Like promised and as the transfer market is now closed, I’ll take a look on the effect of late signings and the first four Premier League weeks on title contenders’ chances. So, let’s begin with the champions with limp wings…
Chelsea – Offensive limp wings become permeable defensively…
In my Premier League preview, I talked about the limp wings issue which consists in the lack of offensive threat offered by Chelsea’s full backs. The first four fixtures confirmed this idea but a new and more serious problem arose: defensive stability, which was one of the keys to 14/15 title, is gone. Ivanovic, who has always been reliable defensively, is being constantly exposed by the opposition and John Terry seems past his prime. Although there is individual fault involved, I think Chelsea’s defensive problem is more systemic, as it’s also not usual for them, to have Ivanovic exposed to 1v1 situations, so frequently.
Hazard’s Schrödinger cat issue is also evident this season as he can’t be in the first line of creation and be expected to finish at the same time. Probably, Pedro arrival will ease his burden and also help Ivanovic defensively on the right. This was quite a capture for Chelsea, which had a good transfer window. In Baba Rahman they have an offensive-minded left back, which might shift Azpilicueta to right back, and represent the key to solve the limp wings issue. Of course, everybody’s writing them off already, as they are 8 points off Manchester City, but don’t forget there are 34 fixtures to play and with a weaker squad on paper, they did 87 points last season.
Man City – Defensively permeable in 14/15 to Defensive fortress in 15/16
I told you they were the most dominant side in the Premier League in my preview and the first Premier League weeks confirmed that idea. Furthermore, the inclusion of Sterling is being a success as their possession-style football benefits from the width he and Navas offer. This is the reason why I’m a bit skeptic about the inclusion of Kevin De Bruyne in the starting eleven as some positional redundancy will be introduced.
Don’t get me wrong, he is a great player but there's more to football than picking eleven players and sending them to the pitch. In this particular case, I think he tends to occupy Silva’s territory and you know my opinion: there’s only one David Silva! Pellegrini must have a plan for the Belgian, and I’m looking forward to see how it will play out. Defensively-wise, I have to say: I’m amazed with their evolution. Mangala is playing very well, but especially the defensive midfield work has been stellar with Fernandinho exceling. Furthermore, they signed Otamendi who I rate as one of the best central backs in the game.
They look very strong on paper and on the pitch, and it will be very interesting to see their Champions League campaign. Truth must be said though, they are getting some bad karma out of their spending ways, as their draws are always nasty.
I still think they'll be defensively exposed against Euopean top teams, but they are certainly stronger this year. They surpassed Chelsea as favorites, for the Premier League title, and rightly so, but I don’t think the title race is over, as the season is long and full of terrors!