Who has the best squad for title race - United, City, or Chelsea?

Premier League

Who has the best squad at present in the race of the Premier League title? Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, or even Arsenal? Jenny Leigh takes a look...

To compare squads, I’m going to compare like-for-like players across a potential 25-man squad between the top four clubs as they stand now. Some comparisons won’t be like-for-like exactly but, where possible, that’ll be how I’ll be judging it with a point given for each player chosen – I’m sure fans will fervently disagree with me and each other, regardless.

Goalkeepers

Manchester United’s David De Gea certainly improved last term but the 22-year-old still lacks the experience that Chelsea’s Petr Cech has over his decade in the Premier League.

City’s Joe Hart is the England number 1 but at 26 I still feel he’s got room to improve and Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny needs quality competition to ensure he’s more consistent.

As far as backup keepers go, I think Mark Schwarzer at Stamford Bridge is head and shoulders above Lukas Fabianski, Anders Lindegaard, and Costel Pantilimon.

Central Defence

As far as top defenders go (and club captains) Nemanja Vidic, Vincent Kompany, John Terry and Thomas Vermaelen are some of the best in the business. On this one I’m going for Kompany all the way. Vidic and Terry have fitness issues and Vermaelen was poor last season.

Their partners in central defence Rio Ferdinand, Joleon Lescott, David Luiz and Per Mertesacker are tough to choose between. The latter two especially were top notch last term. Ferdinand’s getting on a bit at almost 35 and Lescott didn’t convince at all last season. I’m leaning towards the Blues’ Brazilian.

For cover and backups we’ve got Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, Matija Nastasic, Gary Cahill and Sam Hutchinson, and Laurent Koscielny to pick from. I’ll go for Laurent Koscielny who was undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s best performers last term with Jonny Evans who improved admirably and is arguably now good enough to be first choice for the champions.

Fullbacks

For first-choice right and left backs there is some fierce competition and I’m sure fans across the board will disagree. On the left there’s Patrice Evra, Alexander Kolarov, Ashley Cole and Kieran Gibbs.

I’m torn between Evra and Cole – both are experienced and effective, efficient and focused but I’m going with the Chelsea man because I think he presents as much of a force at the back as the Frenchman but I believe he’s more dangerous going forward.

To cover them we have Alexander Buttner, Gael Clichy, Ryan Bertrand and Nacho Monreal – I think Clichy is the clear winner there.

On the right side, for first-choice there’s Rafael, Pablo Zabaleta, Branislav Ivanovic and Bacary Sagna, which is a tough pot indeed. I’m going with City’s Argentine as he was undoubtedly one of their best players last season and to cover (even though he’s not really a right back) I’m going with United’s Phil Jones because he deserves a nod ahead of Micah Richards, Cesar Azpilicueta and Carl Jenkinson and his flexibility will be valuable to United next term.

Central Midfield

Midfield is another area where there are a lot of variables but I’m going to try and be as objective as possible.

Firstly, I’ll choose between Michael Carrick, Gareth Barry, Michael Essien and Mikel Arteta and it’s tough because Carrick had his best ever season, Arteta’s pass completion rates are way better, Essien was on loan and Barry was characteristically unassuming. I think I’ll pick Carrick based on his performance last term although I believe Arteta is unlucky to miss out.

At present Arsenal’s cover for Arteta is light but I’ll imagine Emmanuel Frimpong is going to stay at the Emirates just to make up the numbers. He’ll compete for a place with United’s Darren Fletcher, Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel and City’s Javi Garcia and from that I’ll go with Mikel due to Garcia’s lack of games Fletcher’s ill health and Frimpong's perpetual injury woes. Mikel wins by default, really, although Garcia is arguably as effective.

Next I’ll choose between Tom Cleverley, Fernandinho, Oscar and Jack Wilshere as that’s as close a match up I can see – Fernandinho’s inexperience in the Premier League equates to the others’ youth and out of that I think it’s safe to say Wilshere is the best all-round player, although Oscar is obviously exceptionally gifted, he lacks the physicality and presence the others have.

Next as an attacking midfield playmaker I’ve got one of the toughest decisions to make because each one is a world-class player – Shinji Kagawa, David Silva, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla are four of the finest footballers in the world but I can only pick one and, if it was my choice, I’d pick Mata every day of the week.

Now, how do you choose between the veterans in midfield? Ryan Giggs is on his last last legs at 39, Yaya Toure is quality but then you’ve got Frank Lampard and Tomas Rosicky in the mix. I think, for me, I’d opt for Lampard with Toure unlucky to miss out but the Blues man scores more goals and adds more focus to the play, in my opinion.

To cover the regular starters we have United’s Anderson (for now), and Nick Powell, City’s Jack Rodwell and Abdul Razak, Chelsea’s Ramires and Marco van Ginkel, and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby.

From that pool I’ll pick Ramires who isn’t really a ‘cover’ player at all and I’ll go for Ramsey because he really worked hard and improved last term. The others all have form, fitness or inexperience as their Achilles heel.

Wingers

On the left we have another difficult decision to weigh up – Ashley Young, Samir Nasri, Eden Hazard and Lukas Podolski and I think it’s quite obviously got to be Hazard. Podolski was quality when he played last term but nowhere near the level of the Belgian and both Nasri and Young lacked form, fitness and focus.

To cover there’s Danny Welbeck (who I know is a striker but he rarely gets a game there) Scott Sinclair, Kevin De Bruyne and Gervinho which is a strange choice but nevertheless, I’ll pick Welbeck by default due to De Bruyne’s lack of Premier League experience and the fact he could go out on loan again, Sinclair’s lack of action and Gervinho’s unpredictability.

On the right flank it’s a choice between Nani (who I understand could leave imminently, bus still) Jesus Navas, Victor Moses and Theo Walcott and I think, based on last term the latter gets the nod. Nani was poor and has one foot out the door, Navas is unproven in England and whilst he’s gifted, I can’t see him scoring 14 goals and making 12 assists as Walcott did for the Gunners.

To cover on the right side, there’s competitions from young Wilfried Zaha, James Milner, I’m going to stick Romelu Lukaku out there by necessity along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and based on his goals last term the obvious winner would be Lukaku but I’m not sure he’ll get a game regularly enough to replicate his form at West Brom, Zaha is untested in the top tier, Milner has gone down hill a bit and the Arsenal youngster has really stepped up so I’ll go for him. I expect there’ll be a lot of disagreement on that one for a number of reasons.

Strikers

Now here’s where it gets tricky because some teams have more than others. To start with, I’ll choose Robin van Persie ahead of Sergio Aguero, Fernando Torres and Olivier Giroud – I think that one’s fairly obvious and the Dutchman would have been picked whomever you compared him to.

The other choice to partner him is between Wayne Rooney, Andre Schurrle, Edin Dzeko and Yaya Sanogo and that’s difficult because Dzeko showed real panache where Rooney was sub-par and Sanogo is young and unproven and Schurrle will need to adapt. I think I’ll go for the England number 10, assuming he stays at Old Trafford. I think he’s more of a game-changer than any of the others.

Arsenal don’t have any other strikers that actually play games so they’re out of the subsequent running by default with Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner or Park Chu-Young at present against Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, along with Demba Ba and Lucas Piazon.

I think I’ll go with Jovetic and Negredo with Hernandez unlucky to miss out.

According to my calculations, that leaves the points per player as such:

Manchester United: 6 Manchester City: 5 Chelsea: 9 Arsenal: 5

However, there is one more position to factor in and that is the manager, of course – between David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho, and Arsene Wenger, I’m going to place the special one first, the Frenchman second (he is more proven and experienced) with Manuel Pellegrini third and Moyes, controversially, last. I think he’s got a lot to prove this term.

That edges the Gunners ahead of City into third place behind United and Chelsea are ahead by quite some distance at this stage. Feel free to disagree with me, of course.

This is my 25-man squad of choice:

Cech, Schwarzer, Kompany, Luiz, Koscielny, Evans, Cole, Clichy, Zabaleta, Jones, Carrick, Mikel, Wilshere, Mata, Lampard, Ramires, Ramsey, Hazard, Welbeck, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Persie, Rooney, Negredo, and Jovetic.

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Assistant: Arsene Wenger

images: © edwin11, © edwin11

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