Football

Premier League season preview: Who will finish fourth?

Bale will play a key role in Tottenham's challenge (©GettyImages)
Bale will play a key role in Tottenham's challenge (©GettyImages).

Most people who follow football have appeared to agree that the top three places in the Premier League will be contested by reigning champions Manchester United, summer spenders Manchester City and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

That leaves the question over who will come in and finish fourth to win that final Champions League spot. Over the past few seasons it’s been a battle heavily fought by the two North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal. 

But this year many feel that after Liverpool’s progress last year under Brendan Rodgers that, if they can keep hold of Luis Suarez, that they might finally get into the top four for the first time since 2009.

Here is an evaluation of their squads to see who will fair best on paper:

Goalkeepers:

Arsenal have had problems in the goalkeeping department since Jens Lehman, but finally they seem to have found a fitting replacement in Polish international Wojciech Szczęsny. 

At only 23, he has a long career ahead of him to get better and better. Some rumours have surfaced that Arsenal are interested in Julio Cesar, who last season, even though QPR went down, was one of the best keepers in the Premier League.

Goalkeepers get better with experience, and although Hugo Lloris may only be 26, he has bags of experience in his locker at international and European level. 

He came into the Spurs side and knocked a Premier League legend in Brad Friedel off his perch. He’s not the French National caption for no reason.

Liverpool have sent long time number one Pepe Reina on loan to Napoli and have replaced him with former Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet. In his three seasons at the Stadium of Light Mignolet has developed into a safeguard between the sticks. 

Still young at 25, Mignolet will want to use the chance he has at Liverpool to cement his position in the Belgium starting 11 over Thibaut Courtois, who has impressed on loan from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid.

Verdict: Tottenham

Defence:

Defence is an area that has in recent years left a lot of question marks hovering above Arsenal. 

While they have some great individual players like Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen, as a unit they haven’t been tight. A lot of that has been to do with injuries, but if they want to compete Arsene Wenger needs to find a way to bring his back line together, and fast.

Last season Tottenham conceded the least goals of the three teams. Jan Vertonghen came into the side and provided an attacking threat from centre-back, making himself probably the club’s second best player after Gareth Bale. 

Andre Villas Boas likes to experiment with his defence at times, and he still hasn’t seemed to find the defensive system he is wanting yet.

Liverpool have been known to be a tight unit at the back, especially when at home. This year they lost their longest servant at the back in Jamie Carragher, which will be a blow to the dressing room. 

But Rodgers moved quickly to bring in a league-winner in Kolo Toure to replace him. Rumours have also circulated about Liverpool’s interest in PSG’s centre-half Mamadou Sakho. 

If they can snap him up to play alongside Daniel Agger, they could definitely have one of the best back fours in England.

Verdict: Liverpool

Midfield:

Arsenal has some good players in the middle, like Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

When you compare them to the ‘Invincibles’, like Patrick Viera, Freddie Ljumberg and Robert Pires, the only player that comes close to that kind of quality is Jack Wilshere, who has unfortunately missed a lot of possible appearances for the Gunners.

Tottenham have added Brazilian international Paulinho into their midfield. Having seen his performances in the Confederations Cup it’s clear that he has bundles of quality. 

Last season Lewis Holtby impressed when Tottenham brought him in in January from Schalke, and I’m sure with another season under his belt he is going to grow into a terrific footballer. So Tottenham definitely have options in the middle.

Although Arsenal and Tottenham do have some great midfielders, neither of them have a leader in the middle of the park like Steven Gerrard. 

Gerrard, arguably the best midfielder in England, has pledged the rest of his career to Liverpool, and he’ll want a bite at a second Champions League title more than anyone else. 

Young starlet PhilIppe Coutinho, like Holtby, impressed when he was bought in January. If Liverpool can keep him progressing he could turn out a key weapon to possess.

Verdict: Liverpool

Forwards:

Arsenal are finally seeing Theo Walcott turn his potential into quality finishing last season as Arsenal’s top scorer. 

Arsene Wenger tried to replace Robin Van Persie with Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. Even these two players together haven’t been as much as a threat as Van Persie was on his own, so Arsenal may still have to strengthen in the transfer market. 

If they could prize Suarez from Liverpool it would surely give them a wealth of options.

If Gareth Bale stays at Tottenham they’ll have one of the best forward lines in the Premier League. 

Signing Roberto Soldado from Valencia may be one of the best bits of business we have seen in the Premier League this summer. With his regular goal tally being around 20 a season, and Bale hitting just over that in the league last year Tottenham may end up having goals galore. Not to mention having Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe as back up.

The same applies for Liverpool: if they can keep hold of Luis Suarez and get him to play like he did last season – while staying away from controversy – they won’t have any worries up front with Daniel Sturridge also being a revelation since his January move from Chelsea.

The two of them up front with Gerrard and Coutinho supplying the chances could end up producing the start of a great partnership.

Verdict: Tottenham

Conclusion:

Arsene Wenger hasn’t missed out on the top four with Arsenal since he arrived in London, but at the minute Arsenal haven’t strengthened and are at a standstill, watching as the teams around them get better.

Overall though, a lot of it hinges on Suarez and Bale. If Liverpool lose Suarez to Arsenal then the Gunners could easily go from being in a 4th position battle to being title contenders. 

Whilst if Real Madrid are willing to pay a world record fee for Bale, then with that money Tottenham could definitely find a way to rebuild. But these deals may run right until the 2nd of September deadline.

Overall Verdict: Tottenham

 

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Topics:
Arsenal
Luis Suarez
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Jack Wilshere
Steven Gerrard
Football
Daniel Sturridge
Gareth Bale
Theo Walcott
Liverpool

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