EPL gears up for the season

 

 

The English Premier League (EPL) kicks off on August 9 at Anfield, a stadium that arguably hosted the most exciting football last season. For Liverpool, their manager Jürgen Klopp will be looking to push on from the 97 points his side managed last season, and secure a first Premier League title for the Kop.

Liverpool

The Merseyside outfit have the best centre-back in the world and two explosive full-backs, so any fine tuning of their defence is not a matter of urgency. The Liverpool midfield should be a point of concern. It is built around the likes of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner and it’s in this area that the Champions League winners often found themselves short on numbers. In attack Liverpool could do with an alternate to Roberto Firmino. As a false nine, “Bobby” plays the role of the brains between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, but he is not guaranteed to get the club the 15 to 20 goals a season they need from a player in that position.

Chelsea

Heading into the new season, Chelsea have lost their best player in Eden Hazard. They also have an ageing squad and a transfer ban. The positives are that the backline and midfield are fairly settled. It’s the frontline that will prove to be the Blues’ Achilles heel, with the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham not nearly in the 20-plus goal league of Hazard. From the fans’ point of view, having their darling, Frank Lampard, take charge of the club is one way of exploring youth as he did in his time as Derby County boss, which saw him take them to the English Football League Championship playoff final. The club’s record goal scorer understands Chelsea and its ethos, so it could either be an exciting season for the Blues or an ultimate flop.

Arsenal

The Gunners could have a long season ahead of them. For starters, their backline is in shambles. The midfield has lost a fighter and goal scorer in Aaron Ramsey, and while Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira showed promise last season, there is very little evidence to suggest they are world class. The zest provided by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack is, in fact, the only element in favour of Arsenal’s chances of reaching a top- four place.

Manchester United

Six years back, favourites. Now, favourites for sixth place. The Red Devils have bolstered their backline with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but desperately need Harry Maguire to come through the door to help solve their defensive frailties. The supremely gifted Paul Pogba’s future continues to hang in the balance. Some United fans would prefer to see Pogba leave, but others believe the team should be built around him. Fortunately, United have lost none of their proven stars, have a host of exciting youngsters banging at the door and seem on the cusp of adding at least one exciting midfielder. Whether Pogba stays, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must find the same rhythm he found in his honeymoon period when he received the job as interim manager last season if United are to challenge for a Champions League spot.

Tottenham Hotspur

After being so close to silverware last season, Tottenham Hotspur will attempt to get at least one trophy in their cabinet. The cleanout promised by Spurs seems well under way, with Kieran Trippier out the door and Danny Rose likely to follow. Some defensive signings to support the excellent Jan Vertonghen are necessary and may come in the shape of exciting youngster Ryan Sessegnon. The signing of Tanguy Ndombele, a box-to-box central midfielder, makes a big difference in the middle of the park for the Lilywhites, in addition to Moussa Sissoko coming off a terrific season. Up front is the least of Spurs’ worries, with a several goal scorers and playmakers in their ranks. Given this, and the fact that they have managed to keep hold of manager Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs should finish in the top four.

Manchester City

How do you improve what cannot be bettered? Manchester City are favourites to rack up their third title in a row. There might be concerns over the backline but it is instructive to note that long-standing skipper Vincent Kompany was used sparingly in the last title-winning season. Fernandinho might be 34 years old, but City moved quickly to sign Rodri from Atletico Madrid, and he will act as the understudy to their Brazilian star. With unbelievable depth going forward, City should not be troubled in that area. Leroy Sané might leave. But with their depth, especially up front, that’s where City will look to play much of the season.

Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.
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