When predicting who will win the upcoming Premier League title, a significant case can be made for each of the top six clubs in last season’s standings. While every team has their own specific strength that could propel themselves to the top of the table, lets instead look at where each team needs to improve heading into the 2017/18 season.
Arsenal – Ozil/Sanchez Contracts
The Gunners have so far made improvements at left wingback and center forward this summer. These were the two biggest areas of concern coming off of a disappointing 2016/17 season. Arsenal finished the campaign in fifth place, consequently missing out on a Champions League spot for the first time in over two decades. Although manager Arsene Wenger has improved his team with the signings of Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, the biggest concern is undoubtedly the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
Both superstars are out of contract at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, and as seen with Wenger’s own contract issues last season, these uncertainties can negatively affect the team’s dressing room. The club needs to do whatever it takes to tie down the two players past the upcoming season. Arsenal have a talented roster, but they need to stick together and avoid the negativity (that goes for the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium as well) to make a run at the league title.
Chelsea – Wingbacks
It’s a little difficult to name a significant weakness in the reigning Premier League champions. Chelsea are obviously a wonderful team, led by Antonio Conte. The Blues have departed with John Terry, Nathan Ake, and Nemanja Matic, but they certainly brought in competent replacements. Another potential (or probable) exit is Diego Costa. Although Alvaro Morata will fill Costa’s shoes, it is tough replacing your leading scorer from a season ago.
Along with replacing Costa, perhaps Chelsea’s concern in the team is at the wing back position. On the left side of defense, Marcos Alonso performed fairly well during his first season in London. Victor Moses, the team’s starting right wing back, wasn’t necessarily bad during the 2016/17 campaign, but was perhaps the ‘weak link’ in the team. Chelsea are reportedly interested in Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and a £35 million bid for the England international may be in the cards. The Ox would be an upgrade on the right side, but it remains to be seen if the Gunners would part ways with the 23-year-old player.
Liverpool – Central Defense
This is probably the easiest weakness to pick out of this list. The Merseyside club play fantastic football under manager Jurgen Klopp. Up front, Liverpool can hang with the best of teams. An attack of Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Coutinho (for now at least), will turn Premier League defenses into Swiss cheese in the upcoming season. The only issue is that their own defense will also most likely resemble the porous cheese as well.
Klopp has recently claimed that he is content with his current list of defenders, but the German will have to make a move before the transfer window shuts if they are to challenge for the Premier League title. Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk would be the ideal signing for the Reds, but that deal could be tricky due to the Saints recently reporting Liverpool to the FA for making an illegal approach for van Dijk. Nevertheless, Klopp needs to do whatever it takes to get the Dutch defender.
Manchester City – Central Defense
Much like Liverpool, Manchester City have plenty of attack-minded players, but a lack of stability in defense. The Citizens had their fair share of issues at the back during the 2016/17 season. Although manager Pep Guardiola addressed these problems by signing a new goalkeeper and multiple fullbacks, central defense is still their biggest concern.
Club captain Vincent Kompany is a quality defender; however, injury issues are always a concern for the big Belgium international. Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones have shown brief glimpses of quality, but certainly lack consistency since their arrivals to the blue side of Manchester. City’s title hopes potentially lie in Kompany’s ability to remain healthy. If the 31-year-old defender can stay off of the sidelines, they are strong contenders for the Premier League this season.
Manchester United – Creativity
Manager Jose Mourinho may have brought in reinforcements on the defensive end with center back Victor Lindelof and holding midfielder Nemanja Matic, but the Red Devils still have issues further up the pitch. The losses of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney were eased by the acquisition of Romelu Lukaku; however, a lack of creating goalscoring chances may haunt Mourinho’s club this season.
Manchester United scored just 54 league goals during the 2016/17 campaign, significantly fewest among the top six teams. While they do have capable players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, and Anthony Martial, the real issue perhaps lies with the manager’s tactics. Since arriving in Manchester, Mourinho has sometimes opted to bring on central midfielder Marouane Fellaini as a late substitute to give United an aerial threat when the team is in need of a goal (as evident in Tuesday’s loss to Real Madrid). The predictable tactic has not always worked and leaves Manchester United looking extremely one-dimensional.
Tottenham Hotspur – No More White Hart Lane
Spurs were undefeated at home during Premier League play in their final season at White Hart Lane. In fact, they even avoided defeat during their four domestic cup matches at the stadium as well. As they transition to their new stadium, which is yet to be built, the north London outfit will play their upcoming home matches at Wembley Stadium. Although Spurs dominated at White Hart Lane, they were a shell of themselves when playing at Wembley during European matches in the 2016/17 season.
Tottenham lost two out of the three home games during the Champions League group stage, and were subsequently knocked out of the prestigious competition. After finishing third in their group, Spurs were then transferred to the Europa League, which they quickly bowed out of after a 2-2 draw at Wembley to Gent. The drastic difference between playing at White Hart Lane and Wembley was significant for Spurs last season. If they are to not only challenge, but win their first Premier League title this coming campaign, they are going to have to perform exceptionally well at Wembley.