Manchester City won the Premier League title at a canter this season.
Well, a canter would imply they were casual about it, when in fact they were ferocious and fabulous. The best team in England by a country mile. They were so good that their success was taken as a given by season’s end, and the so the question quickly became: can they do it again?
But the thing is, that doesn’t just depend on them but also their rivals. None of them were able to muster much opposition this year, but in the future? Who could possibly compete with the juggernaut that is Manchester City? We here at Squawka have rounded up our writers and gathered opinions on who could be best placed to challenge the Sky Blues in 2018/19.
Muhammad Butt @muhammadbutt
It’s hard to see any genuine challenger emerging from the Premier League. Obviously Liverpool have a great team but their high-intensity football isn’t sustainable over an entire English season (with 20 teams and no winter break to refresh the legs), Chelsea have talent but are in desperate need of structure and guidance, and Arsenal are an unknown quantity given their managerial situation.
This leaves just one side capable of challenging City, and that’s Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. The Red Devils are far from an exciting side to watch, but the combination of having the world’s best goalkeeper (David De Gea) and a ruthless goalscoring striker (Romelu Lukaku) in attack allows them to plough through weaker opponents.
And when the big games roll around, Jose Mourinho comes to life and all the negative and dour nonsense that plagues the other contests finally has a purpose as he executes his game plan. This season United have dominated clashes against big six and next season they should have Alexis Sanchez fully integrated, so it’s hard to look beyond The Red Devils as the main challengers.
James Richards @BaggiesPod
Looking ahead to next season’s title race you would have to think that Liverpool are best placed to challenge Manchester City than any of the other top six. They have shown what they are capable of in this season’s Champions League with some scintillating attacking displays while also adding Virgil van Dijk at the back.
If they can shore up with another defensive signing and avoid drawing games against sides in the bottom half of the table, then they should be a lot closer to Manchester City than they were this term. Mohamed Salah broke the Premier League single-season scoring record by banging in 32 goals this season and he was ably backed up by Roberto Firmino.
The arrival of Naby Keita is an upgrade on Emre Can, but Klopp will certainly need a few more bodies in midfield – with unique playing styles – to mount a serious challenge.
Danny Lavelle @DaniLavelle
Jose Mourinho’s side have been roundly criticised for inconsistency and a risk aversion that’s transformed the football at Old Trafford into an utter bore fest at times.
Despite this, United have a strong squad with homegrown players like Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and others that have still not reached their full potential. Marquee playmakers Pogba and Sanchez did not show the best of themselves last season either. That could be because their style is simply not compatible with Mourinho’s meticulous approach to the game, or it could be because they simply had a poor season.
Also, out of City’s rivals in the ‘Big Six’ United have the largest chequebook, and the most iconic brand to attract some of the world’s biggest players before the summer transfer window ends. Ultimately if anyone is going to dethrone City before their dynasty can begin next season, then it will most likely be their Mancunian rivals.
Will Eldridge @willgeorgejourn
Since the acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool have looked stronger and more reliable in defence than in previous seasons. The electricity of their famous front three is guaranteed to get the goals, but their weakness of recent seasons has been their inability to defend with any certainty.
The only real improvement needed to enhance their chances would perhaps be the signing of a new goalkeeper, with the club likely to do so this summer. The arrival of Naby Keita will only strengthen the side and with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold continuously improving, it’s hard to look past the balance of Jurgen Klopp’s side for a title challenge next season.
Liverpool have already shown that they can surprise people with what they can achieve and with further time under Klopp’s influence, this side will not go backwards next season.
Harry Edwards @harryedwards16
Second, but some way off Manchester City in the season just gone, Manchester United will once again be closest challengers for the Premier League title.
While Liverpool are a growing entity and have improved on their weaknesses in the second half of the past season, the Reds are perhaps too reliant on Mohamed Salah having another record-breaking season if they are to get close to City.
And the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal will likely be fighting out for the top four rather than title.
But with Jose Mourinho in charge at United, there’s always a chance and following an underwhelming season football-wise, the Red Devils are bound to jump into the transfer market with all guns blazing to bring home a first Premier League trophy since 2013.
Granted this is all dependent on Mourinho not suffering a third-season crash, but the foundations are there for a title-challenging team and United just need to put in the final pieces this summer.
Nick Thompson @NickThompson_93
On current viewing it is a straight shootout between Liverpool, Tottenham and United as to who will go the closest to Man City next season; I think none will get close enough in the end but it will be Man United who will be in earshot of the celebrations.
United have come second this year despite streaks of stodgy games and Mourinho weirdness, if better players are recruited (to go with the £500m they’ve spent in recent seasons) and big names like Pogba and Sanchez play to their potential, then they ought to steamroll teams.
Mourinho is also very, very good in the big clinches. Usually anyway. He beat Pep’s City in such fantastical circumstances coming from two goals down to deny them the title at their yard, that I’m sure he’s got some ideas on how to approach the Manchester Derby next season.
Liverpool will be a serious prospect next season but I think they are a side that thrives in cup competitions, while Spurs may lose key players and will be in yet another new stadium – this one being their actual home – though I’d expect them to spend some.
Steve Jennings @JenningsWrites
Mauricio Pochettino has led Tottenham to three successive top three finishes with a relatively low budget compared to the rest of the top six. Given the club is ahead of schedule in that regard, Pochettino is now expected to ask chairman Daniel Levy for increased transfer funds this summer.
Providing that happens, Spurs should be able to add the little bit of quality and depth they’ve lacked over the last three seasons, and those failed title challenges could finally become a genuine fight for silverware.
There are two worthwhile arguments against Tottenham’s chances: they will lose players (Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele are expected to depart); and they face another settling-in period at a new home.
But if the incoming recruits hit the ground running and the new stadium summons the spirit of White Hart Lane, Spurs could rack up more points than the 86 they managed in 2016-17. Whether that will be enough to close the gap on Manchester City is debatable.