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VICE Sports Premier League Preview: The Contenders

In our final Premier League preview we profile the teams fighting for the title, plus Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs. See what we did there?
August 7, 2015, 1:31pm
Photo by PA Images

(Ed. note: This week, VICE Sports previews the start of the 2015 Premier League Season. You can find all the stories here. This story originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.)

We conclude our pre-season preview with a look at the top six finishers from last year, who will undoubtedly be the top six again this year. Ah, but will they finish in the same order? Oh Premier League football, your mysteries know no bounds.

Arsenal

Something strange is going on at Arsenal. The big attacking player they don't need might not yet have been purchased (Benzema has been discussed) but instead there are two other reasons why Gunners fans have embarked on their traditional spiritual journey into absolute certainty of a title win.

The first is the signing of Petr Cech, following the logic that signing a player who isn't good enough to play for Chelsea will help them be a better side than Chelsea. The days of Almunia, Fabianski and Szczesny will be a forgotten memory as the Emirates faithful ooh and aah at basic competence in goal on their way to top spot, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny presumably still the best centre-back pairing in Europe, like we decided in 2013.

Recent reports suggest Petr Cech is worth like 60 points over the course of a season. | Photo: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

READ MORE: We Spoke to the Guy Who Created Gunnersaurus

The more convincing argument may have come, however, in the Community Shield. In a meaningless game, Wenger made a defensive substitution to close out a result against José Mourinho, and succeeded. Has he turned over a new leaf? Is it the second coming of Helenio Herrera? Can he magically stop Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey from being crocked for half of the season? Time will tell. And it will tell us no.

Chelsea

Let's be honest: Chelsea didn't have to break out of second gear to get to the title last year, with their incredible ability to win two or three games one after the other only rarely needing to be used to keep ahead of the pack.

So far, they look more or less the same as they did last year, with everybody else slightly improving. Will that make for a more interesting title race? Probably not. Mourinho still looks the canniest manager by a country mile, and still has the best squad. Only an injury crisis in defence or Diego Costa suffering from Amr Zaki/Alvaro Negredo syndrome will give anybody else a prayer.

Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN

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The Mourinho blueprint of dull, unconquerable champions is here again, as the same old questions confound us, like how can a world-class flair player be as boring as Eden Hazard? And remember when everybody thought John Terry was finished in 2010? Precious memories; how they linger.

Liverpool

Strangely, given their recent history, Liverpool appear to have bought quite well this year and may buck the trend of clubs spending a transfer bounty on a load of useless shit from the Eredivisie. Well, it looked that way, until they signed Christian Benteke for an exorbitant price, and now the jury's out once again.

Rodgers has been in a weird position of doing just enough to not get sacked, so it'll be interesting if he can survive another disappointing season. This is the worst type of manager to have, of course – a John Barnes is quickly shown the door before he can melt down the family silver, whereas someone like Rodgers will plague the club until he does something genuinely terrible.

No way this can go wrong, lads. | Photo: EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

READ MORE: Welcome to the Transfer Window, a Terrifying Flight into the Unknown

In theory, Liverpool should see some progress this year, but they're not making great enough strides to mount a real challenge. If the Belgian John Carew can make a difference to that then fair play, but we won't hold our collective breath.

Manchester City

The Gorton Globetrotters era predicted to be ushered in by Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City seemed a forgotten pipedream recently. After Sergio Aguero, exciting, world-class talent failed to materialise at City as a selection of overpriced cloggers came and went through the doors and anybody worth watching pissed off to Barcelona or Munich. This year they've tried to change that… by signing Raheem Sterling.

Views on whether this is a good deal for City tend to range from "whatever, they've got the money" to "ahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!" but that's only one part of the revolution sweeping the Etihad: they've also signed Fabian Delph and some lad from Fulham in a bid to up their home-grown quotient.

The genius who could prove vital to a City title bid, pictured above with Raheem Sterling. | Photo: EPA/LUONG THAI LINH

Delph is quite interesting as he replaces the player who should replace him back at Villa, Scott Sinclair, as being a hopelessly out-of-his-depth happy-to-be-there Englishman. But all eyes will be on Sterling. The only problem is that City were, well, crap last year, and even TalkSPORT's Quinny or his own mother don't think he's good enough right now to completely turn the side around. The media won't take any heed of that of course, so he'll be expected to single-handedly lead them to a treble, and all the focus will be on him, as opposed to whether anybody's noticed that the destiny of the title in the richest league in the world depends entirely on Aguero's hamstrings for a fifth consecutive year.

Manchester United

Manchester United probably aren't going to win the title this year, but thanks to Louis van Gaal mystifyingly escaping all criticism for anything he does, the fans probably won't mind too much. Expectation management has been carried out perfectly, and hell, £250m isn't even that much these days, is it? Can't be expected to challenge for the title unless you've got a world-class player in every single position, right?

In the event Van Gaal actually does some football management and gets his team playing well, the attack and defence probably aren't good enough to win the league, even with the possibility of a late deadline day move for Gareth Bale (realistically to be rejected and followed up with signing, I dunno, Arjen Robben?)

Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN

United will probably be back at some point, but it won't be this season, and with Van Gaal selling or sidelining all of their exciting players, any entertainment value is probably going to be heavily Phil Jones-shaped for another year.

Tottenham Hotspur

Toby Alderweireld was one of the quieter stars of last season, helping Southampton keep a completely water-tight defence and almost challenge for fourth. This season, he'll buy into the incredible identity Tottenham have as he simply becomes a Spurs defender and starts giving away daft penalties and somehow not managing to be in camera shot when the goals go in.

And really, that's what everybody wants from a club: an identity. Something they can point to and say, definitively, yes, this is my team. Spurs do this better than anyone. As the saying goes, 'they are always different, they are always the same'. Tune in for another thrilling season as we find out whether Mauricio Pochettino crashes and burns in sixth place or manages to haul his team to the incredible feat of finishing fifth.

@callum_th