By IVES GALARCEP
The 2014/2015 English Premier League Season is upon us, with action kicking off on Saturday, and the chase for the title is as wide open as it has been in ages.
Defending champions Manchester City will be seen as strong candidates to repeat, but with teams like Chelsea and Arsenal bolstering their rosters, the repeat will be far from easy for the team on the Blue side of Manchester.
The general consensus is that there is a group of seven stacked teams that will take up the top third of the Premier League standings, and while they aren’t considered title contenders, Everton and Tottenham will be expected to make things difficult for the other teams in the title conversation.
Just how the top teams in English will shake out is also tough to predict heading into the season because teams are not done tweaking their rosters and making big moves. Whether it’s Liverpool’s chase of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Arsenal’s quest for Sami Khedira, or Manchester United’s hunt for a left back like Marco Rojo and Daley Blind, the title challengers aren’t quite done stockpiling talent.
Based on where things stand heading into the opening weekend, here is how we see the top seven shaking out in the English Premier League (as well as a poll for you to vote on who you see winning the EPL title this year):
PROJECTED ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE STANDINGS
(As voted on by SBI Editorial Staff)
New manager Mauricio Pocchettino should help instill an improved set-up at Spurs, but a lack of high-profile signings will make closing the gap on the league’s top teams difficult.
Roberto Martinez enjoyed an outstanding summer, securing the services of Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku when it seemed unlikely either would return. Throw in the additions of Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu, and the Toffees have the quality to break into the top four if the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United stumble.
5. MANCHESTER UNITED
There are plenty of defensive concerns heading into the new season for new manager Louis Van Gaal, but it’s tough to bet against the Dutch master, who has already put his imprint on the team. Spaniard Ander Herrera should provide a boost to the midfield, while Robin van Persie’s ability to stay healthy will once again be key to United’s chances. United is still on the hunt for some big-ticket transfers, such as Angel DiMaria and Daley Blind, so any big buys late in the window could help push them up this list, or at least ward off Liverpool and Everton for fourth place.
The Reds came so close to a title last season, but after selling their best player to Barcelona this summer it’s tough to see them mounting such a challenge again. Brendan Rogers raided Southampton for talent, bringing in Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert, as well as highly-regarded Lazar Markovic from Benfica and Alberto Moreno from Atletico. Depth won’t be an issue, but the championship will be a tough ask. That said, a top three finish is well within Liverpool’s grasp if Rodgers can blend in the new faces and find someone to pick up the goal-scoring slack left by Suarez’s departure.
3. MANCHESTER CITY
Boasting more depth than any team in the league, City had a relatively quiet summer by their standards, adding Bacary Sagna and goalkeeper Willy Caballero, while also taking on Frank Lampard on loan. Will that be enough to hold off title challenges from Chelsea and Arsenal? Don’t be so sure. Sergio Aguero’s health will be key once again, but we can see City slipping up as Pellegrini struggles with finding minutes for his deep squad.
Remember when Arsenal didn’t make big buys anymore? For a second straight summer, Arsene Wenger opened up the wallet to land a major signing, this time around landing Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. The Gunners aren’t done spending apparently, with reports linking them to a major play for Paris St. Germain striker Edinson Cavani, as well as a bid for Sami Khedira.
Arsenal has already boosted its defense by adding Mathieu Debuchy and young defender Calum Chambers. If Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey can stay healthy, and if the Gunners add one more major attacking weapon, the Gunners could very well make a serious push for the title.
Chelsea desperately needed a reliable striker after suffering through some frustrating times last season. Enter Diego Costa, the former Atletico Madrid sniper who has already shown he’s ready to make the most of the service he should receive from Chelsea’s midfield. A midfield bolstered by the addition of Cesc Fabregas.
With Thibault Courtois looking ready to take over for Petr Cech, Chelsea’s defense should be a tough unit once again, though you wonder if the depth is there in the back-line to mount a serious push in both the Premier League title race and Champions League race. The addition of Filipe Luis should help on that front.
Now it’s your turn. Who do you see winning the English Premier League? Cast your vote here:
Who did you vote for? What do you think of our projected Top Seven? Who do you think we are overrating? Who do you think we are underestimating?
Share your thoughts below.