Football: Rivals can learn from Blues' EPL success

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates with the players after the club's match against Watford  on May 15.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates with the players after the club's match against Watford on May 15.PHOTO: REUTERS

Each of the five clubs who finished below English champions Chelsea face a variety of challenges to improve

The celebrations should prompt examination. Stamford Bridge will stage a party today as Chelsea mark regaining the title. Their five immediate rivals may look at the footage enviously.

More pertinently, they have to study their own seasons to determine how to improve if they are to displace Chelsea next season.

Tottenham may have fewest grounds for regret. They have run Chelsea closer, and on a smaller wage bill, than anyone else. Yet they have played arguably the best football in each of the last two seasons and not won the league.

One reason is a reliance on a small core, which was apparent when Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld sustained autumn injuries, and which was exacerbated by poor signings such as Moussa Sissoko and Vincent Janssen.

If Spurs need to be more consistent across a whole campaign, so do everyone else. They all suffered because of slumps. Manchester City's was all the more surprising after their stellar start, but their problems have been laid bare.

Pep Guardiola's decision-making needs to be less erratic, and he has belatedly recognised Vincent Kompany's importance, but a defensive overhaul is still required.

Guardiola has to accept that signing Claudio Bravo was a dreadful mistake and bring in a better goalkeeper. Two new full-backs are also required. A centre-back maybe, while it is imperative City find a way to beat the best teams.



    Find consistency


    Find a way to beat the best teams


    Become more ruthless, particularly at Anfield


    Have greater mental strength to avoid a repeat of their spring collapse


    Create more scoring chances, with only 52 league goals this season

That is not an issue for Liverpool. They need to become more ruthless against the rest, particularly at Anfield. Doing so certainly necessitates both new personnel and a different approach.

Jurgen Klopp's small squad must be bolstered, not least in the attacking department so that the trio of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino do not assume such lopsided significance.

The German has to consider how to play with width, if he can find a specialist striker to suit his style of play and whether, besides buying another centre-back, to bring in a specialist left-back to take over from James Milner.

Like Klopp, Arsene Wenger does not believe in retail therapy. If he did, his shopping list could be lengthy, assuming he stays.

Yet Arsenal's key issues revolve around their peculiar mentality. Their spring collapse was evidence of familiar failings. Their poor away record is another indication of a side with too little resolve while their defensive record, the worst in the top seven, offers obvious scope for improvement.

Some of Wenger's decisions depend on whether he sticks with the 3-4-2-1 system that has brought about a revival in their fortunes.

Others are clearer: whatever the shape, he needs Alexis Sanchez to sign a new contract, to bring in a defensive midfielder and to get more winners.

Manchester United felt they had hired one in Jose Mourinho. Yet they sit sixth, partly because they have not been as ruthless or clinical as previous Mourinho sides.

That is especially apparent at Old Trafford, where they have a meagre tally of seven home victories. A slender total of only 52 league goals highlights their failings and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic both out of contract and out until January, it is understandable Mourinho is looking for a prolific forward, probably Antoine Griezmann.

Even if a second attacking player joins, however, those already at Old Trafford must both score and create more. Mourinho may eye an upgrade at centre-back, perhaps with Michael Keane, and a new defensive midfielder to offer the solidity he covets.

Yet while his side, 24 points off the pace, look improbable as champions in 12 months' time, Chelsea's surge from 10th to first shows what the right manager can accomplish with the right signings. Chelsea are both scourge of their peers and inspiration to them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Rivals can learn from Blues' win'. Print Edition | Subscribe