Premier League Title Race Could Be the Most Open in Years

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

DENVER, CO - JULY 26: Wayne Rooney
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Last season saw one of the Premier League's most exciting title races, not least because there was someone a little different in with a serious chance of winning the thing, in Liverpool's thrilling but ultimately doomed bid.

However, this season could be even better because it promises to be incredibly open. To paint with rather broad strokes, in essence, last year's top two have problems while the chasing pack of realistic candidates have improved.

Manchester City have improved their defensive solidity by purchasing holding midfielder Fernando and signing right-back Bacary Sagna on a free transfer, while centre-back Eliaquim Mangala is set to arrive, as per the Daily Mirror.

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And yet they might start the season with some problems in attack, with Sergio Aguero's series of niggling injury issues looking like an increasingly big problem and Alvaro Negredo's broken metatarsal looking like keeping him out for a long spell. That leaves them with the inconsistent Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic, who missed large parts of last season through injury, as their striking options, and while the loan signing of Frank Lampard could provide goals in the first half of the season, their lack of depth up front could inhibit them if they don't buy another attacker.

Indeed, City chief executive Ferran Soriano suggested to ESPN that Mangala would be their final addition of the summer: “We knew one year ago the positions we wanted to reinforce in the team and we did it. We have a new right back, a new holding midfielder and we will have a new central defender and that's it.”

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Meanwhile, after the sale of Luis Suarez and the addition of so many new players, Liverpool are hugely unpredictable. The likes of Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and whomever else they buy could work out brilliantly, but equally they could fail to gel and not replace Suarez's contribution from last term. At this stage, it's almost impossible to tell.

However, if we are to assume that Tottenham and Everton are not realistic candidates for the title, but rather possibilities for the top four, there are three other challengers for the top prize, and all of them have significantly strengthened.

Chelsea have added Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Cesc Fabregas, filling the two biggest gaps in their side last season and replacing Frank Lampard. With Jose Mourinho now in charge of a team he has built to his own specifications, Chelsea will be stronger challengers than they were last season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal looks on during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and AS Monaco at the Emirates Stadium on August 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Arsenal have signed Alexis Sanchez and look like adding more. Arsene Wenger has hinted (as much as Wenger does offer hints on transfer matters), as per the Guardian, that he could make more moves to add to Sanchez, Calum Chambers, David Ospina and Mathieu Debuchy. If they fill gaps in midfield and possibly defence, then they could be serious challengers again.

And then of course there is Manchester United, who have signed Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw already, with more likely to follow. However, their key summer signing was not on the pitch but in the dugout, where Louis van Gaal has replaced David Moyes. United's squad last season was nowhere near as bad as their performances and eventual league position would suggest, and while there are questions about Van Gaal, he will undoubtedly make his new team a much tougher proposition than they were under Moyes.

So there are five realistic title contenders, all with significant strengths and flaws, but all moving toward a similar standard. That could well make for a thrilling season in the Premier League and a hugely unpredictable title race.