Premier League - Title race: The main contenders

Eurosport - Fri, 13 Aug 08:01:00 2010

With the big kick-off looming, we take a look at the main contenders in this season's Premier League title race.

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(In alphabetical order)

Arsenal

The Gunners are something of an unknown quantity this season. Jack Wilshere is yet to start a Premier League fixture for Wenger but has done enough to impress England boss Fabio Cappello. And Wenger will be banking on former Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh to emulate his Ligue 1 form in England's top-flight. The quality is undoubtedly there and Arsenal showed fantastic resilience to ignore Barcelona's bullying and keep hold of captain Cesc Fabregas. Their attacking options are worthy of any championship contender - Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin, Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner and, of course, Robin van Persie are all sure to produce a steady supply of goals. But scoring has rarely been Arsenal's problem - it's keeping them out at the other end. And a mantra of 'if you score five, we'll score six', will not suffice over 38 games. Laurent Koscielny's introduction to life at the Emirates is key and the 24-year-old appears capable of making the step up having signed from Lorient. Wenger should have another centre-back and a first-class keeper within his sights and the cash is there to spend. Time is running out but, make no mistake, if signings are forthcoming then Arsenal are genuine contenders. (George Scott)

Chelsea

The perception of Chelsea as a group of ageing stars playing functional yet uninspiring football was shattered in the last campaign as the Blues plundered a staggering 103 league goals. Michael Essien will be the driving force for Carlo Ancelotti's side, and the Ghanaian's presence will bolster the midfield alongside the prolific talisman Frank Lampard. Chelsea have the firepower to outgun their rivals and, in Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, they have the most reliable goalscoring duo of the top sides in the league. The guile and poise of new signing Yossi Benayoun should complement Salomon Kalou's direct approach, and Chelsea will never lack potency in the final third. The loss of Ricardo Carvalho's defensive nous is a far more significant blow than that of Joe Cole. A lot will, therefore, depend on the consistency of the commanding Alex in partnering John Terry, but the Brazilian will distinguish himself this campaign. Chelsea may not have flaunted the cheque book over the summer, but in Drogba, and Essien they possess two of the most dynamic players in the world. Coupled with their inherent discipline and compact formation, Ancelotti's side have it all. The Blues believe they will retain their crown and there is nothing to suggest that optimism is misplaced. (Dan Quarrell)

Liverpool

The 2008-09 vintage of Liverpool Football Club was confident, organised, free-scoring and agonisingly close to winning the Premier League. But for an injury to Fernando Torres - and Rafael Benitez’s famous rant - the mid-late season blip that allowed Manchester United to seal the title may never have happened. The loss of Xabi Alonso alone should not turn title contenders into a team that barely scraped seventh. Last season’s slump was more emotional than technical as Rafael Benitez failed to re-motivate his players following their disappointment, his fractious relationships with fringe players and a bickering board coming to the fore while club talismans Torres and Steven Gerrard battled fitness and personal problems respectively. In reality, they were a striker, a full-back and a playmaker-winger short of a top four side - and a man-manager and stable boardroom short of a league challenge. They are still waiting for the second striker and a club buyout, but both should happen soon and the other positions have been filled. The fans - and players - seem genuinely excited by the Joe Cole coup and in Roy Hodgson they have a boss committed to attractive football and capable of turning the likes of Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky into top players. (Reda Maher)

Manchester City

Write off Manchester City's Premier League chances at your peril. Fans might not like it, but the power of money in football can't be denied. It's been so ever since Jack Walker spent Blackburn to top flight glory in the mid-1990s - and the bleating of the so-called 'big four' about the unfairness of it all is truly laughable. Nobody spends bigger than Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool - it's just that City have squeezed a decade of investment into the space of two summers. And it's hard to deny that since the arrival of the Mansour millions, Manchester City have assembled a squad loaded with undeniable talent: throughout the side, City have an almost embarrassing wealth, giving them both strength and depth. It won't necessarily translate into a team that can beat all-comers - but as well as their talented players, City have two other huge benefits. First of all, their relatively straightforward roster of opponents in the Europa League will mean they won't be taxed mid-week in the first half of the season like their title opponents. And secondly, it's impossible to deny that City have created a bit of a buzz: and if the players really have started believing in their common cause rather than just weighing their pay cheques, the Premier League better watch out. (Toby Keel)

Manchester United

Much has been said about Alex Ferguson's refusal/inability to dip anything more than his toes into the transfer market this summer, but the United boss nevertheless has a formidable squad to call on once again. They may have played second fiddle to Chelsea last time out, but injuries - particularly at the back - hampered their progress then. A repeat of that misfortune is unlikely, and even if lightning does strike twice, the addition of Chris Smalling has added some depth in that area. Up front livewire Javier Hernandez looks like the kind of player Premier League defenders have nightmares about and if he proves to be an able strike partner for Wayne Rooney, at a mere 7 million he could turn out to be the bargain buy of the summer. The one question mark over United's squad remains the identity of a long-term successor to Paul Scholes. The veteran midfielder, like Ryan Giggs, may not be showing signs of letting up just yet but should Fergie be able to entice the exciting Mesut Ozil to Old Trafford before the transfer window closes - and by doing so silencing those who ever doubted there is money available to him - United should be able to overhaul Chelsea and fend off the challenges of the rest to regain the Premier League crown. (Mike Hytner)

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