Premiership Countdown: 38 Days to Go
For me, I see Arsenal and Liverpool as being the two clubs to trouble Chelsea the most. Arsenal’s addition of Tomas Rosicky from the Czech Republic will give the North London side an extra dimension in midfield.
Many of their star players, meanwhile, will be full of confidence after exemplary World Cup performances (Lehmann, Toure, Fabregas, Senderos, van Persie, and Eboue). And don’t forget that the Gunners will be buoyed by playing at a brand-new home stadium, where they’ll definitely want to create an undefeated home record.
Liverpool, meanwhile, has done well in the transfer market by signing Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio (who is a potential replacement for Roberto Carlos on the Brazil squad), centre-half Gabriel Paletta from Argentina, left winger Mark González from Chile, and striker Craig Bellamy from Blackburn. Djibril Cisse, meanwhile, has been loaned to Marseille.
While Manchester United put on a brilliant display during the second half of the season, it unfortunately wasn’t enough to dislodge Chelsea from the top.
My concern about the Red Devils is that they have yet to land any new players to address their problem areas (right wing, and center midfield). For far too long, the side has looked impotent in midfield, which used to be one of the strongest areas. United also has to worry about the potential loss of Ruud van Nistelrooy. Plus, I predict that Cristiano Ronaldo will suffer a huge loss in form and confidence when he faces the guaranteed boos and abuse during the forthcoming Premiership matches.
For Chelsea, this will be their hardest season ever. They’ve raised the bar for themselves and have to win the Champions League this season. They’re expected to win the Premiership, but that league is going to be much tougher this year with a resurgent Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and never-say-die Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho has his work cut out for him, trying to blend Shevchenko into the squad. Ballack, I feel, will slot comfortably into the team and will reduce the off-form Lampard to the bench. The big question for the Blues is whether they can sign Ashley Cole to fill their much-needed left back position. If not, del Horno’s weaknesses will be a liability for Chelsea.
Personally, I feel Chelsea has enough talent to weather the storm and Mourinho has no fear to drop players who are underperforming (Lampard). Between them, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, I believe this will be one of the tightest championship races in a very long time.