Although it took them until last week’s meeting with Crystal Palace to officially seal the deal, Chelsea were the only real contender in the Premier League title race for most of this season. While some have criticized the quality of the football Jose Mourinho’s side played, there was little doubt over the course of the season that the Londoners would be crowned champions come May.
With a team stacked with talent, the shrewdest manager in world football, and a winning transfer policy, Chelsea are already favorites to retain the title next season. Will anyone be capable of seriously challenging them? Maybe. Let’s take a look at the teams who could give Chelsea a run for their money, and what they need to do in order to do so.
Last season’s champions were the only team to really offer any kind of significant challenge to Chelsea this season. With an experienced manager in Manuel Pellegrini and a squad full of superstars, City looked at times like serious contenders. But inconsistency, complacency and an aging squad undermined City’s campaign; the collapse in form of key players like Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany along with a misfiring strike force didn’t help either.
Still, City have enough quality and enough financial power to come back stronger next season, provided they can successfully navigate their way through Financial Fair Play regulations. And while key players like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Joe Hart should be retained much of the squad must be overhauled. A change of managers may also be in order. If rumors about Pep Guardiola already having agreed to take charge next season prove true; City will surely be a force to be reckoned with.
It took longer than Louis van Gaal may have expected for his methods and philosophies to take hold in this Manchester United side. For much of the early part of the season, there was little to distinguish Van Gaal’s team from that of his unsuccessful predecessor, David Moyes.
But Van Gaal’s Man United team eventually found its way, albeit a somewhat indirect one. With Robin van Persie no longer looking the player he once was and Falcao turning out to be a non-starter, United were forced to employ Marouane Fellaini as a makeshift striker at times. Despite being relegated to a more deep-lying role at times, Wayne Rooney also did much of the heavy lifting in front of goal. And Falcao wasn’t the only one of United’s high priced summer acquisitions to get mixed results. Angel Di Maria has also failed to live up to expectations at United.
Still, the spine of the team is strong and the club has already acquired new attacking talent for next season with Memphis Depaye having agreed to join the Old Trafford outfit. While 19-year-old James Wilson has made a good account of himself playing up top this season, signing a proven, top-level striker will surely be Van Gaal’s first order of business if United are to challenge for the title. That and retaining the services of goalkeeper David De Gea, who was the best in the Premier League this season.
After a stuttering start to the season, Arsenal have arguably been the in-form Premier League side in 2015. Although their 10-match winning streak was snapped by Swansea on Monday, the Gunners could still pip City for second place. The danger for Arsenal is that manager Arsene Wenger could convince himself this team is strong enough to challenge for the title in its present state. It’s not.
While Francis Coquelin has been excellent in the role of midfield enforcer since returning from his loan to Charlton, Arsenal still look in need of a world-class defensive midfielder. Olivier Giroud has generally done a good job of leading the line for Arsenal up top. But the Frenchman has a tendency to go missing in the big games, against Monaco in the Champions League, and against Chelsea and Tottenham in the Premier League. A proven top-class striker must also be acquired if Arsenal are to seriously challenge. A new center back and possibly a goalkeeper are also in order if Arsenal are serious about competing with the likes of Chelsea.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from Liverpool next season. As the Anfield outfit’s title campaign unravels and Brendan Rodgers’ assurances ring ever more hollow, it’s increasingly looking as if last season’s second-place finish was more to do with Luis Suarez than anything else. The Uruguayan is long gone and with Steven Gerrard leaving for LA Galaxy at the end of the season, the Reds will find themselves without any proven world-class talent in their squad.
While players like Phillip Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge show promise, Liverpool will need to reinforce significantly to get anywhere near the heights of last season’s near miss. Unfortunately, without Champions League football, it may be difficult to lure top-class talent to the club. Last season Rodgers was handed the proceeds from the Suarez sale and basically blew the money on players that didn’t really pan out. But if rumors linking Jurgen Klopp to the job prove true and the German is given a substantial transfer kitty to work with, Liverpool might just be the surprise package of next season.