The second part of the follow-up on my Premier League preview comes with a delay, but as someone said: “better late than never”.
Arsenal – Getting closer, but is it enough? I don’t think so!
The title is a reference to my preview, where I stated they lack individual quality to win the English Premier League. Based on this, I was expecting the arrival of at least a top player. No one arrived, so Mr. Wenger has to stick with Walcott/Giroud upfront, Coquelin as defensive midfielder and Gibbs/Monreal at the left-back position. They are not bad players but saying Arsenal could only improve these positions with top players, like Mr. Wenger stated, is a fallacy. Of course, it would be the ideal situation, but there are a lot of players who could improve them, at least from a depth perspective. This depth problem was exposed against Liverpool and a bit against Dinamo Zagreb, especially at the center-back position, where the inclusion of Gabriel and/or Chambers represent a major decrease in quality.
To add to that, I honestly think Walcott doesn’t fit as a striker in Arsenal's possession game. He is mainly dangerous in one match moment, the defensive-offensive transition, if given space to explore his pace; ironically enough, Arsenal plays in the opposition half most of the time, with limited space for Walcott to be effective. Apart from all the negative points stated, I still think they are the most pleasant side to watch in the Premier League with a very fluid attacking system.
The markets consider them to be second favorites to win the EPL with an odd of 5.8 but I really can’t see that happening. In fact, I think they'll receive a reality check from Chelsea on Saturday. Like always, when it comes to football predictions, I may well be the idiot when Chelsea vs Arsenal finishes!
Man United – Divide and conquer 2.0 by Louis Van Gaal
Like I said before, I don’t fully understand Louis Van Gaal, both tactically and from a man management perspective. I get puzzled over and over again by his options: there’s the De Gea/Valdes/Romero riddle, shipping Javier Hernandez to Leverkusen while playing Fellaini as a striker, preferring Young over Nani, going for a tremendous overpriced deal for Martial at the deadline and the list could go on.
When it comes to Man United, Alex Ferguson will always be the benchmark and one of his secrets was always being able to provide the ideal conditions for second-line players to excel. Everyone will remember the top class players he managed, but for every Ronaldo, Giggs or Vidic there was Evans, Fletcher or the aforementioned Chicharito who were vital as the seasons went on.
Van Gaal seems to prefer a ruthless approach, which leaves him with a short number of valid options as the individual player quality is above the system. In this sense, I think Shaw's injury will be very detrimental to their defense, especially if Blind is deployed at left-back and Rojo enters the team.
That said, their midfield pressing is a bright spot this season, which makes them a lot more dangerous without the ball. When they have to dominate possession, problems arise as their build-up issues from last season are still there and pretty evident. Finally, the markets priced them above Chelsea to win the EPL, at 12.5, which is hard for me to understand even with a 6 point difference between them.
Honorable mention – Tottenham
Although they lack the top 4 individual quality, Tottenham is a very well managed team, which will receive a massive boost from Heung-Ming Son arrival. Pochettino’s approach is based on possession-style football, with two of the best central backs, in the EPL, offensive-wise and two top players in Kane and especially Eriksen. At the moment, they would be my pick for the 5th place.