News analysis

How Big Five could outfox each other next season

The Big Five will already be formulating their response to Leicester City winning the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte will take over at Manchester City and Chelsea this summer, while there may yet be change at Manchester United and Arsenal. Juergen Klopp, appointed last October by Liverpool, has a head start.

Time is not on the side of the new managers at clubs, where the pressure is on from day one to dig out results. The expectation will be enormous and they cannot all be successful.

You've to buy the best out there, but Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain can all compete for those players, too. That's nine or 10 clubs chasing a small pool of elite players who are prepared to move this summer.


Time is not on the side of the new managers at clubs, where the pressure is on from day one to dig out results. The expectation will be enormous and they cannot all be successful.

Some of their fringe players went through the motions last week at Southampton. They are the ones you have to get out the door.

Guardiola won't have a magician such as Lionel Messi. Sergio Aguero could be his Luis Suarez, if he stays fit.

I would keep Vincent Kompany. He might be injury-prone, but he's better than Nicolas Otamendi, Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis.

Yaya Toure could be surplus to requirements, simply because he doesn't do enough without the ball.


Klopp has an enormous advantage because he has already worked with his squad for eight months and will know the ones he doesn't fancy. If the Reds qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, it will transform their transfer market options too.

Choosing Divock Origi as his main striker, before he was injured, ahead of Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge suggests the writing is on the wall for the pair. Origi is only 21, so that's an area Klopp will look to strengthen.


The biggest challenge is keeping hold of David de Gea because he's been their best player again.

Anthony Martial is going to be a star and Marcus Rashford looks like he can deal with the Premier League, but I'm not sure Louis van Gaal knows his strongest midfield.

Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger are coming towards the end of their careers. United need to find a younger, more dynamic central midfielder, someone like N'Golo Kante of Leicester, who is 25.

They will always be able to attract players, but I don't think the 10 elite players out there will be going to United if they're not in the Champions League.


There's a major rebuilding job to be done, with big decisions to be made. They're not in the Champions League which, again, will put elite players off.

Diego Costa had a good first season but a disappointing second and is one of several players who will be looking over his shoulder at the new manager coming in.

Eden Hazard fell out with Jose Mourinho because the manager asked him to be a proper team player without the ball, but Conte will be no different. There's no room for any passenger.

I would try to persuade John Terry to stay for another year. He might not play every week, but he could be an important presence in the dressing room. If not, I'd expect Conte to look to Italy for a replacement.

I'd also try to hang on to Thibaut Courtois but, if he does leave, Asmir Begovic is a good goalkeeper.


There's the mood for change among some supporters, but Arsenal are still only two finished articles away from winning the league - provided they're prepared to spend the money required to get them and they're available.

They need a centre-back to replace Per Mertesacker and a scorer, with Romelu Lukaku worth considering. If they need to spend £100 million (S$196 million) to get them, they should.

If they stand by Arsene Wenger, and get the right players in, they could get off to a flying start while new managers are settling in elsewhere.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'How Big Five could outfox each other next season'. Print Edition | Subscribe