Following on from our analysis of the goalkeepers and defenders from last season’s top four, and Liverpool, attention will now turn to the players who are seen to make the difference, or in other words, the game changers. Will the Reds be able to overtake or even come close to the top four in the ratings?
Probable First Picks Chelsea 9, Arsenal 8, Liverpool 7, United 7, City 6.5
Should Brendan Rodgers go for a solid midfield, he will likely pick Emre Can to line up just behind James Milner and skipper Jordan Henderson. This midfield trio would likely come close to Manchester United’s likely trio of Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin, and Arsenal’s beauty and the beast Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. The mixed first season Fernando suffered did affect the ageing Yaya Toure’s campaign, which is why Manchester City’s two-men midfield would probably be overrun by their closest rivals.
can henderson & milner form a partnership close to this duo?
Chelsea possesses the league’s top two midfielders in Cesc Fabregas, who topped the assists table last campaign, and a modern day box-to-box-cum-defensive midfielder in Nemanja Matic, which allowed Jose Mourinho to use a double pivot during their title winning campaign. However, the sheer numbers in Liverpool and United’s midfields help pull their overall standards closer to the other team’s midfield duos.
Back-ups Arsenal 6.5, United 6, City 6, Chelsea 5, Liverpool 5
Even with experienced campaigners like Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen, Liverpool’s reserve midfielders could probably only come close to Chelsea’s eclectic mix of cast-offs – Jon Obi Mikel and Ramires – and hot prospects – Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah. Arsenal have the most depth in this area of midfield, with experienced captain Mikel Arteta, likely first-teamer Aaron Ramsey and fringe player Mathieu Flamini all available when need be. United can call upon German World Cup-winning veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger as well as Daley Blind, while City are well-equipped with Brazilian Fernandinho and ex-Villa skipper Fabian Delph.
Probable First Picks City 9, Chelsea 8.5, Arsenal 8.5, Liverpool 7, United 7
If Rodgers goes bold and deploys three attacking midfielders in front of Henderson and Milner, the likely starters are Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho. This trio looks exciting, but will still have to prove themselves against a likely City’s trio of David Silva and new signings Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne. The established attacking trios that Chelsea – Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian – and Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott – offer are of a high quality as well. Even United’s likely trio of Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young has enough guile and pace to trouble most Premier League defences.
brilliant first choice for mourinho, but poor options from the bench
Reserve Options Arsenal 6.5, City 6.5, Chelsea 6, United 5.5, Liverpool 5.5
Liverpool will able to call upon the services of hot prospects Jordon Ibe and Joao Carlos Teixeira, Arsenal probably has the strongest back-up options in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and maybe even forward Danny Welbeck. The Citizens are pretty close to the Gunners with experienced campaigners Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas to choose from, while new youth player Patrick Roberts look like an exciting prospect. Chelsea’s strength beyond their magnificent trio is slightly thin even with the arrivals of Barcelona’s World Cup-winning winger Pedro Rodriguez, unproven talents Kennedy and Bertrand Traore. United also come close with prominent target Maourane Fellaini, youth prospects Jesse Lingaard and Andreas Pereira all battling for a spot on the bench.
Probable First Picks City 9, Chelsea 8.5, Arsenal 7, Liverpool 7, United 6.5
When fit, Rodgers will definitely look to either Christian Benteke or Daniel Sturridge to lead the line. Similarly, Arsenal will have a tough choice to make, whether to use target man Olivier Giroud or poacher Theo Walcott. On the other hand, Chelsea, United and City will almost certainly use one up top, with Diego Costa, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero sure to start up front. Aguero’s longer time in the English game would put him just ahead of Costa, while it is a tough one to call between Rooney, Giroud or Walcott, and Benteke or Sturridge. The lack of an option for United probably sees them slightly worse off.
will agüero be all city rely upon for goals?
Off The Bench Arsenal 6.5, Chelsea 6, City 5.5, United 5.5, Liverpool 5
Arsenal has the deepest options up front, with Danny Welbeck, Walcott and even Sanchez all able to fill in up front. Chelsea is next with impact sub Loic Remy and last season’s United flop Falcao. City can only really call upon the reliable services of Wilfried Bony, or if need be play Sterling as the false nine. The Red Devils are slightly ahead of Rodgers’ back-up forwards, with Anthony Martial – the most expensive teenager in football history – competing for a spot alongside young striker James Wilson and faux target man Fellaini. Liverpool will have to make do with a lowly spot as they have to contend with relatively inexperienced ex-Burnley man Danny Ings and young Belgian Divock Origi.
As seen in the ratings, and after taking into considerations all the last minute transfer window scramble, last season’s top three looks to be dead level in terms of quality in the middle and final third of the field.
As for Rodgers’ Reds, they are again rated at the bottom of the pack, a fair way back from last season’s top three but pretty close to United in terms of quality in the middle and final thirds of the pitch.
Based on these ratings, Arsenal seem to have pushed their squad quality close to that of Chelsea with the addition of Petr Cech, while City are proving legitimate title contenders this season with their expensive acquisitions. Of course, taking into account the whole squad in terms of the first eleven and reserves will distort the quality of teams like Chelsea, whose first team players managed to stay fit for the majority of last season. This also assumes that every side will have similar injury problems throughout the campaign – which is fair considering the notion that injuries even themselves out over the course of the season.
In this case, it looks likely that Arsenal and City will seriously compete for the title, and may even have enough in either of them to pip current champions Chelsea to this season’s crown. As for Liverpool, these ratings show a rather large gulf in quality last year’s top three, and so will only realistically be competing with United for the last Champions League spot this season.