THE bookies have installed Manchester City as Premier League title favourites and I just can’t see how they have come to that verdict.
Pep Guardiola’s side finished 18 points behind champions Liverpool last season and have not done enough in the transfer market to solve their defence problems in a summer when they have lost David Silva and Leroy Sane.
I’m sure their sugar daddies have enough spare change in their oil-rich bank account to spend big ahead of the October 5 transfer deadline and yet at this moment in time, I think Liverpool are the team to beat this season and I’m sure Jurgen Klopp and his players feel that way.
It’s hard to see any team outside the traditional top six getting in the mix for the key places in the Premier League this season, so here is my team-by-team guide on what to expect.
The warning signs have been flashing for Liverpool in the last few weeks, but I still believe Jurgen Klopp’s men are a step ahead of the pack as they prepare to start the defence of their Premier League title.
The intensity and ruthlessness that carried them to glory in last season’s one-horse title race has been missing since football returned in June, but I would put that down to the fact that Liverpool had the title virtually wrapped up by then.
Teams lose their focus when the job is done and they have achieved their aim and that is what we saw from Klopp’s team, with the defeat against Arsenal at the back end of the season evidence that the focus had slipped.
We have barely seen a mistake from Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk since they joined Liverpool, yet both of them made bad slips to hand Arsenal a win and the front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have also been off the boil of late.
Yet I expect Liverpool to fly out of the blocks and click back into top gear as the new Premier League season gets under way with the visit of Leeds United to Anfield.
Finish ahead of Liverpool and you will win the title and you won’t be surprised to read that I’m hoping no team manages to do that.
So why do the odds-makers have them as title favourites?
It might be because history tells us it is tough to defend the title, but when a team finishes so far ahead of the pack, it seems strange that they are not named as the hot tip to hang on to the title, so let’s see what City have to offer.
They lost 12 times in all competitions last season and some of those defeats suggested teams have worked out a way to get results against them.
Aside from Liverpool, every team sits back and tries to hit them on the break and if you have good quality in the final third and catch City on a day when their forward players are off the boil, they can be vulnerable.
For me, they are the second best team in the Premier League and I expect them to be one spot behind Liverpool again this season.
They are going in the right direction, but not quickly enough to get involved in the title race.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did his main job last season by finishing in the top four, but his side’s defensive problems were exposed time and again and that will be a problem once more.
Keeper David De Gea is making too many mistakes, Harry Maguire and whoever plays alongside him are not secure and they struggle to keep clean sheets as a result.
Going forward, they look to have real firepower with Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, while new signing Donny van de Beek should work well with the impressive Bruno Fernandes.
One question will always be surrounding Paul Pogba and whether he will be focused, motivated and fit for the season and if all the pieces slot into place for United, they could do well.
My guess is they will finish up just about where they were last season.
Frank Lampard has made signings galore, but getting them all to click into place quickly will be tough.
On paper, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner look to be high-class arrivals, but we have seen teams making mass signings in the past and they have rarely found a winning formula straight away.
Defensively, Chelsea were poor last season and with the attacking firepower they have in their ranks, you would expect that to be the area Lampard will focus on as he looks to make strides forward.
For me, they are a side to watch because they have some real quality in that squad now, but it may be that they need a season to find the right balance and they will be a big threat in the title race next season.
TOTTENHAM & ARSENAL
I am putting the north London clubs together as they have a very similar story.
Both have world-class strikers as Tottenham have Harry Kane and Arsenal rely on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with those two forwards more than capable of scoring 30 goals this season.
If either of them did that, they could propel their teams towards the top four, but I think Spurs are more likely to get in the mix than Arsenal.
I’m not a big fan of Jose Mourinho for a number of reasons, but his record is incredible and you write him off at your peril.
With that in mind, I’d be amazed if Tottenham are not better than they were last season, while Arsenal will still leak goals so long as David Luiz is the kingpin of their defence.
ALDO’S TOP FOUR
2. Man City
3. Man Utd