Tuesday 23 January 2018

Poll: Who will win this year's Premier League?

How have Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool done in the summer and what still needs to be done before opening day?

With all the top clubs spending in the close season, here is a look at how the Premier League title contenders are looking ahead of the new season. And we ask you, who will win this year's Premier League title?


Major arrivals: Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Nathan (Atletico Paranaense), Radamel Falcao (Monaco, loan)

Major departures: Petr Cech (Arsenal), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Gael Kakuta (Sevilla), Josh McEachran (Brentford), Didier Drogba (free)

Pre-season results: NY Red Bulls 4-2 Chelsea; Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Chelsea* (*Chelsea won 6-5 on penalties)

Remaining pre-season fixtures: Barcelona v Chelsea (FedEx Field, Washington DC, Tuesday July 28); Arsenal v Chelsea (Community Shield, Wembley, Sunday, August 2); Chelsea v Fiorentina (Stamford Bridge, Wednesday, August 5)

Reasons to be cheerful: Victor Moses was incisive in both friendlies in the United States and Radamel Falcao looked far more sharp than he had been in the second half of his spell at Manchester United.

Diego Costa's ability to rile and unsettle defenders is undiminished and against PSG Cesc Fabregas demonstrated that he can still be a menacing attacking midfielder if Jose Mourinho decides to play him in an advanced role in 2015-16.

Reasons to be concerned: Uncharacteristically shoddy defending against a scratch New York Red Bull side was not helped by Asmir Begovic's shaky debut and was deservedly punished.

A general air of sluggishness was still evident in the PSG match and Branislav Ivanovic, normally such a consistently excellent defender, was all over the place. With pre-season fitness regimes designed to equip players for a 10-month slog, it is far too early to pass judgment apart from pointing out that John Obi Mikel's days as a useful option in a holding role seem to have passed. He simply makes too many mistakes.

Work still to be done before the big kick-off Make Everton an offer they cannot refuse for John Stones. It also seems clear with the noises coming out of Stamford Bridge that Juan Cuadrado has been something of a disappointment to Jose Mourinho and that he would like a different option to cover the wide midfield positions. While Moses' form could save him the expense of going for Moussa Sissoko or Jose Callejon, it would be better to invest now rather than January and face the inevitable bedding in period that essentially writes off a new squad player's effectiveness for the rest of the season.

Sterling starts to prove his worth: Manchester City’s £49m signing Raheem Sterling scored after just three minutes of his debut yesterday, a tour game against Roma in Melbourne. The match ended 2-2, with teenager Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the other goal for City, who won on penalties

Manchester City

Major arrivals: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Patrick Roberts (Fulham), Enes Unal (Bursaspor)

Major departures: Alvaro Negredo (Valencia), Matija Nastasic (Schalke), Karim Rekik (Marseille), Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Micah Richards (Aston Villa), James Milner (Liverpool), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo)

Pre-season results: Adelaide United 0-2 Man City; Melbourne City 0-1 Man City; Roma 2-2 Man City* (City won 5-4 on pens); Man City 1-4 Real Madrid

Remaining pre-season fixtures: Vietnam v Man City (Monday, July 27); Stuttgart v Man City (Saturday, August 1)

Reasons to be cheerful: Raheem Sterling has hit the ground running, scoring against Roma and playing well through the middle against Real Madrid.

City have been crying out for someone who can shred packed and deep-sitting defences who go to the Etihad on a mission to frustrate and their £49 million signing showed how his pace and positioning can provide the missing spark.

Reasons to be concerned: Injuries to Fabian Delph on debut and the continued absence of Wilfried Bony through illness and the Copa America quartet Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta and Fernandinho who have yet to begin pre-season training, leave City's options loking very thin for the start of the season. Yaya Toure, who was the victim of an outrageous foul by Real Madrid's Keylor Navas, should be fit and Vincent Kompany, who flew home from the tour to attend the birth of his third child, should be ready to lead the side for their opening trip to West Brom on August 10. But it is hardly ideal preparation.

Work still to be done before the big kick-off Central defensive resources could still be strengthened though the priority remains Kevin De Bruyne to bolster the attack. If the Copa America four are not ready for the start of the season, as seems inevitable, City need to find a way to be at their toughest for the visit of Chelsea on August 16.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech


Major arrivals: Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Major departures: Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Ryo Miyaichi (St Pauli), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham, loan), Yaya Sanogo (Ajax, loan)

Pre-season results: Singapore XI 0-4 Arsenal; Everton 1-3 Arsenal; Arsenal 6-0 Lyon; Arsenal 1-0 Wolfsburg

Remaining pre-season fixtures: Arsenal v Chelsea (Community Shield, Wembley, Sunday, August 2)

Reasons to be cheerful: Pre-season so far has been a stroll and the performances in the Far East and at home in the Emirates Cup have been capped by the effervescent contribution of Jeff Reine-Adelaide. Petr Cech has brought all his intelligence, experience, skill and exacting standards to bear in goal, giving the team a commanding presence they have lacked since Jens Lehmann's mistakes began to undermine his authority.

They have long had numerous options in midfield and out wide when everyone is fit and the competition to get into the side that generates an extra edge should be more evident than ever.

Reasons to be concerned: Goalkeeping was one weakness over the past few seasons, or rather a lack of consistency between the posts, but other vulnerable areas remain - Per Mertesacker's slowness the most notable.

The debate over whether Olivier Giroud can be a Premier League and Champions League-winning quality striker continues to rage and Arsene Wenger has yet to convince that he will be ruthless enough to go for a short-term fix that would propel them beyond the last 16 in Europe and into the top two at home.

Work still to be done before the big kick-off Karim Benzema would be the perfect addition though it does seem to any close observers of Real Madrid that they are playing games with Arsenal if they are fanning interest. Benzema and Luka Modric are more important to making Real Madrid flow and function as a team than any of the more exalted galacticos. Allowing Benzema to leave would be senseless.

Morgan Schneiderlin scores his first Manchester United Goal against Club America

Manchester United

Major arrivals: Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Memphis Depay (PSV), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Sergio Romero (Sampdoria)

Major departures: Nani, Robin van Persie (both Fenerbahce), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb), Tom Cleverley (Everton)

Pre-season results: Man Utd 1-0 Club America; San Jose Earthquakes 1-3 Man Utd; Man Utd 3-1 Barcelona

Remaining pre-season fixtures Paris Saint-Germain v Man Utd (Soldier Field, Chicago, Wednesday July 29)

Reasons to be cheerful: Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw have impressed at full-back and make the use of 4-3-3 a far better and more secure prospect this season. If Daley Blind can make the same impact at centre-half as his father, Danny, both converts from left-back - and the signs are promising - then it could save Louis van Gaal another expensive signing.

Morgan Schneiderlin has settled with the kind of unobtrusive calmness of Michael Carrick and Memphis Depay's link-up play with Wayne Rooney and his speed and penetration augur well.

Last season's frustrated talent Adnan Januzaj has also taken his chance to show he can return from exile on the peripheries.

Reasons to be concerned: Would you want to go into a Premier League season with only Rooney as an experienced centre-forward? It would be ruinous to begin the campaign - especially remembering how badly they started last season - with only James Wilson, an unwanted Chicharito, possibly Januzaj and, after his three-match suspension ends, a Plan E of hoof it for Marouane Fellaini to fall back on.

Bastian Schweinsteiger is a class act, but has to be kept fit.

Work still to be done before the big kick-off Sort out David de Gea's future and if he is leaving for Real Madrid make sure Sergio Romero is ready for the kind of baptism all goalkeepers new to England have to weather. Having had his fill of Victor Valdes, Van Gaal will need another option as well if De Gea leaves. A centre-forward is also required, though the manager seems to prefer to say he needs a 'gamechanger'. Barcelona's Pedro would be a good versatile signing but Thomas Muller would be better though Bayern do not seem daft enough to sell him.

GettyImages1481668190111 (INT_ED5_S01) (INT_ED6_S01) (Read-Only).jpg
Liverpool’s new signing Christian Benteke alongside rehab fitness coach Jordan Milsom (left), Fabio Borini and Emre Can


Major arrivals: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Joe Gomez (Charlton), Danny Ings (Burnley), James Milner (Man City) Adam Bogdan (Bolton), Divock Origi (Lille, end of loan)

Major departures: Raheem Sterling (Man City), Iago Aspas (Sevilla) Sebastian Coates (Sunderland), Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Glen Johnson (Stoke)

Pre-season results: Thai PL XI 0-4 Liverpool; Brisbane Roar 1-2 Liverpool; Adelaide United 0-2 Liverpool; Malaysia XI 1-1 Liverpool

Remaining pre-season fixtures: HJK Helsinki v Liverpool (Sonera Stadium, Helsinki, Saturday, August 1)

Reasons to be cheerful: It's an obvious point but escaping from the purgatory that last season became provides enough relief to raise the spirits. The themes of last summer's broadly dreadful spending spree - quantity and risky punts - have not been mirrored apart from the sheer number of signings that were necessary to revive Brendan Rodgers' ailing masterplan.

James Milner will add drive, Christian Benteke a cutting edge if Liverpool play to his strengths (and what's the point of paying his extravagant release fee and then trying to change him?) and Nathaniel Clyne more consistent penetration up the right than the stop-gaps and declining Glen Johnson provided last year. Roberto Firmino toughened up immeasurably in the Bundesliga and can be another instant hit like Philippe Coutinho while Danny Ings proved his strength last season and Divock Origi showed enormous potential at the World Cup. Finally, Jordon Ibe looks ready.

Reasons to be concerned: How can you assimilate so many new signings two seasons' running? And why hasn't the centre of defence been addressed? Yes, Joe Gomez looks very promising but Moneyball signings at centre-half are not really the answer if Champions League qualification is really a target.

Neither Benteke or Firmino has played a minute of pre-season for Liverpool yet nor has the team played a team likely to pose them any difficulties.

Work still to be done before the big kick-off Getting Daniel Sturridge fit to make a return before the end of September would be a significant boost as would working on a shape to get the best out of Benteke.

Liverpool have played both 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 in a diamond in pre-season and need to settle on one. If it's the former, with Coutinho and Firmino either side of Benteke, it's important that whoever plays at left-back can complement Clyne's service from the right. Moving on Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli will be more difficult than finding a taker for Rickie Lambert but needs to be done.


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