EPL Teams with a realistic chance of Top 4 this 2016-17 season

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Manchester City

In Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne, Pepe Guardiola will have the best possible attacking combination in the Premier League at his disposal.

While he has the likes of Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Nicolas Otamendi, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala to choose from for attacking roles, he will have to bring about a marked improvement among these players who looked mediocre in the last season.

Vincent Kompany’s fitness will be a major concern. There was an 8-match spell in the previous season when City went without winning a single game. That happened when Kompany wasn’t around emphasizing the influence the towering Belgian exerts on the City defence.

Ilkay Gundogan is one such midfielder bought over from Borussia Dortmund to fill in the void Kompany’s frequent absences may create. The £20 million midfielder is known for his precise passing to strikers and has the makings of a good playmaker.

Upfront, the import of scorer Nolito from Celta de Vigo could give teeth to the City attack and even act as a buffer if Sterling continues with his run of bad form.

Guardiola will have to adapt to English conditions pretty fast. He surely has the luxury of a richly talented side to make things happen on the field. So unsurprisingly, Manchester City is the bookmakers top favourites to win the EPL title for 2016-17.

Manchester United

After the horrendous last season at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho has shown that he means business. He will probably do away with his predecessor Van Gaal’s possession-for-the-sake-of-possession style and show far more attacking intent.

Mourinho is aware that he will have to deviate from his normal style and place more emphasis on getting goals. That intent is manifested in the acquisition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – players who can get and create goals.

Eric Bailly, the tough 22-year old Ivorian defender from Villarreal has been signed in to shore up centre-back and pure defensive positions rendered shaky by an ineffective Daley Blind and an injury-prone Luke Shaw.

Mkhitaryan’s role in the midfield and front positions will be vital and his expertise in providing assists will be vital for the likes of Ibrahimovic, Martial, Memphis Depay, Rooney, Smalling and Rashford.

There are serious concerns about Rooney’s form. His tally of 8 goals last season is his lowest ever for United. Players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan or the protracted on-off signing of Paul Pogba (if he is acquired) could definitely bring in a lot of purpose to the side – translate that to getting goals, which is why Manchester United are the second favourites to win the 2016-17 title.

Chelsea

Chelsea hit rock bottom by their own high standards last year when they finished tenth in the EPL standings. That was a freak event and not likely to happen again. Moreover the management have brought in a new manager – the no-nonsense Italian Antonio Conte to give direction to Chelsea’s fortunes.

There is little doubt in most minds that direction will be up. Apart from the wealth of talent he has at his disposal, he has gone ahead and acquired N’Golo Kante from Leicester City and Michy Batshuayi from Olympique Marseille.

These two young talents will have key roles to play in Conte’s 4-4-2 formation with Kante in the midfield and Batshuayi in the attack. Chelsea will hope that Kante brings in the infectious energy he showed at Leicester, into the side. But if Chelsea have to win, Eden Hazard will have to regain his past form. With Diego Costa getting more erratic over the passage of time, the onus will fall on the brilliant Belgian to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around.

With no European commitments for Chelsea this year, Conte can fully focus on gearing his team for the title. Chelsea are third in line as bookies’ favourites to take the EPL title but realistically, they could be in a much better position than the two Manchester clubs who’ll have Champions League football to juggle as well.

Arsenal

Despite having strikers like Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal still feel the need of a striker who can give that title-winning edge to the team.

One cannot ask for a better player than Aaron Ramsey in the mid-field. On the acquisitions front, things have been typically muted despite a £159 million war chest offered to Arsene Wenger.

The only noteworthy buy has been that of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka who has gained a reputation for his excellent ball winning and clinical distribution skills. Ozil and Oxlade-Chamberlain have been brilliant in the midfield whilst, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal make up a solid defensive combination.

Both keepers, David Ospina and Peter Cech are brilliant between the posts – all of which may not be enough. Arsenal’s need for a true worldclass striker was evident in their bid for Luis Suarez in 2013 that failed. The Gunners may even be prepared to fork out amounts in excess of £100 million for prolific French and Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette and Shkodran Mustafi, the 24-year old German defender from Valencia.

One hopes the deal goes through. The Gunners sorely need fresh blood to shake things up yet head coach Wenger seems hesitant to ever bend the chequebook.

There’s one big factor that Arsenal will have to overcome despite having the best side arguably on paper – inconsistency; losing key matches to minions (lowly rated sides). Bookies have rated Arsenal as fourth favourites to take this season’s EPL title but Spurs fans may have something to say about that this season and may fancy themselves to go one better than last year.

The Best of the Rest

With a more battle-hardened team of young and talented players, are Tottenham Hotspur ready to mount another title challenge this season?

Mauricio Pochettino’s side impressed pundits and footballing experts alike up and down the country last term with their style of play, discipline and supreme fitness.

With the acquisition of Vincent Janssen to partner prolific striker Harry Kane and Southampton’s Victor Wanyama joining the fold to back up the impressive Eric Dier in midfield, Spurs may be the team to watch and could prove to be the dark horses of the 2016-17 season.

Up in Merseyside, Liverpool fans will believe their highly rated German coach Jürgen Klopp has all the makings of a magician and will continue to transform the Reds fortunes and make them a great side once again, regardless of who comes in or not to Anfield.

What we can be assured of is, there will be some unmissable fixtures this season and some of the live premier league matches will make for one of the tightest top 4 contests in many years, leaving some fans desperately disappointed come May next year and some in raptures.

It’s going to be great to see it all unfold over the coming weeks and months.

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