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The international break is over and players have all returned to training with their clubs ahead of another crucial weekend of Premier League action. At this time last year, it was pretty clear Chelsea were going to win the title. Two years ago, everyone had a good idea about Manchester City. Three seasons ago, Robin van Persie was already well on his way to winning the title for Manchester United.
But this season… who knows?
There’s been one major theme this season throughout the Premier League and that’s been inconsistency. That’s why for the first time in a few years come mid-October, no one can faithfully declare any team a favorite to win the 2016 Barclays Premier League title. Here’s why.
If this were written two weeks ago, it would have been about how City have managed to weather a dip in form and behind Sergio Aguero’s five-goal performance looked to be getting back to their early season form. Their season, however, would depend on how they managed to overcome Sergio Aguero’s inevitable annual leg injury.
Well guess what happened this past week? Aguero picked up a knee injury while playing for Argentina in a World Cup Qualifier. While City did fine without Aguero early in the season, making matters worse was the engine behind the whole team, David Silva, also picking up an injury for Spain.
It was not a good international break for the blue side of Manchester and how they navigate these injuries will go a long way in determining whether they can win a third Premier League title.
Since last winning the title in 2004, Arsenal has had two types of seasons. The kind where they start off slow, sometimes even disastrously slow, before figuring things out later on and charging up the table to finish in the top four. Then there’s the kind where they start off on fire, looking like the best team in the league, before hitting a rough patch when it gets cold in November (then another one in February or March) before rallying late to finish in the top four.
This season looks like the latter of those two seasons. At times Arsenal have looked unbelievable especially during their recent demolition of Manchester United. At times they’ve also looked dreadful at home (West Ham, Liverpool).
The same thing seems to always haunt Arsenal year after year, a lack of depth. Arsenal are a different team with Theo Walcott as their striker than they are when Oliver Giroud is there. The problem with that is, like many Arsenal players over the years, Theo Walcott is very injury prone. Arsenal have looked like this before but injuries always seem to unravel them.
Taking out the bloodbath that was the Arsenal match, the Red Devils have actually managed to turn last year’s weakness into a strength, becoming one of the Premier League’s best defensive teams. Prior to the Arsenal match, they were allowing fewer shots and fewer passes in the final third than any team in the league.
The problem for United is on the attacking end. To say this team is completely relying on a 19-year-old striker would be a massive understatement. Forget about the what if Anthony Martial gets injured scenario, it’s a problem because he’s 19 years old and there’s no way he’ll be able to keep up his spectacular play all season. At some point he’s bound to hit a wall, or it could be simply not adapting very well to the Manchester winters.
Either way, relying on him for your scoring all season will never work. Add in that if United ever fall behind in a game manager Louis van Gaal’s possession obsession is not exactly conducive to coming from behind. This team will be better than last year, but they’re still a year away from winning it all.
Expectations are now running wild around Merseyside with thoughts of what Jurgen Klopp did at Borussia Dortmund running through the minds of all Kopites. However, it’s important to remember that at Dortmund Klopp had a nucleus of young players featuring Marco Rues, Mats Hummels, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski at his disposal. That’s three top-class players and a world-class striker. At Liverpool Klopp has Coutinho, a very injury prone Daniel Sturridge and… Jordan Henderson?
Klopp is a master chef but even the best chef’s need great ingredients in order to make a masterpiece.
There is no clear-cut title favorite right now. The Premier League title race is wide open, and when that happens you know who wins? The fans.