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A look at last season’s top 6 teams in the Premier League and one key player who’s improvement could make the difference in a title race or title bust.
Chelsea – Pedro:
Given the manner in which Chelsea won the Premier League in 2017/18, little room was left for criticism. On paper, Pedro’s contribution was better in the title winning season than in his debut season at the club. However, on the pitch it seemed like his performances began to decline as the season wore on. The Spaniard looked less clinical in front of goal and was generally unable to influence games as he had been able to earlier in the season. Even the 2017/18 season has begun with Pedro unable to secure a starting spot, even in the absence of Eden Hazard. A telling sign.
Tottenham Hotspur – Hugo Lloris:
It may be difficult to comprehend how the best defense in the league last season would need any improvement at the back. Tottenham possess one of the a world class goalkeepers in Hugo Lloris, but even his standards his 2016-17 season was inconsistent. The French shot-stopper made some uncharacteristic errors last season, some of which led to Spurs conceding goals. Of even greater concern for Spurs is that in only the 2nd game of the season, Lloris made a terrible error and gifting Chelsea a winning goal. Spurs will need Lloris to be on his most impeccable form this season. Tottenham haven’t had success at Wembley in recent seasons and have 19 league games to play there throughout the course of the season.
Manchester City – John Stones:
Whether it was the jitters, unfamiliarity with the new system or a combination of both, John Stones’ Everton form is yet to be replicated at his new club. The Barnsley youth product was good in patches last season, but overall was disappointing. He showed many nervy displays highlighted by some poor decision making that put his team under pressure at times. However, Pep Guardiola has once again placed faith in the youngster as a starter for the 2017/18 season: a chance at redemption. If Stones can display a bit more composure and maturity in this season when playing next to two more seasoned defenders, Manchester City can have a more convincing run at the title.
Liverpool – Simon Mignolet:
It didn’t take Jurgen Klopp too long to resort back to Simon Mignolet after a trial-and-error run with Loris Karius. Liverpool were particularly suspect defensively last season and both goalkeepers were prime suspects. Mignolet hasn’t filled the Reds’ faithful with much confidence since his arrival, yet four seasons later he remains the club’s #1. This season could be the biggest for the Belgian. Liverpool are back in the Champions League after a 4th place finish in 2016/17 and will be looking to improve on that league position this season. In spite of their defensive frailties, a stellar year from Mignolet could project Liverpool higher up the table come May, given the attacking options at their disposal.
Arsenal – Mesut Ozil:
Arsenal’s strength has always been in their attacking phases of play. In 2017/18 they added another great attacking player to the squad in Alexander Lacazette and it seems that they are set to hold onto Alexis Sanchez. With two such goal scorers in the ranks, Ozil’s role will be crucial to the success of the team. The German maestro will need replicate the numbers of the 2015/16 in order to take some of the play-making duties off of the goal scorers. In addition, he will need to have a greater influence in Arsenal’s big games. If Ozil can consistently display the type of creative impetus that he has shown in patches during his Arsenal tenure, it could spark a breakout season for the Gunners.
Manchester United – Henrikh Mkhitaryan:
Henrikh Mkhitaryan endured a beyond lacklustre debut season in the Premier League in 2016/17. A visible lack of form stemming from fitness issues meant that the Armenian spent most of the season in and out of the starting 11. This season Mkhitaryan has hit the ground running putting on two sparkling displays in United’s opening two wins and notching four(4) assists in the process. The former Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Year for 2015/16 needs to be on top of his game as The Red Devils are undoubtedly aiming to clinch the league. Mkhitaryn is one of Mourinho’s key players and his ability to create plays and score goals will prove vital the the United attack. If he can continue on his early form, expect United to make this an enticing title race.