues and find a goalscoring forward to complement Rooney, they’ll rank with the highest ceiling of teams immediately below Chelsea.
While United has probably had the best offseason, in terms of summer signings, the opposite side of Manchester has had arguably the worst transfer window. For a team that churned out very average performances all too often, more changes needed to be made. The center of midfield was awful in City’s big games last season and with mainstay Yaya Toure on the wrong side of 30, this summer appeared to be the perfect time to sell him. Fernando and Fernadinho were largely ineffective last season and seem to be poor long-term investments. Other than being a home-grown player, the signing of Fabian Delph from Aston Villa is also bemusing and will most likely be fodder for City’s cup matches. While Raheem Sterling may be the brightest young talent in England for the future, the majority of the 49 million pound fee that City payed is based on potential. Sterling is a phenomenal talent and athlete, but has not accomplished anything at the highest level, as evidenced by his abysmal performances against the top teams last season. This very well could turn out to be a good signing, but it will be a long-term project. The center of defense, with captain Vincent Kompany’s drop in form and a lack of a reliable deputy to Kompany, is another question mark.
That said, the blue half of Manchester City still has a very talented squad and depending on the players they purchase between now and the closing of the window on September 3rd, they could still very well find themselves in the thick of the title hunt by next spring. Manuel Pellegrini still has the country’s best forward to call upon in Sergio Aguero, but as always, his ability to stay healthy throughout an entire campaign remains in doubt. David Silva, who was tied with Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas for second in the Premier League scoring chances created with 91, is another veteran player who has been reliable over the years for City. Additionally, Sterling, in time, will be an improvement over Jesus Navas, but because of inadequacies in central midfield and central defense, it is hard to see them winning the title in what will most likely be Manuel Pellegrini’s last campaign with the club.