Who is finishing in and around those coveted Champions League places…
JT: To start with, we all accept who will be finishing in the top two places, right? We all share the collective understanding that City and Liverpool are the two best teams in England, correct? No additional discussion should be needed there.
Spurs are the third team finishing in the top four. I do believe they are collectively the best team in England aside from City and Liverpool, and the very strong squad they already have when combined with their additions in the summer, mainly Richarlison and Yves Bissouma, as well as a full season and preseason under Antonio Conte should allow them to easily finish third. Spurs are a team that, on their day, can beat anyone in England, and this is a team that, while they might not be in the title race, will be reckoning for major silverware come the business end of the season.
Arsenal are the team that will round out the top four this season for me. Their additions in the summer have been phenomenal, Gabriel Jesus in particular, and the collective and tactical understanding they have shown in the preseason gives me serious hope for this team. I do believe they are much more balanced and have more depth than they had last season, allowing them to have more options to turn to when injuries and suspensions inevitably happen. The defense might be among the best in England, with Ben White, William Saliba, and Gabriel giving them three very good central options while now having depth at both fullback positions. I still have concerns about the midfield, especially the lack of incisive creativity aside from Ødegaard and the significant drop off in quality between Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny in the defensive midfield position. I am not fully convinced that they will be much more lethal going forward than they were last season, which is still the biggest thing holding Arsenal back. But this is overall a much improved side in all areas, and the added maturity and collective understanding should help them.
Chelsea I believe will just narrowly miss out. Tuchel’s team is very experienced, and that experience will be very helpful in difficult games and difficult situations, but I am just not convinced that they can score enough goals. The addition of Raheem Sterling is certainly interesting, but without a central striker to have the attack revolve around, I do not know how players like Sterling, Mason Mount, or Kai Havertz will be able to score enough to contend with the talented teams around them. Their midfield is also aging rapidly, and if the decline of N’Golo Kanté continues into this season then they will have a massive hole in defensive midfield to fill. At this current stage, the defense is still fine but is concerning, having to rely on the still very talented but aging Thiago Silva, Kalidou Koulibaly, and (possibly, if he stays) Cesar Azpilicueta. This is still pending the end of the transfer window, and with rumors continuing to link Chelsea with the likes of Wesley Fofana and Frenkie de Jong, it is very possible that we will arrive at the window close with a Chelsea team fully capable, if not likely, to finish in the top four, but things need to happen.
United will finish sixth. This team is not good, and they are lucky that there is not a team outside of the “Big Six” able to overtake them. The additions of Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martínez, and Christian Eriksen are nice, especially Martínez, but there are still gaping holes in this team. The midfield is still woefully below standard, with United’s fruitless attempts to sign Frenkie de Jong distracting them from any other possible upgrades in that position, and they still desperately need a winger and a back up striker. (Edit: They have since announced the signing of Casemiro from Real Madrid, who is a brilliant player and sures up the midfield, but gaps in the team remain). We do not know what we will get from Cristiano Ronaldo, who has made it painfully clear that he no longer wants to play for Man United. United fans can maybe cling to the positives of their youth, with Anthony Elanga, James Garner, and Alejandro Garnacho likely to be making meaningful impact this season, but it is not enough. This team is marginally improved from last season, which was the worst Man United team I can remember, but it is still not nearly good enough to overtake the teams ahead of them. If there is no meaningful action between now and the end of the window, United will be dooming themselves to sixth once again.
V: Jack believes that like recent seasons, this season is no different and we should expect to will be a two-horse title race with Liverpool and Manchester City jostling for the English Premier League throne. Yet, I have serious questions whether Liverpool will remain in the the title race?
Yes, the Reds still possess a incredible squad that is a real attacking threat, as evident in their 9-0 drubbing of AFC Bournemouth. Unfortunately, they have a light squad that is also ageing. Outfield players like Thiago Alcântara, Virgil Van Dijk, Joël Matip, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firminho, James Milner, and Mohammad Salah will be in their 30s by the end of the year. Of course, it goes without saying that as the modern game has evolved, several world class stalwarts play well into their 30s. I do believe that these players have a few more years left in the tank should they stay fit – and that’s the other problem. The Reds have limited squad depth. Signing Darwin Núñez helped plug the massive hole that Sadio Mané left behind but do they have enough firepower to overcome their traditional rivals. Slotting 9 past Bournemouth may mask the long-standing depth issue that the Reds have had but let’s make no mistake. They will struggle once injuries kick in.
Yet, the Reds will still be in contention for top 4. I have a sneaking feeling that Arsenal will be the ones to push Man City to their limit this season. Mikel Arteta has done well this summer transfer window and the Gunners finally look like a real polished side. Arsenal have historically been known to mess it up come the mid-way point of the season and while that could certainly happen once again, I think they’ll shake off their mid-season hoodoo.
I agree that my beloved Manchester United will finish 6th. Despite wins over Liverpool and Southampton, Manchester United need time to adapt under Erik ten Hag. Fellow United fans need to brace themselves for yet another roller coaster season. I think Tottenham Hotspurs will finish 5th this year and this could very well be the last season we see Son Heung-min wear a Spurs shirt. Chelsea would finish fourth and Liverpool will finish in third. Once again, I’m making a bold assertion that Arsenal and Manchester City will jostle for the English Premier League crown.
After all, anything can happen in football, can’t it?
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