Despite all the uncertainty that looms over the remainder of the Premier League season, we’re bound to get back to action sooner rather than later.
And one of the first questions that come to mind is what is going to happen in the Top 4 race. The battle for the Champions League places has defined the recent years in the competition and this season promises to produce one of the most exciting conclusions of we’ve witnessed in modern history.
We are yet to see what exactly will happen to Manchester City’s UEFA ban but it is highly likely that the team that finishes 5th will also catch the CL train.
Naturally, clubs will be looking to strengthen their ranks by bringing in more quality but I want to take a look at what the contestants may do to improve internally.
So, this post shares my thoughts on what the most important thing that each club in the race must do in order to give themselves the best chance of getting into the next edition of the top club competition in Europe.
Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes have been one of the most positive squads in the Premier League this season.
Their young and vibrant core is full of talent and has produced some of the best performances we’ve seen so far with their high-octane brand of football.
It seems to me that the key thing will be for Rodgers to continue inspiring his young troops and make them believe that they should fight tooth and nail for Leicester.
Starlets like James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes, and Demarai Gray should remain grounded as bigger clubs are bound to sniff around them and they already are.
If Rodgers manages to keep his core and continue inspiring them, Leicester will surely be in contention for the Champions League spots.
It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that the club needs to improve as they are in a bit of a limbo right now.
The new stadium is ready and looks terrific but there are so many things that can go wrong with this current squad.
Since sacking Mauricio Pochettino and appointing Jose Mourinho in his place, the team has had mixed results and it seems that the Portuguese specialist is yet to successfully inject a winning formula in his players once again.
So, the vital thing here is for Mourinho to convince this sequad he can take them to the next level.
However, this is easier said than done. They are still fiercely loyal to Pochettino despite the heavy defeats they endured with him at the start of the season.
The talent and ability are there but Jose will need to get them on his side if they are to challenge the elite.
United took a big step in the right direction when they signed midfield maestro Bruno Fernandes and the Portugues hit the ground running in the Premier League.
We are yet to see whether he will be able to recreate the same form once the league restarts but I feel the key factor lies with Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman is unbelievably talented and he was the main reason United went back to a free-flowing and exciting brand of football when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first took the reins.
Teddy Sheringham recently stated that Pogba lacks a “Roy Keane factor” and I can fully agree with that, however, Paul Pogba is not supposed to be a Roy Keane figure.
I know United fans and former players are obsessed with finding the next Paul Scholes and ensure the squad has a leader like Keane but they should also acknowledge how well the team performed when Pogba was masterfully marshaling the midfield proceedings.
I understand everyone involved with the club wants them to get back to the top as soon as possible but if they want to build something long-term, I believe Pogba should be convinced that he would be the cornerstone of the team.
If that can happen, both the player and the current manager can profit greatly, and the team will surely have the resources to clinch a CL spot this season.
Another club that has a lot to sort out. Mikel Arteta’s appointment had a very positive impact on the players but their resurgence will surely be a slow process.
I believe the Spaniard will be given ample time to implement his ideas but what I feel should be his main priority is sorting out Mesut Ozil’s status within this team.
Ozil is probably the most talented number 10 in world football alongside Kevin De Bruyne but he needs the confidence that he has support next to him.
He thrived in Real Madrid where he wasn’t firmly in the spotlight and Arteta needs to find the right balance between giving him a leadership role and letting him roam the pitch free of the responsibility of being the main figure.
If they can get this right and Ozil goes back to his best, Arsenal has every chance of skyrocketing up the table this season.
The league’s surprise package will be itching to get things underway once again. Wilder’s ultra-organized approach has been hailed by even the most pretentious pundits in England and with good reason.
The team has been fearless and disciplined against even the most elite outfits and it’s no surprise they are currently 7th with only 25 conceded goals, which is the second-best defensive record behind Liverpool.
They do boast some quality young players and experienced pieces in the squad but everyone who has watched them play, will tell you that Chris Wilder is the mastermind behind it all and his man-management skills will be the most essential thing going forward.
Every single one of his players is ready to die for him on the pitch and if he can keep this vibe going, this group has definite potential to shock the top dogs and sneak into the Champions League. Especially if getting to 5th guarantees a place in the tournament as well.
I conclude my look at the contestants with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea team.
The Blues from Stamford Bridge have been better than I expected and a big reason has been Lampard’s ability to blood the club’s young prospects into the side and give them the confidence that they can perform at the highest level.
Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, and Fikayo Tomori have all been excellent so far and bar the odd error due to inexperience, they are looking like genuine Premier League athletes.
At one point, Lampard’s youth approach started to hit a snag but the manager reacted in the right way by giving more minutes to seasoned professionals like Marcos Alonso and Olivier Giroud.
This helped him steady the ship and the club is now in a great position to keep hold of their Champions League spot until the end of the season.
Naturally, snubbing young talents to give veterans more time on the pitch may discourage them, so it will be vital for Lampard to find the right balance between the two groups and keep everyone happy.
I feel he saw what the benefits can be so he will most certainly continue exploring this approach and if he can get it right, I think Chelsea will be more than fine.