Sunday, 1 October 2017

Biggest weaknesses explored: Is this why Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal will struggle?

Biggest weaknesses explored: Is this why Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal will struggle?

Manchester City: Their depth at centre-back –

They may have only conceded two goals this season but Pep Guardiola’s side are just one knock away from having Eliaquim Mangala starting in the Premier League. Vincent Kompany’s injury has weakened the Citizens again, while Nicolas Otamendi, despite improvements, threatens to drop a clanger and leave Man City in the mire. Let’s not forget that, before Guardiola’s men took control against Crystal Palace, Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit the post and missed another good chance, and this is an Eagles team yet to score a goal this season. The midfield and attack is wonderfully adaptable, and has plenty of depth, but the defence will be what lets them down.

Manchester United: Paul Pogba’s absence

Without the France superstar, the Red Devils are missing a big piece of the team that made them look so good in the opening four Premier League matches. A 4-0 win over Everton flattered Jose Mourinho’s side with three goals coming from 83 minutes onwards not reflecting their disjointed play, while in the 1-0 win over Southampton Man United found themselves on the back foot for most of the match with a fine display from Phil Jones helping them to victory. If they can’t regain their groove without the £89m man in the coming games there is a real risk their form could falter, allowing rivals Manchester City to get ahead in the title race before he returns.

Tottenham: Central midfield creativity

The arrivals of Davinson Sanchez and Serge Aurier have allayed any fears fans had that their defence had been weakened in the summer by Kyle Walker’s exit. Instead, it is creativity in central midfield that lets Spurs down, as seen in draws with Swansea and Burnley at Wembley. With Christian Eriksen maintaining his form from the end of last season, the Lilywhites threaten to rely on the Dane too much. When Tottenham struggle to break down sides with a low block, we often see Eriksen drop deeper to create space for himself, but this takes him away from allies Dele Alli and Harry Kane. When fit and fully firing, Mousa Dembele can make a difference thanks to his incredible strength and ability to retain possession, while beating a press. But without the Belgian, who hasn’t got a great injury record, Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama can’t replace his quality driving forward and although Harry Winks is showing tremendous promise, he needs time to get back to his best following injury.

Chelsea: Can they defeat their Premier League title rivals?

The Blues have already embarked on a solid but steady defence of the crown they won last season, but whether they have the ability to beat their rivals, who have all strengthened in the summer, is yet to be truly determined. Arsenal, who haven’t had the best of starts to the 2017/18 season, gave Antonio Conte’s side a tough match, which ended 0-0, while against Tottenham the Blues were dominated by their opponents before sneaking to a win after errors from Hugo Lloris and Victor Wanyama. This weekend they take on Manchester City on the back of Champions League fixtures and could show us exactly where Chelsea are at this point in time.

Arsenal: Squad stability

Alexandre Lacazette fired the Gunners to glory on Monday night with two goals against West Bromwich Albion, but it appears the biggest problem they will have, at least until January, is the uncertainty surrounding three key players. Alexis Sanchez may now be back and starting but is already the subject of rumours about his next move given he can leave on a free transfer in the summer, which can hardly help his focus. Mesut Ozil is in the same situation contractually, although there is less high profile interest in the player, while defender Shkodran Mustafi was on the verge of a summer exit before finding himself back in an Arsenal shirt. A performance against Chelsea showed they can still mix it with the big boys but if any of the trio let their standards slip the Gunners could find their struggles continuing well into the season.

Liverpool: The whole defence

Mohamed Salah’s £35million move is looking like quite the bargain right now, but it’s only papering the cracks at Anfield. Their failed chase for Virgil van Dijk was ended but instead of moving for another option they didn’t bother to add to their ranks. This leaves them with the same backline that was so porous last season, and already this campaign is leaking goals. With 11 goals conceded so far – eight more than Huddersfield have let in – Jurgen Klopp has hamstrung his own ambitions and no matter how good their fast and furious frontline is, the mistakes made by the likes of Dejan Lovren will mean they can’t have an off day in front of goal, which is pressure they don’t need on an elite level. Perhaps the only crumb of comfort is the return of Joe Gomez who offers potential and can cover in any position across the defence.   

No matter how good a team is they will always have at least a slight weakness – no team has ever been perfect.

In the Premier League, the main six clubs who were considered at least slight title contenders have all played six matches in the top-flight, allowing us to get a good feel of how good they can be this season.

We’ve seen their strengths in slow motion and Technicolor, but we’ve also seen some chinks in their armour.

So, what are the big problem areas for each of the six contenders? Click the right arrow above to see what we think…

Don’t agree? Tell us what you think below…

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