As only one week is left for the season to come to an end, I thought of having a look at some of the major teams playing in the Premier League. Here, I talk about their hits, flops, and what they could be looking at the transfer season.
Arsenal – When Arsenal won the FA Cup last year ending their trophy drought, many said that perhaps good times were to come back. With departures such as the likes of Fabianski and Sagna, it was imperative that Wenger sign some first-class player. And what a catch, he got. Sanchez has been in sizzling form this season, coming perhaps third after Chelsea’s prime catch as this year’s best buy. “Power, creativity and much quality” were the words used by Wenger describing the Chilean forward, and he has delivered on all levels. Along with him, they bought in Ospina and also a nineteen-year-old Calcum Chambers, and signed Welbeck on the deadline. Arsenal have had some really good performances this season such as the 4-1 victory against Galatasaray but also have flopped miserably at some times, notable against teams from the upper half. They had troubles in their group stages of the Champions league and also were unsure of ever catching up to the leaders in the Premier League. There is a good reason why a section of the Gunners fan base question Wenger. Is a top-4 all that’s required? If anything, two back-to-back FA Cup’s, are good enough. Enough ? Fans will remember the ‘Invincible generation of 04’, and complain. But they must not forget it was the same man, who lead them across all their troubled times. With a refusal to sign marquee players, which Wenger has been willing to change, and the form they had shown in the second-half perhaps, better times for Arsenal could come. Better. For that starting, they need to sign a world-class goalkeeper. Szczesny is good, and so is Ospina, but not being worth of goalkeeper of title contenders. They have Cech on their radar, and Schmeichel could also be an option. Ozil and Wilshere have to be injury free, and consistent. Campbell should be given more opportunity, and maybe a defender has to be signed. Enough strike-force for now.
Chelsea – “A little horse that still needs milk, and learn how to jump….a little horse that next season, (pauses) next season (winks at the interviewer and clicks)”
That was Jose Mourinho last season describing his team. The self-confident, media-favorite manager led his team to their fourth title, undisputedly being the strongest and most consistent team on the ground. With the void Lampard left filled in by the Spainiard they took from Barcelona- Fabregas, Chelsea started their season off in style, with their new striker Diego Costa scoring the first, of his many goals. They had offloaded Lukaku, Demba Ba, Torres and Fillipe Luis as well, and bought in Drogba, surprisingly, for one more year. Courtois took charge of the post, leaving everyone speculating about Cech having his future at some other club. At the end of the first two months, Chelsea had played six, winning five of them, drawing against Manchester City in the process at the Etihad Stadium. The following month also, they were unable to win only once, against Manchester United at Old Trafford, settling for a score-line of 1-1. They had some scintillating performances, notably the thrashing of Schalke away from London. Their first loss came against Newcastle, by which time they were already at the top, with second placed City three points behind. Defeats to Tottenham didn’t matter in the long run as their nearest competitor Manchester City slacked off at some point of time, opening a gap which ultimately led them to win their title. Their disappointment came in the form of a loss to PSG in the Champions league. After losing the first leg, they could not score even a single goal against a ‘Zlatan-less’, ten men PSG. Chelsea has a squad of depth, and quality and Mourinho would not be looking to change that. Terry seems to be delivering despite his age concerns, and Hazard has been in top form. I don’t expect any changes except Cech leaving the Chelsea camp.
Manchester City – Losing their first competitive match against Arsenal did not spell doom for Pellegrini. However, three matches in, their loss against Stoke City, said a lot of things about the team. They bounced back, as they often have with a 1-0 derby victory against United and a 4-1 thumping of Sunderland. However, form has been an oscillating thing for City. Draws against Hull City and Burnley, and even a loss against United meant that they could not keep up with the title leaders. They seem to be finishing off is style with a 6-0 scoreline against QPR, and 4-2 against Swansea. However, things do not seem to be looking good for Pellegrini. They were knocked out in the FA Cup by Newcastle in the fourth round. All the players, exempt Aguero, seemed to lack ambition to defend their title. They could not change their squad much, save Mangala, as UEFA fair play restricted their budget. I expect Manchester City to revamp their squad with several key players to be given the axe. Their custodian Joe Hart has not been the ideal keeper, but still will be kept, because of the potential he seems to be showing at times. Clichy and Kolarov both could leave the club, giving some space to get new defenders. Mangala has not looked steady, and has not shown any glimpses as to how he is set to replace Kompany. Milner is one player, who shockingly has not been confirmed in next season’s plans by City. He is a hard-worker who is often under-rated. Jesus Navas has disappointed in all levels, and needs to be sent off, and so has to be done with Tourre and Dzeko. Yaya Tourre is not the same player he used to be, and as Inter is supposed to be ‘interested’, in him, City should do well, to let him go. David Silva and Aguero are two players who would be sure of their spot, and would not have to worry about their position. City have Pogba, and Sterling on their buy list, and Pogba could do miracles for City, but it seems unlikely that he would leave Juventus anytime soon. However Sterling, on the other hand, seems a realistic buy for around 40 million.
Manchester United – Coming seventh was never expected from ‘The Red Devils’, despite any manager they had. The only flipside they had coming last season was not to focus on the Champions League, resulting in more time for rest. Departure in almost the whole of starting defense (Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand) and in their manager, questions were raised as to whether United would achieve anything in this season. However, on the arrival of the charismatic Van Gaal as their manager, fans remained optimistic of their chances. With an unbeaten pre-season, and a money-spurge spent on players such as Di Maria, Rojo, Falcao, Shaw and Herrera; things seemed to be great. Till the season started. Having a back-three was a pre-requisite for Van Gaal, and their defense didn’t seem to be able to adjust to it. United tried bringing in new players from their youth such as Paddy McNair, Blackett, and Wilson who all showed promise. However, things seemed to be rusty as they were dominating in possession but were not scoring enough goals. Things began changing when Van Gaal started bringing in Fellaini, Mata, and Carrick. De Gea has been excellent and undoubtedly one of the reasons United have won some matches. They must seek to retain him, despite all the luring offers and speculation which are doing the rounds. Di Maria has been disappointing, and so has been Falcao, both the players never looking quite the same after making a comeback from their respective injuries. Mata has excelled in his second-half, and so has Fellaini both getting their chances due to injuries for the rest of the squad. Michael Carrick and Ashley Young have been two players who seemed to have done their job perfectly, especially the former. United without Carrick, seem to be gutless, and just can’t retain the ball, and push it forward effectively. Van Persie had been out for most of the season, and Rooney has donned the role of a captain quite impressively, raising their spirits up whenever required. Luke Shaw has been egregious, and I don’t understand why the youngster was bought for a hefty price. Van Gaal as often said that he has been given three years time, to win the title. Only time will say, if he can repeat the things he did at Ajax, and Munich.