Kochi: The 2013-14 Barclays English Premier league promises to be unique as for the first time in 42 years there are so many contenders for the title. Way back in 1972, Derby County won the English first division title finishing just one point ahead of Leeds United, Liverpool and Manchester City. This year also, the top three — Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea — are going neck and neck.
With 20 matches over, Arsenal lead with 45 points, one ahead of Manchester City and two points ahead of Chelsea. Not far behind are Liverpool on 39 and Everton on 38 points. A tight finish ison the cards, as there is no dominant team like Manchester United as last season.
A top-four finish and qualifying for next season’s lucrative Uefa Champions League seems to be the most realistic target for the Merseyside clubs. So the expected title contenders are Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.
The January transfer win will decide the fortunes of the Premiership’s leading contenders. However, all the three title favourites need to strengthen their squads. Both the London clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, require new strikers.
In contrast, Manchester City need to buy another classy central defender. Their coach Manuel Pellegrini does not favour England’s international central defender Joleon Lescott and Martin Dimichelis has been unconvincing.
If their Belgian captain Vincent Kompany gets injured, Manchester City will struggle. Pellegrini’s team have an abundance of riches upfront but is fragile in defence.
So, Manchester City may use their money power to lure Spanish international defender Sergio Ramos to the Etihaad stadium. However it is doubtful if Real Madrid will easily leave their star defender.
Other defenders Manchester City have in mind are relatively unknown, Kurt Zouma (St. Etienne) and Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto) who may struggle in the competitive Premiership.
As goalkeeper Joe Hart has been inconsistent this season, Manchester City are also bidding for the unsettled Iker Casillas (Real Madrid).
Chelsea’s problem upfront is out of form strikers. Fernando Torres has lost his cutting edge speed and thereby his goal scoring knack. Manager Jose Mourinho thought that
Samuel Eto would turn back the clock. However, age has slowed down his reflexes and he is not scoring regularly.
Roman Abramovich’s unlimited wealth may be used to tempt a high profile striker to shift to Stamford Bridge later this month. The men being targeted are the unsettled Mario
Balotelli (AC Milan), lethal Radamel Falcao (Monaco) and the explosive Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid).
Current leaders Arsenal are heavily dependent on France international Olivier Giroud to score goals. Their only other orthodox frontman is Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner, who is erratic.
Thus Arsene Wenger concedes that a new striker is a top transfer priority. Wenger does not believe in expensive transfers but may change his thinking as purchasing a lethal striker can help them win the EPL after a decade....