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What next for the Premier League’s top six?

What next for the Premier League’s top six?


Manchester City set the seal on a record-breaking season by becoming the first side in English top flight history to hit 100 points with victory at Southampton on Sunday.

City also added another landmark by winning the league by a record 19 points from local rivals Manchester United.

So how can United and the rest of the chasing pack get closer next season?

Here, AFP Sports looks at what lies ahead for the Premier League’s top six.

Manchester City

If City maintain their remarkable consistency from this season, there is little hope of a title race next season and ominously the free-spending champions look set to add to a squad that has already cost a reported 878 million euros ($1 billion, £774 million).

However, Pep Guardiola has insisted he will only tinker this summer, having overhauled an ageing squad in his first two seasons in charge.

“We made a good, high investment last year because it was an old team – 10, 11 players more than 31-years-old,” said Guardiola this week. “Now we are going to change some details…one, maybe two (signings).”

Worryingly for the competition, though, City now have a young squad capable of dominating for years to come.

Guardiola also has a history of building dynasties as his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides won three consecutive league titles before arriving in Manchester.

Manchester United

United have been good enough for second best to City this season, but have failed to enthral their supporters with many unhappy at manager Jose Mourinho’s brand of football.

The Portuguese’s calling card has been to win leagues wherever he has managed, but even Mourinho has tempered expectations that the gap to City can be breached in one season.

“The difference of points tell a lot,” said Mourinho. “Can we close that gap in one season with a very difficult market? We are going to try.”

With the biggest turnover in the league, United will be busy in the transfer market again with rumours they could make a move for out of favour Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.

However, Mourinho also has to get more out of the marquee signings of his reign in Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez.

Tottenham Hotspur

A state-of-the-art new 62,000 capacity stadium awaits Tottenham next season, but there isn’t much time to settle in with the pressure on to turn four years of progress under Mauricio Pochettino into silverware.

The Argentine is yet to win a trophy as coach and question marks remain over how long the extremely talented young core of the Tottenham team will stay together whilst earning significantly less than their rivals in the top six.

The financial pressures of building the stadium at a reported £1 billion cost could also hamper Pochettino’s progress, although a third consecutive season of Champions League football should ease some of the burden.

Liverpool

A sensational run to the Champions League final, including a 5-1 quarter-final humiliation of City, has proven Liverpool’s ability to beating anyone on their day under Jurgen Klopp.

Extending that form out over the course of 38 games is now the challenge for the German to deliver a first league title since 1990.

“We need more consistency to challenge and a little bit more luck with injuries,” said Klopp on Sunday.

Naby Keita’s arrival from RB Leipzig for £52.75m will add extra dynamism and depth to a midfield decimated by injuries in the latter part of this season.

However, Liverpool’s progress in their strongest title challenge of recent times in 2013/14 was undone when Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona months later.

Warding off interest that is sure to come for Mohamed Salah after a remarkable 44-goal season is paramount if Liverpool are to challenge for the title next season.

Chelsea

From first to fifth, Antonio Conte’s second season at Stamford Bridge has been a miserable one that is likely to see the Italian take charge for the final time in the FA Cup final next weekend.

However, with Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich no longer able to simply outspend the competition, Chelsea are at a crossroads.

Finding the right replacement for Conte should he go is Chelsea’s top priority and the right candidate could be chosen with an eye to finally bring through some of the side that won a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup final last month.

Arsenal

Arsenal are set for the biggest change of all as after 22 years in charge, Arsene Wenger has stepped aside as manager.

Despite finishing 37 points adrift of City in sixth, Wenger is bullish about the squad he has left behind’s chances of challenging next season.

“I see a bright future for my successor because the team has a good attitude and quality.” said the Frenchman. “The team needs some additions and, if they get them, I think they will compete for the Premier League title.”

The stunning form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang since completing a club record move in January does offer a glimmer of hope.

But it is at the other end of the field that Wenger’s replacement will need to work hardest as Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the league this season.

(AFP)

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