Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes the spine of Arsenal's team is too weak to make the Gunners serious contenders to win the Premier League in the upcoming season.
In an interview with the Daily Mail's Matt Lawton, Carragher was highly critical of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger's transfer policy, believing the Frenchman has not bought well enough:
I look at the spine of the team and think: goalkeeper, good but not great, centre backs, good but not great. [Mikel] Arteta, holding midfield player and captain, good but not great. Same with the strikers. The spine comes up short. They spent more time at the top than any other team last season but still came up short. Why has Arsene Wenger not done what Mourinho has done? Why has he not bought a top goalkeeper? I wish Wenger would go out and buy a big goalkeeper, a strong centre back, a big midfielder and a decent striker and go for it.
The Sky Sports pundit's comments come in spite of Wenger signing the likes of forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, goalkeeper David Ospina from Nice and defender Calum Chambers from Southampton during the summer.
For many others, the Arsenal boss has actually carried out some impressive summer business, especially with the signing of Chilean Sanchez—who scored 19 La Liga goals last season—per BBC Sport's Gary Lineker:
Alexis Sánchez is a fabulous signing for Arsenal and a great addition to the Premier League.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 10, 2014
Equally, there are many who will question the 36-year-old Carragher's view about the Gunners' goalkeeping situation, especially after the Ospina signing, the Colombian having performed well both at the World Cup and in Europe last season, per WhoScored.com:
David Ospina: Only 2 goalkeepers had a better save success in Europe's top 5 leagues last season than Ospina (80.2%) (10+ apps) #AFC— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 27, 2014
However, the defensive situation at the Emirates is currently lacking, considering the recent departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, leaving Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny short of back-up.
Equally, it seems Carragher is not alone in questioning Arsenal's defensive midfield weaknesses. Indeed, the Gunners are apparently looking to solve the problem before the closure of the transfer window, per BBC Sport's David Ornstein:
As for his beloved Liverpool—the club at which he spent his entire 17-year professional career—Carragher is concerned about the loss of Luis Suarez to Barca, the Premier League's top goalscorer last season with 31.
The Reds just missed out on the title last season, beaten into second by Manchester City. However, they were very reliant on the Uruguayan's goals, and Carragher believes his departure has weakened the team, per Lawton:
The Liverpool players will be gutted Suarez has gone. They are a lesser team without him, but looking at the signings Brendan [Rodgers] has made they are probably now a better squad. [...]
But I worry if [Daniel] Sturridge gets injured. I think Brendan might need to address that.
Indeed, despite Liverpool boss Rodgers' very active transfer window, Rickie Lambert from Southampton is the only new striker brought in by the Northern Irishman to partner Sturridge.
While Lambert is a fine player—he scored 13 league goals last season—he is in no way a replacement for Suarez. The Anfield outfit need more depth in the strike department, especially with Champions League football to contend with this season.
Graham Ruthven, writing for Bleacher Report UK, is very much of the opinion that Liverpool need a new man up top, picking out Swansea's Wilfried Bony as a potential target:
It seems that for Carragher, winning the league this season will be too much of a stretch for the Reds, and thus he picks out Chelsea as his candidates to take the title.
The Blues came third last season, but have added significant strength in the summer transfer window, and Carragher sees Jose Mourinho as the man to win them the league once again, per Lawton's report:
I like Mourinho’s style. He’s come in, had a year, and looked at it and said he needs a centre forward, a creative midfielder and a left back. So he gets Diego Costa, the top scorer in Spain. Bang, done. Then he gets [Cesc] Fabregas. Bang, done. There aren’t many better than him. And Filipe Luis, for me the best left back in the Champions League last season. Job done again.
Certainly he is not alone in picking Chelsea as league winners, despite Manchester City's position as the defending champions.
The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt also picks them out as front-runners, as does the Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward:
My Premier League top four for this season: 1. Chelsea. 2. Manchester City. 3. Arsenal. 4. Manchester United.— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) August 13, 2014
Reckon Chelsea will win the league but still need another striker. Costa twangs a hamstring? Drogba for cameos. Miss days when clubs had 4.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) August 12, 2014
However, with not a ball yet kicked in the Premier League this season, no doubt Carragher may see his predictions proven wrong in the new term.
Arsenal fans will certainly hope so while Liverpool fans will be desperate to see Rodgers bring in a new striker who could help them, once again, contend for England's top prize.
But Chelsea do look ominous ahead of the new season and, as Carragher points out, they have the ever-important Mourinho factor in their favour.