Premier League Contenders, part 1.

Last season Leicester City won the Premier League having been 5000/1 at the start of the season, a fact everyone must know by now.  You won’t get anywhere near that price on anyone this year though, the bookies have topped out at 1500/1 for the likes of West Brom, Watford, Sunderland and Bournemouth as well as the three newly-promoted clubs; Middlesbrough, Hull and Burnley.

I’m not going to plump for a winner at this stage myself, at least not until all the transfer business is done, but I thought I’d take a look at the contenders as the season draws closer.

Manchester City. Best price 13/5.

City were never really in it last year, at least not in the second half of the season.  I don’t think the timing of the Pep Guardiola announcement helped them really, it can’t have been too easy for Manuel Pellegrini to motivate his players with everyone knowing he was on his way out.  Expectations are high this year though following the arrival of the Catalan coach. Can he do it in his first season in England?

For: Guardiola himself is a serial winner but this could be his biggest challenge to date, will he be able to hit the ground running or will the transition to England’s top flight take a while? Only time will tell. They’ve done some good, if a tad limited, business so far this summer with the captures of Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito and Alexander Zinchenko. Gundogan is pure class, Nolito carries a real goal threat but I’ve not seen enough of Zinchenko to comment.

Against: Their defence looks a little suspect still and will anyone be able to fill the void should Sergio Aguero sustain an injury? What about Vincent Kompany? They looked poor without him last season and as yet there have been no recruits at the back should he suffer another injury-hit campaign. They are working on bringing in some defensive reinforcements but so far their pursuit of John Stones has proved fruitless.

City have every chance but at 13/5 I won’t be risking any money on them just yet, a new centre-half or two and I might change my mind.

Manchester United. Best price 18/5.

Like City, United were way out of the title battle last season but the arrival of Jose Mourinho as manager has seen them installed as the second favourites.  He does have experience of winning the Premier League of course, still this price looks a little short to me.

For: Mourinho is the big draw but they’ve brought in some good signings as well.  Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a top performer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is guaranteed goals, even at the grand old age of 34, and moving Wayne Rooney back into a more advanced position could pay dividends.  If Paul Pogba joins they’ll be a real force, and the lack of Champions League football could allow them to focus more on domestic glory.

Against: United carried too many passengers last season as only a handful performed at the level required – Mourinho has to make sure everyone, or at least his first 11, are at the top of their game.  And how long will it take to get over the hangover of Louis van Gaal’s time in charge?

Chelsea. Best price 6/1.

If United and City were off the pace last season, Chelsea weren’t even in the same race. They find themselves as the third favourites this year though and again a new boss, Antonio Conte, is the reason for the optimism.

For:  The turmoil of the early part of last season appears to now be over thanks to Guus Hiddink’s second interim spell so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. In terms of transfers, N’Golo Kante is a brilliant signing and Michy Batshuayi has a lot of promise.  Like United, there is no Champions League to worry about and the Premier League will be the primary target.

Against: Conte knows how to build a team, he left Juventus years ago and the bones of his side is still winning Serie A every year.  It might not be instant success at Chelsea but if they keep the faith in the wily old Italian it will pay off, which may not translate into instant success in the coming campaign.  Again a lot will depend on how quickly Conte can adapt, and they probably need a few more additions to be truly competitive in the title battle.  Will Diego Costa stay or will a replacement be required? And if he does stay, will Chelsea see the best of him or will we see some petulance? What about John Terry, can the aging war-horse keep playing at the top level throughout a whole season?

My concern with all three of the favourites is the new manager factor.  The prices on City and United are way too short to tempt me, Chelsea look a good prospect at 6/1 though so if you fancy the Londoners I’d get on now before they bring in any more players and the odds shorten.

I was going to cover all the contenders but this already long enough so I’ll end it here.  I’ll be back in a few days with Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and champions Leicester.

As always I’ve used Oddschecker to hunt out the best prices, I’m not affiliated with them and there are other services available but these guys are the best in my experience.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.


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