After the events of last season, there is a strong sense that both Manchester City and Liverpool did more than just dominate the league. In effect, they broke it – sure, it was undoubtedly exciting for fans of the two clubs but, for the neutral, the pursuit of the top two spots was as tiresome as it was predictable.
Worse than this however is the perceived tactical acceptance from other clubs that both City and Liverpool were simply too good for them to catch. Another two-horse race this season would be disastrous for the Premier League but is there anything to suggest that it won’t simply be more of the same in the upcoming campaign?
The Transfer Dealings of the Top Two
Whilst we got a look at both teams during the Community Shield, the Premier League will be an entirely different proposition. Before we assess whether anyone narrowed the gap between the top two, it’s important to ask whether the two teams have strengthened in the summer transfer window and if so, by how much? It’s fair to say that it was nigh on impossible to improve City’s starting XI and with at least two quality players for every position, their overall squad isn’t too bad either.
However, the arrival of Rodri as Fernandinho’s long term successor and Joao Cancelo as competition to the sometimes dubious Kyle Walker has definitely given Pep Guardiola more options in a defensive back four or five. To many people’s surprise, Liverpool didn’t make any signings during the window. Did they need to? Perhaps not. But Roberto Mancini’s City side found out to their cost that a poor transfer window even as Champions of England can have devastating consequences.
Last year, Chelsea somehow ended up scrambling third place but still finished a full 25 points behind Liverpool in second place. With their transfer ban, new boss Frank Lampard will have to make do with what he has at his disposal but this is unlikely to be enough to challenge the City-Pool domination. Despite signing Harry Maguire, Manchester United’s problems run much deeper and without a true number 9, they can also be ruled out of challenging for the title.
Realistically, this only leaves you with both North London clubs. Spurs are a good team and are perhaps the most likely team to break into the top two in the upcoming season. However, after only signing Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso, are they any better than last year? Probably not.
That leaves us with Arsenal, who on paper look to have made some pretty good signings in David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe et al. If the Premier League predictions from betfair are anything to go by, Arsenal will already have 6 points out of 6 in the bag by the time they go to Anfield on the 24th August. The trouble with Arsenal is that you just never know. You really don’t.
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More of the Same?
Pep Guardiola has recently insisted that the Premier League won’t be the same two-horse race that it was last year. However, he was unlikely to say any different. Manchester City have only brought in defensively-minded players in the window and Liverpool haven’t strengthened at all. But the gulf last year was so vast that it doesn’t really matter. It was up to the chasing pack to lay down their markers and go all out in the pursuit of the top two spots. Has anyone done this? Not to our knowledge at least. On paper, it looks to be more of the same in the upcoming season. Let’s hope we’re wrong.