Premier League title race How can clubs catch Manchester City

The FC boys share their thoughts on Pep Guardiola’s assertion that the Premier League is harder to win than the Champions League.
With Mohamed Salah a strong favourite for the PFA Player of the Year, the FC crew direct their attention to the Young Player of the Year award.

The Premier League title race is over already, but what can the chasing pack to do change things around next season? ESPN FC’s club correspondents discuss one thing their clubs need.

MAN UNITED: Consistency is key

Jose Mourinho’s team have to be more consistent if they want to win the title next season. The last week has summed up the entire campaign — beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium then lose to bottom side West Brom at Old Trafford. The quality is there: United have beaten City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham this season. But there have also been some dire performances: City at home, Huddersfield away, Tottenham away and Newcastle away.

City have had very few bad days and that’s why they are champions. Pep Guardiola’s side have set a new standard of consistency this season and could end up breaking the Premier League points record. That’s the level United have to reach, because City will only improve over the summer. — Rob Dawson

LIVERPOOL: Strength in depth required

This season is undoubtedly progression for Liverpool, but their long wait to win England’s top flight still goes in. It was clear that two defeats and four draws in the opening nine league matches meant Liverpool were always playing catch up to Man City.

From Oct. 22, though, Liverpool have only been beaten twice and drawn six matches since. Jurgen Klopp has been carefully managing the fitness of his players this season to ensure there is no burnout. But due to the strength of rivals, Liverpool will need to come flying out of the blocks next season if they are to be contenders. Adding more quality depth to the squad this summer can help with that. — Glenn Price.

TOTTENHAM: Start quicker

For Tottenham, consistency is key. Spurs have been the best team in the Premier League in the second half of the last three seasons but their relentless form from the start of winter was not enough to catch Leicester or Chelsea, while they were 21 points behind City by mid-December.

If Mauricio Pochettino can find a way of avoiding a slow start and his team’s annual Autumn slump, then Spurs will be genuine contenders, particularly now that they have improved against their top-six rivals (City aside) and will have a new season for the 2018/19 season. Some new faces in central midfield, defence and even a new goalkeeper will also be needed. — Dan Kilpatrick

Eden Hazard needs some support if Chelsea are to get back into the race.

CHELSEA: Sign big-name players again

Chelsea are every bit as far from being Premier League champions as they were in the summer of 2016, when Antonio Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge. The summer will bring a new head coach, a final decision on Michael Emenalo’s replacement and, if all goes to plan, new long-term contracts for Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois. But while all of these decisions are key for Chelsea’s future success, they are not the top priority.

Roman Abramovich needs to find a way to sign top-tier talent again. Chelsea have been adding around the edges of their core rather than strengthening it for too long, and this season has exposed their shortage of elite quality. The Blues are no longer the biggest spenders in England, so they must be the smartest. — Liam Twomey.

ARSENAL: Sort out the defence

Arsenal look miles away from being proper title challengers, but the best-case scenario is that they only need two new centre-backs and a holding midifelder to get back in the mix. With the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gunners should have an attack that’s good enough to compete with their rivals, as long as they are not constantly undone by the kind of naive and weak defending we’ve become used to seeing.

Defensive mistakes have been a chronic problem under Arsene Wenger for the last decade but it’s only got worse this season. It’s clear that Wenger’s current players and coaches aren’t capable of sorting it out, so it must be addressed in the transfer market (or by changing managers). — Mattias Karen.

And what about the champions?

MAN CITY: Same again, please

Pep Guardiola’s message to his Manchester City squad will be simple: go out and do it all again. City have been far superior to everyone in the Premier League after his squad embraced Guardiola’s fearless tactics and attacking dominance to blow away sides, and the Catalan won’t change his style.

Defending a title can be harder than winning it but despite a record-breaking season, the players believe that to be remembered as one of the great sides, they need to win it again and again. Guardiola will keep his side focused, even though the target will be on ending their Champions League drought more than ever, and will strengthen his squad in a bid to start an empire at the Etihad Stadium. — Jonathan Smith.

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