What beckons for England’s ‘Big Six’?

What beckons for England’s ‘Big Six’?

At the start of the season, the world’s toughest league wasn’t made out to be as competitive as thought to be, with talk of it being a matter of how many points Manchester City will win the title by. Much to our delight, its been anything but, with Liverpool giving the champions a decent run for their money, while the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea are steadily breathing down the chasers’ necks.

But where does that leave Arsenal? What about the country’s most successful team, Manchester United? The chopping and changing of managers at both respective clubs clearly need to be given more time to rebuild what was diminished since the departures of Arsene Wenger and the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

That’s where the big question comes in: what beckons for England’s ‘Top Six’ sides? Let’s take a look, then, shall we.



Liverpool

Let me start by saying that this could be their year – for real, this time. Liverpool have strengthened in key areas in recent transfer windows, and it seems that the Reds are definitely reaping the rewards that come with their efforts, giving a fantastic account of themselves in the title race.

Liverpool top of EPL

The signs were there for Jurgen Klopp’s men who reached the final of the UEFA Champions League last season, denied by their own goalkeeping errors – which led to the departure of Loris Karius.

Boy, do the neutrals miss him now. Alisson Becker has come in and made an instant impact for the Reds, and with the league’s best defender in Virgil van Dijk screening the Brazilian’s goalposts, Liverpool, to date, have become the toughest side to beat.

Even with a supposedly off-form front three, Liverpool are still firing on all cylinders – and with Xherdan Shaqiri proving to be the perfect weapon off the bench to spark new life into their attack, Klopp’s charges will feel that they finally have a chance of going the distance and winning their first ever Premier League title.

In fact, even in Germany, it took Klopp a few years before he became a league champion, and once he gets it right, the German boss is unstoppable to break down. It is undeniable that this is Liverpool’s best team since 2005, and who knows whether I will be proven wrong for cheaply writing off the Reds at the start of the campaign.

I wouldn’t suggest backing the Reds to win the league at 7/10, but what I would say is that Mohamed Salah is well worth a punt to win the Golden Boot at 11/4.

Manchester City

Perhaps this Manchester City team set the bar too high when they went on to win a record-breaking title in Pep Guardiola’s first league success in England, although, as things stand, they’re still in reach of successfully defending their championship – a feat deemed unachievable since Manchester United won three consecutive titles from 2007 to 2009.

Manchester City losing back-to-back games

The word going around seems to be that Guardiola will now prioritize the UEFA Champions League after conquering England, but to surrender the title so soon after becoming the best team statistically that the league has ever seen would somewhat be considered as failure.

The club have recently been boosted by the returns of Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne – two of their most instrumental players in their league and cup triumph last season. On his day, there isn’t a better player in the division than De Bruyne and with players around him like Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva and, of course, David Silva all playing their best football under Guardiola, the Citizens have no right to give up their title cheaply.

As much as I would take some personal joy in seeing Manchester City lift their first ever Champions League trophy, I still think they will fall short along the way and eventually throw all their eggs in the Premier League basket.

I still believe Man City will win the league, perhaps not as comfortable as I first imagined, though. Quite some value at 17/10, perhaps unwise of the bookmakers not to play it cautious.

Tottenham

“This could be our year” is a slogan many teams seem to have adopted over the last decade, but none more so than Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino has built the most consistent team in England over the past couple of years, and now, the club would feel that they have every right of competing at the very top.

Spurs have become one of the very few teams in the division who are guaranteed a top four spot, and they remain optimistic that they can challenge all the way for the title.

Tottenham moved to second in the EPL

"All is possible. Look what happened in the Champions League after three games. We had only one point and we believed it was possible and, in the end, we are now in the next stage,” Pochettino said.

"There are a lot of things you need to take into consideration, but the most important thing is belief and faith in the way you work and, if you give 100 per cent, all can happen," he added.

Tottenham are through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and will face Dortmund, while they hope to end their domestic trophy drought as well when they face Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, after knocking out their arch-rivals, Arsenal.

Certainly not jaw-dropping odds, but Spurs will surely make top four – not even worth putting money on at 1/10.

Chelsea

It always seems to work when Chelsea press the reset button and kick-start a new era under new management. So far, there can be very little complaints on Maurizio Sarri. From where he took over the club, winning the league was always going to be an unrealistic target in his first season, but what Sarri has shown is that he is a coach ready to build something special again in London.

Chelsea are third on the log

The Blues are currently in the top four and are well worth a punt to stay there for the remainder of the season at 1/3, but this is not the Chelsea we’ve become accustomed to. We’re talking about a team who have won the league twice in the last four seasons.

This should not be the target for the Blues – which has mainly come down to their goalscoring issues. Although scoring may not be the issue, but when the goals do not come from your main strikers, it becomes a problem.

Chelsea are certainly not far off the top in terms of quality, and luckily, the club have a problem which is glaring them in the face. A problem the club will have no issue rectifying in January.

The Blues have done things the dirty way in recent years, but Sarri has transformed the Londoners and have given them a new identity. Chelsea, like Spurs and Man City, are into the last four of the Carabao Cup, and with the Blues given the favourites tag for the UEFA Europa League, they’ll feel that they can get back to the promised land with a piece of silverware to their names at the end of the season.

Arsenal

A club in disarray for many a year under Arsene Wenger seemed to be turning the tide this season, that was, until, the Gunners were dumped out of the Carabao Cup at home to their crosstown rivals, Spurs, while their 22-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at Southampton.

So, what do the Gunners have to back their season up on now? They’re out of the cup, they’re not going to get top four, they’re not going to spend the big bucks in January, winning the Europa League seems a long shot. That unbeaten run was all that Arsenal had.

Arsenal drew 1-1 at Brighton

If anything, it gave false hope of the club taking a major step forward this season. Don’t get me wrong, the time will come where the Gunners are a dominant force again – but that is something Unai Emery, who I believe is one of the best coaches in the league, will find it tough achieving in his first year at the helm.

Ability wise, yeah, there are a few areas on the pitch where Arsenal are unstoppable – for instance, in attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are almost guaranteed at least 50 goals between them this season, so with all those goals, Arsenal will have some belief. They’ve also resolved their biggest issue in years, rectifying their defensive midfield crisis with the acquisition of Lucas Torreira.

Emery has certainly given the Gunners faithful something to cheer about this season, but let’s not get carried away, the club are nowhere near where they want to be. Give it time.

Manchester United

And so it begins… A new era beckons after Jose Mourinho, who, by all means, should be stripped of his “Special One” status, after being sacked for the fourth time in his managerial career. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been given the job to clean the mess that Mourinho created, yet the Portuguese could argue that he left them in sixth place and with a spot in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Manchester United sack Jose Mourinho

Solskjaer has played this role before, at Cardiff, and it didn’t work out so well for the Norwegian, who took over the Welsh club at 17th position, and left them in 20th spot. But, he knows the club, he knows what it means to represent Manchester United, and, he understands the culture.

The big question now is: will we see the players at their majestic best once again? It’s no secret that Mourinho lost the dressing room, and that was evident when he decided to drop Paul Pogba, not long after he stripped the French World Cup winner of vice-captaincy.

Plenty of changes are expected to be made in the coming weeks, with Solskjaer fancying his chances of reviving the club he fought so hard for in his playing days.

At the time of writing, Manchester United are closer to the relegation zone than to the top of the table. As a football lover that grew up watching the Red Devils dominate, season after season, that is totally unacceptable.

Solskjaer has a massive task on his hands, and although he is not expected to do much in his coaching spell at United, building a solid foundation for Mourinho’s successor will be the main target for the Red Devils.

Having said that, do United finish in the top four again? Never! Don’t even look at their odds of 5/1. They’ve lost too much ground already this term.

Written by Jesse Nagel