If the start of the Premier League 2020/2021 season has taught us anything, it’s that all the top teams have come out firing! With it seemingly all to play for so far, James Warrell takes a look at who is shaping up to take the crown in May.
After a rocky start to the season with a loss to Spurs, City are back to their scintillating best. They once again look like the team to be above in table once the season finishes. This was no more evident than the Citizen’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. During this game, Pep’s plan paid dividends with their incessant pressing leaving Chelsea no option when playing out from the back. Pep’s tactics and overall genius is what could win City the title, with him clearly targeting Milner in Sunday’s game against Liverpool. Only stellar performances from Mo Salah and Liverpool keeper Allison kept last year’s champions at bay.
City look like the top dog out of the three real candidates
City’s lack of striker seems to be their only weak point in an otherwise incredibly talented squad. The lack of a striker, however, isn’t a pertinent issue if goals come from the rest of the squad. Overall, City look like the top dog out of the three real candidates with the necessary squad depth, first-team quality and most cohesive team to go all the way.
First of all, I want to start with the fact that Chelsea arguably has the best squad in the league; both in depth and quality. They have the ability to make five changes and still look none the worse. The continual rotation within the Chelsea starting XI seems to be producing positive results. After a dismal display against Juventus, the energy of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timo Werner was especially welcomed. Thomas Tuchel has steered Chelsea to a Champions League triumph with impeccable tactics and innovative training. In his first six months in charge, he fixed a questionable backline and led them to a fourth-place finish on top of that.
The attack still has not hit top gear yet, with Lukaku looking incredible but everyone else adapting to having one of the world best strikers up top. All of this contributes to the belief that Chelsea should at least be pushing City and Liverpool all the way. With all the factors lining up, Chelsea could turn into a well-oiled machine.
Liverpool finally look back to their best after a torrid time with injuries last season. They have gotten the extra defender they needed in Ibrahim Konate. For those who did not watch him in Bundesliga, he is a dynamic ball-playing centre-back. Liverpool’s starting XI is still one of the best in the league with a world-class player in every position. Yet their overall squad depth is still lacking. During Sunday’s game, the absence of Trent Alexander Arnold could never have been more of a problem than when Foden and the rest of City tore his replacement to shreds. Although Trent can be weaker on the defensive end of the game, his pace could have combatted the threat of Foden.
although they will be title contenders, unless other players step up, Liverpool will fall short
Said simply, Mo Salah means Liverpool have a chance in any game. Once again, Salah has started the season in scintillating form with nine goals and three assists in nine games. Unfortunately, Liverpool probably do not have the squad depth in attack to replace the output of Mane and Salah, whilst they are in the African Cup of Nations this year. This leaves me to say that, although they will be title contenders, unless other players step up, Liverpool will fall short.
Despite showing promising signs early on this season, there is something still missing in the Manchester United camp. The foremost being the lack of a true central defensive midfielder to screen their defence and give their midfield balance. United’s need for a central defensive midfielder is so pertinent due to the lack of defensive output from the rest of the midfield. Although Fred, McTominay and Fernandes all press they do not put up many tackles or interceptions between them. This leaves Ole with the inability to trust Pogba in midfield. Although United now have an impressive backline which may be able to make up for the lack of a true defensive midfielder in some respects, they still have no one covering the space in front of them- thus the ball is more likely to enter dangerous areas.
will Cristiano Ronaldo, a stellar attack and a De Gea back to his best be enough to compensate for a midfield in disarray?
Questions over whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer possesses the power to lead United to the promised land still circulate. He has done a brilliant job in stabilising the club, yet it still feels he’s lacking that real coaching quality and tactical intuition all the other teams have. Will Cristiano Ronaldo, a stellar attack and a De Gea back to his best be enough to compensate for a midfield in disarray? I think not. So, while they may not look like title contenders, they are certainly going to be in the top four.
In-article image 1 courtesy of @mancity via @instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image 2 courtesy of @liverpoolfc via @instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
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