August 9th, 2010
12:19 PM ET

Ageing Chelsea will struggle to retain title

Chelsea celebrated the Premier League-FA Cup double last season.
Chelsea celebrated the Premier League-FA Cup double last season.

London, England (CNN) - As the start of the English Premier League season looms large, it is time to look at what we can expect to happen over the next nine months; to predict which side will vanquish all others to emerge victorious.

Well, I believe there are three main title contenders with two outsiders also harboring realistic hopes of glory. The leading contender for the crown this season is Manchester United.

They have the perfect balance of youth and experience and, after falling just short last season, I definitely think there is a new sense of purpose at Old Trafford.

The signing of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was a masterstroke since the young Mexican international will inject new energy into a front line that, with the exception of Wayne Rooney, looked lethargic last season.

Man United sweep aside Chelsea in Community Shield

The addition of defender Chris Smalling will also give more depth to the United back-line who struggled to cope when the center pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic succumbed to injury.

Manager Alex Ferguson shows no signs of a diminishing desire to win more trophies either, and will have an extra incentive to claim top spot now that an old adversary has regrouped.

That is because Liverpool - who share the all-time record of winning 18 English league titles with United - have in Roy Hodgson, the right man to orchestrate a much-needed makeover.

Personally, I never liked the way the Reds played under Rafael Benitez, they were too mechanical and easy to predict. The Spaniard also wasted too much money on mediocre players and failed to motivate the stars last season. Steven Gerrard may have even left if Rafa had stayed.

As far as Hodgson is concerned, I really like the moves he has made in the transfer market bringing in talented British players. Joe Cole is probably the most technically gifted English midfielder around, Danny Wilson could grow into a great central defender and Jonjo Shelvey also looks promising.

With Gerrard returning to form and Fernando Torres healthy, I could see this team having the right chemistry to challenge for the title.

Moving south to London, Arsenal haven’t won silverware in five years but that drought could come to an end this season because in my mind The Gunners are finally ready to mount a challenge for the title again.

Cesc Fabregas staying at the club was Arsene Wenger's best “signing” of the close season, and providing the French manager now goes onto buy a decent goalkeeper, Arsenal will be be a major contender.

There are so many skilful players in this squad and if the likes of Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott can stay healthy, this team will score goals for fun. Don't forget that Carlos Vela, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have matured over the last campaign and could have an important part to play.

Those are my top three title contenders. You may be shocked that I left out the defending champions, but in my view Chelsea will struggle to hold onto their title, they will be outsiders this season.

The lack of new faces at Stamford Bridge means there could be a sense of stagnation at the club. Most players in the starting eleven have been with the Blues for several years and have enjoyed plenty of domestic success.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti will prioritize winning the European Champions League and their form in England will definitely suffer. Expect Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard to finish the season with disappointing numbers.

They are getting older and will not be able to combine for 30 or 40 goals like they have done so regularly in the past. Even with Ghana's Michael Essien back from injury, Chelsea will be too slow and too predictable.

Not signing a major new talent in the close season has been a missed opportunity, now they won’t be good enough.

My second outsider is Manchester City, because a team that has a squad boasting the talent and depth like this one cannot be ignored. Roberto Mancini is not the right man to lead this group of players to the title, but they will push the favorites all the way.

Besides a manager who has a strong character, this team needs another world-class central defender before it becomes the final product. Neither Kolo Toure nor Joleon Lescott fit that description.

As much money as the team owners have spent on midfielders and strikers, they should have dished out some serious cash on center backs that are proven winners. I would even look at someone like Ricardo Carvalho who is out of favor at Chelsea.

Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Mario Balotelli may light up the Premier League, but this team is not ready to become champions ... not yet.

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soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. kweku B

    i suggest a good goalkeeper for Arsenal; martin stekenlenberg dutch national keeper and ajax goalie, probably the best goalkeeper in the world at this moment and cheap too, between 15-20 million euros

    August 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  2. samuel

    The team needs a better 3 who will not overlap much

    August 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  3. alehandro

    United will be contenders not just because they've signed Chicarito but because they've at last found a way to bring the best out of Berbatov. They'll need that too, because Rooney is tired, frustrated and emotionally hung over from a traumatic World Cup. As for Chris Smalling's arrival? Not significant, as he's no more reliable than Jonny Evans, Wes Brown or John O'Shea in central defence, and with Ferdinand and Vidic struggling with injury and reliability, that is where United are vulnerable and why they'll miss out on the title. Liverpool under Hodgson will be rejuvenated, but champions! I can't see it. The new signings will make a difference, but Roy's problem isn't personnel, it's attitude and heart. New ownership may lift the gloom, but not enough to win the title. Arsenal will be bright and entertaing, a Wenger version of Spain. But, while the addition of Chamakh will help, I don't see them punching their weight up front. I'll agree that Chelsea are aging, physically and mentally, but I still wouldn't rule them out. My pick in what could be a very open season with no obvious star team is Tottenham, because they have a team with no egos and a wily, experienced manager in Harry Redknapp who the players want to play for.

    I can't see how the signing of Joe Cole is a decisive factor. They were

    August 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  4. john

    Is this a serious column? its fairly laughable to be fair.

    August 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  5. mgd24

    Quite a few surprises in there! I have to disagree on Liverpool – not enough has changed since they tanked last season. Hodgson may be a good manager, but he isn't going to challenge for the title that quickly. You've got Man City about right, though. I don't think they have the experience or the patience to win it this season.
    It's worth remembering that Chelsea were called old last season as well, and a team built around Drogba, Terry and Lampard can't be written off that easily.

    August 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  6. Nicholas Quinn

    Unbelievable article..!! Pedro, what planet are you orbiting.?? The league will be contested by two teams, the same two teams that contest it every year.!! End of story..!! Your bosses should be tapping you on the shoulder in the morning after that laughable piece..!! Sacked in the morning, you're getting sacked in the morning..!!!

    August 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  7. Nana Kwame Fordjour

    The English premiership title this season will be between Arsenal and Manchester United.Arsenal will a very determined side this season because of their five years goal drought and with the addition of Maroune Chamakh and laurent-koscielny into the squad has given the team another dimension..Manchester united have the experienced and young players with and should be firm favorites for the title.

    August 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  8. Bob C

    I'm going to copy this and keep it for when Chelsea lift the Prem title at the end of the season, and then paste it onto whatever you write then! Liverpool, don't make me laugh. It's between Chelsea and Man U, with Man city (didn't even get a mention!) a possibility...

    August 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  9. Bob C

    Oops – sorry, you did mention Man city! Didn't read that far!

    August 9, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  10. judenson

    I bet you, you will be disappointed.

    August 9, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  11. Rex Magnus

    All of the top teams have some potential problems, which could make for another great season like last year's. A lot depends on if Rooney and Torres can get over their World Cup slumps. Man. Utd will face serious problems if Rooney can't get it together, though they will challenge, as always. Liverpool need Torres to fire or they will struggle and only do slightly better than last season, they are really looking at needing a couple of seasons and new ownership before they can be considered a serious threat again, though Hodgson is the man to get it together. Arsenal should be strong, but they'll have trouble to sustain the challenge, much like last year. They always go on about their team of 'youngsters' (for years now), but I can't see them honestly in with a real chance as they lack steel and stamina in the long haul. Man. City will continue to improve, they may scare Arsenal. Tottenham are the real dark horse though. Harry is always overlooked as a boss, but with his leadership, and the squad they possess which is full of character and spirit, who knows what could happen. They could really shock people. They have a great chance of being in the mix at least. Chelsea should be able to keep what they had last year bubbling along for another season, unless something unforeseen happens. There will be ups and downs along the way, but I expect them to sail through the middle and take the Premiership once more.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  12. Ade

    All hypothetical...None of the other teams have really shown anything yet. Liverpool could still be 5th or 6th depends on like in recent years if Gerrard decides to turn up and also if Torres keeps injury free otherwise Liverpool will be out of it early. Utd will be pressuring but are still untested in premier conditions with a few players, first few games will tell. My vote goes with Chelsea this season I think they still have the quality to show the younger ones a trophy or two before they are past it. Also I believe Man City will be knocking on the door but no mention of them in your report!

    August 9, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  13. Ade

    Sorry I do see Man City mentioned but they will be more of a force than you say

    August 9, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  14. ukonne

    A nice one you have there.though some point need editable but in overall,it was a good piece.
    Well done,pinto.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Reply
  15. Omar Bajaber

    I totally agree with you Pedro. Man City will act as spoilers this season. Liverpool are title contenders but I think Roy Hodgson will fancy his chances in Europe once again as he was Runners up with Fulham last season and that will mean he will try to concentrate more on what he could have won.

    Man United look balanced and Chelsea look old. Spurs are a force to reckon too and they, like Mancity will be the spoilers.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  16. Doug

    And last year, it was also "Chelsea won't win the title because their squad are too old". How did that prediction work out again?

    They've only made one signing this summer – the 23-year-old Brazilian Ramires, who Kaka called "the best young midfielder in the world" – and apart from that, they're intent on bringing through players from the youth academy.

    Once again, the Premiership will be another straight fight between Chelsea and Man U.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  17. Wasiu

    Chelsea has just got a clue of what they will face during the premiership with this 3-1 win Manchester United Knocked them with...Watchout for the hottest side of Chelsea this season, those guys are Hot ! everyone knows that ....Every club is afraid of them..No Doubt about that

    August 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  18. Dennis

    I am going to bookmark this page, and will check again next year. 🙂

    August 10, 2010 at 12:54 am | Reply
  19. Henry

    Chelsea has a good side and one of the best goal scholar drogba will be among top 2.I Disagree with you to say they are not one of the favourite...

    August 10, 2010 at 6:54 am | Reply
  20. kasonde

    the title will be between man u and chelsea the rest should 4 get.

    arsenal can win cuz their players always get injured before the midseason and thier goal keeper and defence is useless.

    liverpool have a thin sqaud, gerrad is old now, toress is probably finished and joe is good i doubt they even make 4 the place.

    man city r like headless chickens, always buying 2 mau players they need2 buy great defenders not strikers and midefiders and they need 2 keep a constand squad 4 a while.

    spurs will be 4 th or 5 the champions league will wear theier players down.

    everton lossing thier coach few days b4 the start of the league is not a good sign for them

    August 10, 2010 at 9:08 am | Reply
  21. nkono

    I believe you have gotten it very wrong this time. only man u will be ideal candidate part from Chelsea.

    August 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  22. Michel Platini

    who the heck is Pedro pinto anyway and what does he know about English soccer. This isnt baseball Pedro; we dont serve hotdogs and have a seventh innings stretch.
    CNN make me laugh. Chelsea will always be there or thereabouts come next May. Theres simply too much class on its roster and especially its bench.
    Please go back to reporting rounders.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  23. lordGrad

    Is this column a joke??????????

    August 11, 2010 at 7:11 am | Reply
  24. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Chelsea has made a fine start to their defence of the EPL title. A 6-0 win in their opening tie has placed them firmly at the top of the heap on Day One of the EPL. Drogba has scored a hatrick with two goals from Malouda and one from Lamps. What a massive domination by the Blues. Congrats to the reigning champs.

    August 15, 2010 at 11:37 am | Reply
  25. Sebastien

    well well well, looking back at this article, chelsea is sitting comfortably at the top of the table. i wonder why? oh yeah because ancelotti is simply a genius. With anelka, lampsy, drogba, and malouda scoring at will, there is no one (in england and in the CL) that can stop them. Ancelotti doesn't rely on the transfer market to improve his team he likes to develop the players that he already has. Even the veterans like Paulo Ferreira who was out of favour with previous managers has been in fantastic form.

    August 24, 2010 at 12:23 am | Reply
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    Weekly quotes Jamie "Stevie G. is the worlds best".
    Stevie G. "Jamie is the worlds best"
    Jamie at best was a good player. Stevie G. a very good player but dominates like a headless chicken smothering play from all around whether it be Liverpool or England.
    Both should move on and give Liverpool th chance to rebuild.

    September 6, 2010 at 10:40 am | Reply
  27. Eze, Ig. Arinze

    You should have been a neutral predicter instead of tilting to Man. Utd.
    All the same, just like Bob C. commented, future will definitely prove you utterly wrong. The Blues have all it takes to repeat their feat, afterall, you dont change a winning team for the shere fun of changing. Lets wait and see the end-of-season results. You will then discover that your crystal ball is opaque!

    September 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Reply

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