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EPL Top Squads: A Midsummer’s Report

With the World Cup now over we find ourselves adjusting to life temporarily without any competitive football on the fixtures list. This is the part of the summer that leaves a fair few folk, myself included, with chronic footballing withdrawal symptoms. However, at the very least we’ve got some interesting transfer market activity to read about – A lot of which is total rubbish, but some of which ends up materializing and becoming big news. Under The Cosh Blog has decided to have a look at how some of the EPL’s top teams’ squads have taken shape so far this summer. Let’s see what we can make of the squads based on their performances in 2013-2014.

Manchester City

Do the Champions need to shuffle the pack after winning the league or are they out to show that they can compete with Real Madrid for every unnecessary transfer dealing? We shall see. So far this transfer window, they have been pretty reserved.

Players In: Bracary Sagna, Fernando, Willy Caballeromanchester-city-vincent-kompany-epl-title

Players Out: Costel Pantilimon, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Alex Nimely, Marcos Lopez (loan), Emyr Huws (loan)

Preferred formations: 4-4-2 (19); 4-2-3-1 (10); 4-4-1-1 (6); 4-2-2-2 (3)

Summary: Had Liverpool’s title push not slipped away with Gerrard in front of Demba Ba, the story could have been very different. Instead, City managed to overcome a late season loss at Anfield to edge past the pack and claim their second title in three seasons. With 102 goals scored and a goal differential of +65, it’s hard to improve much, yet City would want to rectify the defeats to Cardiff, Aston Villa and Southampton that could have cost them the title in the end. Yaya Toure is now “happy” at the club and retaining him could be the difference in this season’s title race. Signing Sagna when you have Zabaleta seems a bit silly, but perhaps there is some tactical explanation behind it. City will be looking to make a deeper forage into Europe’s elite competition as well as retain their numerous domestic pieces of silverware and having squad depth and experience will be helpful in that quest.

Liverpool

The surprise package of last season, catapulting themselves from seventh in the table to second, Liverpool showed a sense of bravery and an attacking flair in the final third that intimated even their fiercest rivals. Will the Reds be able to continue their fine form on all fronts with European football added to the schedule? Or will they be stretched thin and prove that a light fixture list can make a difference as the season wears on?

Players In: Ricky Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic

Players Out: Luis Suarez, Luis Alberto (loan), Michael Ngoo, Stephen Sama, Iag1397400870534.jpg-620x349o Aspas (loan), Andre Wisdom (loan)

Preferred Formations: 4-3-3 (14); 4-2-3-1 (9); 4-1-2-1-2 (7); 3-4-1-2 (3); 3-5-2 (2); 4-4-2 (2); 4-3-2-1 (1)

Summary: Liverpool managed an impressive title challenge last season with a relatively thin squad. To their benefit, their starting 11 was well embedded and kept fresh. A combination of Brendan Rogers’ football philosophy and tactical pragmatism saw the team grow from strength to strength. With 101 goals scored and a differential of +51, this was Liverpool’s finest league season in decades in terms of attacking prowess. Had the Reds not dropped points at home to Chelsea right at the death, the maiden Premier League title would have been within reach. This season Liverpool are looking to splash the cash on players to deepen their squad and challenge in Europe as well as on the domestic front. It will be interesting to answer the question of whether or not the Reds are back in the top echelon for good. Brendan Rodgers will have his work cut out for him this season but you can expect him to be ready for the challenge. Liverpool’s transfer activity during this window will determine their success for the coming season, especially with the loss of a player who contributed 31 goals and 12 assists.

Chelsea

The team that knows how to beat its title rivals, but doesn’t know how to beat the minions. Perhaps if they had had an able striker, they wouldn’t have finished third.

Players In: Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Felipe Luiz, Mario Pasalic

Players Out: Thomas Kalas, Ashley Cole, Samuel Eto’o, Henrique Hilario, Sam HutchinsOscar-Chelseaon, Frank Lampard, Demba Ba, Mario Pasalic (loan)

Preferred Formations: 4-2-3-1 (33); 4-3-3 (5)

Summary: Despite picking up the most points against teams within the top seven, Chelsea were sloppy with draws and defeats to teams in the mid to lower tiers of the table. It was no secret that their failure to score up front was their costliest weakness. This season, some quality new arrivals have Chelsea fans wondering if this will be their year. It very well could be, if Diego Costa figures out how to score for the Blues. Fabregas seems to have replaced the aging Lampard and Costa should replace Torres as the lone striker. Chelsea have the league’s best defense (27 goals conceded). With Ashley Cole’s departure to Roma, Felipe Luiz is the man in to replace him. You get the feeling that a few more goals from this outfit would have them comfortably winning the league.

Arsenal

Let’s talk about how their title challenge will fall apart in late January. Before that, let’s talk about how this season is different and they have a great chance of winning the league.

Players In: Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy

Players Out: Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna, Chuks Aneke, Nicklas Bendtner, Chu Young Park, Wellington Silva (loan), Thomas Eisfeld

Preferred Formations: 4-2-3-1 (38)2003686_w1

Summary: It will be a revelation to see Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the same starting lineup. Arsenal in attack are easy on the eye but tend to overdo it in games that require more patience – a recent 6-0 loss at Stamford Bridge being a case in point. Arsenal have patched up the exit of the experienced Sagna and added the French international Mathieu Debuchy to their ranks, which could be a very good fit under Arsene Wenger. Arsenal’s midfield tend to succumb to injury at crucial points during the title race and their quest tends to fall off the pace. Perhaps Wenger will need to add some more grit to his midfield to take the pressure off Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, and Flamini? Perhaps Sanchez could make a difference in attack and make life a lot easier for Giroud. One thing is for sure: you won’t want to miss any of the Gunners’ fixtures.

Everton

Will Martinez be able to build on his successful first season at Goodison Park and apply the same tactical nous in the absence of loan stars Deulofeu and Lukaku? Everton v Swansea City - FA Cup Fifth RoundWill he also continue to make David Moyes look every bit as boring as he is?

Players In: Gareth Barry

Players Out: Mason Springthorpe, Apostolos Velios, Gerard Deulofeu (recalled from loan)

Preferred Formations: 4-2-3-1 (35); 4-4-1-1 (1); 4-4-2 (1); 3-4-3 (1)

Summary: Everton were one of the surprise packages of 2013-2014 with their display of positive, attacking football. The Everton teams under David Moyes were known to be dogged and resilient, with spells of brilliance in the final third. Under Martinez, Everton’s approach to the game became much more positive and they were a whisker away from breaking into the top four. It is quite possible that Everton could present the same challenge this season, although it is hard to imagine them keeping up the same creative flair in the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu. That said, Kevin Mirallas is still at Goodison Park and he is every bit as impressive as the former duo. Everton will at the very least be expecting to qualify for the Europa League once again. This season, their Europa League campaign will potentially stretch the squad. Expect a few quick and neat signings from Martinez as the transfer window comes to an end.

Tottenham

If only they were as resilient on the field as Daniel Levy is at the bargaining table…will they threaten to break into the top four or be content with Europa League qualification?

Players In: Ben Davies, Michel Vormtottenham-goal

Players Out: Huerelho Gomez, Cameron Lancaster, Jake Livermore, Gylfi Sigurdsson

Preferred Formations: 4-2-3-1 (21); 4-4-2 (12); 4-3-3 (2); 4-1-2-1-2 (1); 4-1-4-1 (1); 4-5-1 (1)

Summary: Tottenham’s transfer activity since the departure of Gareth Bale instilled a fresh sense of optimism around White Hart Lane prior to the start of last season. However, Spurs were comprehensively smashed by clubs in the top seven both home and away. To some extent, their failure to break into the top four was covered up by Manchester United’s failure to secure European football, as Spurs pipped the Red Devils to the final Europa League spot. To their credit, they did finish the season strongly. This season, they have been relatively quiet in the marketplace and it could be to secure some cohesion as a unit. Tottenham’s activity for the rest of the summer will be particularly interesting, and will reveal their approach and expectations for the upcoming season.

Manchester United

The strongest fall the hardest, it seems. The poor season under Moyes even has Ferguson threatening to release an updated autobiography to appease the fans! Unbelievable. It is the nature of the club to bounce back from adversity and it will be interesting to see how they fare this season. Will Van Gaal be able to rebuild fast enough for the fans and the board?

Players In: Ander Herera, Luke ShawManchester-United-Highlights1

Players Out: Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Federico Macheda, Jack Barmby, Alex Buttner

Preferred Formations: 4-2-3-1 (33); 4-4-1-1 (2); 4-4-2 (2); 4-3-3 (1)

Summary: The loss of four outstanding captains from their ranks will make the dressing room a different place altogether. However, to their benefit, one of their former captains and club legend has gone on to become assistant manager. The addition of the tactically astute and philosophically impeccable Louis Van Gaal to the managerial post has United fans sensing optimism for the first time since the days of the forgettable David Moyes. United will not have European football in their fixture list and we could very well see a challenge similar to the one presented by Liverpool in the previous season under similar circumstances. United are in a rebuilding phase and you get the sense that it won’t be for long. Chief Executive Ed Woodward seems busy in the marketplace and we should expect some activity in and around Old Trafford in the coming weeks.

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