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Which of the Premier League's Big Five need to add more depth?

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

06:06 11 Aug 2014

The absence has not been long enough to make us fonder of it, but the Premier League is back.

Just four weeks after the end of an often brilliant World Cup, we got our first taste of the new season cross channel as Arsenal and Manchester City shared centre stage at Wembley in the Community Shield.

While the weakened lineups probably mask a few realities for 3 - 0 winners Arsenal and the defeated Man City side, a few things are telling when it comes to the depth within both squads.

The same goes for their rivals who have been locked in pre-season commitments with plenty of time to bring more numbers before the end of the transfer window.

Oisin Langan and I discuss the Community Shield and the new season on the Monday Rewind.

Arsenal

The Gunners look transformed psychologically after getting the trophy monkey off their backs by winning the FA Cup. A positive summer in the transfer window has seen manager Arsene Wenger make astute purchases, including Alexis Sanchez who already looks promising, while Southampton youth product Calum Chambers looked utterly composed at centre-back against Man City.

But with Thomas Vermaelen having gone to Barcelona, it is imperative that they bring in another centre-half to provide cover for Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny . Deputy left-back Nacho Monreal has played in the middle at times in pre-season and in the second half of the Community Shield. However, the Spaniard's lack of height and experience in that position is a huge risk and an extra option is a must.

In front of them, Mikel Arteta's succession to the captaincy suggests that he will hold on to his deep-lying midfield role, even though a more mobile presence who can marry the Spaniard's distribution with more defensive nous and energy would provide extra depth behind the stronghold of attacking midfielders that Wenger can choose from.

The lack of true cover for Olivier Giroud is a concern. But, while Yaya Sanogo lacks more than a degree of composure, the young Frenchman has the pace and movement which Giroud lacks.

Wenger likes to see his promising youngsters blossom and it would be no surprise if he entrusts Sanogo with the role of deputy centre-forward.

Another dimension is also possible as Sanchez also has the intelligence and experience of playing more centrally if needs be and Theo Walcott has also filled in up front.

Lukas Podolski can also play centrally in an emergency, even if he did struggle tactically in that position last season, and Joel Campbell will be given opportunities.

Most pressing concern: Centre-back

 

Manchester City

Yesterday, we saw City's defence looking decidedly porous in Vincent Kompany's absence and less than 24 hours later, the Sky Blues completed the signing of his latest prospective partner in crime.

France defender Eliaquim Mangala joins for over £30 million and demonstrates that Manuel Pellegrini recognises the need for a viable partner for Kompany.

Martin Demichelis and Matija Nastastic (who continues to be linked with an exit) provide the most viable cover at centre-half, with the added bonus that new signing Bacary Sagna can also fill in centrally.

With Pellegrini's former No 1 goalkeeper at Malaga, Willy Caballero, providing real competition for Joe Hart, it would seem that City are well covered numbers-wise, especially with ex-Porto midfielder Fernando being brought in as cover for fellow Brazilian Fernandinho.

Most-pressing concern:  None, if Mangala fulfils his potential.

 

Chelsea

The Blues are no longer the little horses Jose Mourinho attempted to portray them as last year. Previous issues in creative midfield and up front seem to have been cured after the signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, who have both shone in pre-season.

The squad as it stands certainly has reliable cover in most positions and given that Mourinho teams tend to peak in his second season, they will be a formidable force.

However, the ankle injury suffered by Didier Drogba against Ferencvaros yesterday could be an issue if Costa also succumbs to long-term injury at any point as Fernando Torres is the next in line...

Most-pressing concern: Up front, depending on how long Drogba remains absent

 

Manchester United

Louis Van Gaal is an improvement on David Moyes and should see a more motivated squad during this campaign.

As pre-season has shown, a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 is likely to be a staple. But much strengthening is needed in certain areas of the squad by the end of the transfer window.

While the striker positions and attacking midfield seem set in stone, the three-man defence could use an extra body or ideally two.

As it stands, the three senior centre-backs will be Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, the latter of whom has reportedly impressed Van Gaal with his distribution.

Next in line are Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett who have shown promise. But their lack of experience is a risk if an injury is sustained by any one of the first choice centre-back trio. The one argument to counter that is the new manager's ability to lift young players to new heights.

Full-back could also be an issue when it comes to cover. Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw appear to be first choice long-term at right and left wing back respectively. Rafael Dos Santos can cover on the right, but the left side may need extra cover even if Van Gaal has trialed a seemingly rejuvenated Ashley Young as a wing back.

The problem with the central midfield two is not a question of depth (they can choose between Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Anderson, Maroune Fellaini, Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher), but more so one of quality and much will depend on which players Van Gaal decides to let go.

Pressing concern: Central defence and another natural wing-back

 

Liverpool

While Suarez has left, one thing Brendan Rodgers has improved out of necessity is Liverpool's depth. The full-back positions, the attacking midfield department, central defence and forward line have been strengthened with the purchases of Javier Manquillo, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert.

While Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva are the central midfield options - Can is also able to slot in there - another option in the engine room could be useful in case Rodgers uses a more flat 4-3-3 at any point.

There is also a slight worry up front given that Daniel Sturridge, Fabio Borini and Lambert are the only central strikers in the squad, while left-back is a potential weakness.

Jon Flanagan filled in ably last season and Can has also played there. But there are some question marks over Jose Enrique which explains why Liverpool have been linked with Sevilla left-back Albert Moreno.

Pressing concern: Potentially another central midfielder and left-back

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