Friday, October 17, 2014

EPL 2014-15 - Will Chelsea Continue the Dominance?

By Pete Jaison:
 
If the first six rounds are any indication, Chelsea looks the clear favourites, but surprises can still emerge from defenders Manchester City, and even black horse Southampton.

Leading by a comfortable cushion of 5 points after just 6 matches, Chelsea do look like a team on a mission and their form has been nothing short of wild. Led by former Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, Chelsea has had a remarkable start to their campaign both in England and in Europe. A team boosted by new summer recruits in Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas , Didier Drogba, and Filipe Luis has been tipped as the favourites to clinch the Premier league and is expected to make it big in the Champions League as well. Mou, who enjoyed a successful season last year after making a comeback to Stanford Bridge, finishing third in the PL and semi-finals in the CL has explained the arrival of the new players as an addition to increase the dimension of the side while challenging top teams in Europe.

So far the plan has worked beautifully for him. The biggest positive of the season so far has been the combination of the Spanish duo - Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. Costa has been in exceptional form netting 7 goals from 7 matches and four of those have come in from the  assists of his colleague. Fabregas who was brought in to Stanford Bridge from FC Barcelona after a string of disappointing seasons has been their meanest threat as he brings a wider sense of creativity to the North London side and their combination is proving to be the missing X-factor that Mou was so desperately searching for in the previous season. All the other teams have so far looked a notch below them and it might not be too early to say that this year’s EPL is shaping up to be a one-horse race.

Last year's champions, Manchester City has looked a very pale shadow of themselves in this season so far but still they cling on to the number two spot. Their best player last season has been the midfielder, Yaya Toure, but he has looked very mediocre in his first few games for City and it is high time he pulls up his socks . Manager Immanuel Pelligrinni has insisted that the other players step in and it has indeed worked, but to a limited extent.

However, one of the main positives this season has been the roping in of ex-Chelsea star, Frank Lampard. Lampard who ran out of contract at Stanford Bridge last season was refused a contract renewal and moved to the New York City FC but was loaned out to City  from them after complaining about the level of football played in the States. Lampard has been clinical in the performance of his side this season and also managed to settle scores against his former club when he refused them a victory this season after scoring a crucial equaliser, thus ending their winning streak.

The form of striker, Sergio Aguera too has been good with the Argentine finding the back of the net on a couple of occasions. Many football pundits believe that City is the only threat between Chelsea and the Premier League and that nobody should be surprised if they do manage to run away with the title this year too.

Arsenal is another team that has recruited heavily this summer. Manager Arsene Wenger has bolstered his team by importing the likes of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, Danny Welbeck from Manchester United, and Calum Chambers from Southampton. Although his signing of Welbeck was highly questioned, he has silenced his critics when the English striker ran amok in their CL game netting a fine hat-trick. The Arsenal squad easily looks the most talented as Wenger has a pool of talent at his disposal boasting of names like Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podoklski , Oliver Giroud, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Ox Chamberlain etc. But their form this season has been far from convincing as most of the Gunners are hit by injury or by poor form. Sitting in the 8th position, they have a lot of work to be done in order to catch up to the table-toppers, Chelsea. Winning the PL this season may be a little bit out of their reach as the best they can aim for is a top-four finish. But don’t write them off as they can always pack a surprise punch.

The post Luis Suarez era was predicted to be quite a challenge but Liverpool Manager Brendon Rodgers could never have pictured his side at the bottom of the top 10. Placed at 9th position, the Reds have looked very uncreative and lacked an intent while going forward with the ball. New recruit, Mario Ballotelli has flopped so far and a lot more will be expected from him as Liverpool is looking very shambolic. Although it is too early to write them off, Liverpool has got a decent squad with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, and Daniel Sturridge, all chipping in with good performances so far. But Captain Steven Gerrard has looked far from his best and it is high time the youngsters step up to the occasion and make themselves count.

Meanwhile Merseyside Neighbors Everton has been in an even worse condition as the Toffees are barely clinging onto the 17th position. With just one win so far from this season Manager Roberto Martinez should prove that his side’s performances last season wasn’t a big fluke. Everton was very organised in their counter-attacks and solid in their defence last season but has lacked these factors this time around. Although the signing of Samuel Etto was a bold move by Martinez, he should try to accommodate Etto along with Romelu Lukaku at the front to pose a more dangerous attacking line. Everton need rapid and immediate resumption of last season’s from after the international break as they will be headed towards relegation if they are still stuck at the wrong end of the table by March.

The biggest surprise so far this season has been Southampton who after the summer transfer has been robbed of many key players. The departures of key players such as Rickie Lambert to Liverpool and Luke Shaw to Manchester United were seen as self-destruct acts for the young side and many expected them to crumble early on this season. But after 6 matches Southampton is currently in 3rd position just below Chelsea and Manchester City. The manager, Ronald Koeman’s influence has obviously taken a positive effect on the team. The players Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic he handpicked from the Dutch league have made an instant impact, adapting with ease. Although it is still too early to state whether Southampton can maintain their run and position in the PL, they have proved that they possess the quality to compete with top teams and to go all the way.

Van Gaal’s new Manchester United are looking more balanced after their consecutive victories over West Ham and Everton. After a summer spending spree of over 150 million, United has proved that they still attract top-talent from across the globe even without being able to offer them the Champions League. Bringing in the likes of many high profile names such as Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, Radamel Falcao from Monaco, and Daley Blind from Ajax , United is desperate to earn back their rightful place in the CL and are not looking behind. Sacking last season’s manager David Moyes showed that the United bosses were getting very impatient at the manner in which the team was being run and wanted to infuse fresh ideas. Thus the tale of Van Gaal began. Manchester United has started the league in dismal fashion but is improving with every match and they sure look as they can bring back the CL back to Old Trafford in a year’s time.