The inquests and post-mortems into the 2014/15 season have barely begun, never mind drawn a conclusion, but in the betting world there is no time to hang around when it comes to looking ahead to the 2015/16 Premier League campaign.
Chelsea were convincing winners this season, putting the title to bed with three games to spare. It is a sign of how well they played in the first half of the season that they have been able to saunter to the finishing line without breaking sweat.
In those opening months of the campaign, Chelsea produced football which was most unlike that of manager Jose Mourinho and something close to the style which owner Roman Abramovich craves to see at Stamford Bridge. Post-Christmas, as the form of Cesc Fabregas dried up a little and injuries hit Diego Costa, Chelsea resorted to what has been described as typical Mourinho to get the results required to win the title.
The convincing way in which Chelsea have won the title this season makes them justifiable favourites at 11/8 at the time of writing with betfair to win it again next year. At this stage, it would be hard to advise against backing Chelsea to make it back-to-back titles. It may seem a short price, but you’re being offered odds against on easily the best team in England. And you can be sure that Mourinho will extract further improvement out of his team next season, especially with further reinforcements coming in during the summer.
Fabregas will benefit from a rest in the summer following his bizarre end to the season with a red card at West Brom, while it must be noted that Costa hasn’t featured in a third of Chelsea’s Premier League games this season. If he stays fit all season, the Brazil-born striker can easily score 30 goals.
Defensively, Chelsea don’t particularly need to strengthen after captain John Terry had what must rank among one of the best seasons of his career. Mourinho also has the promising Kurt Zouma to call upon if Terry, or even Gary Cahill, show any signs of letting their standards slip.
In midfield, a player to take the creative burden off Fabregas and Eden Hazard every once in a while would help as would an upgrade on John Obi Mikel as holding midfield back-up. In attack, Costa also needs greater competition.
But the key difference with Chelsea, compared to their rivals, is that they are looking at strengthening their squad, the rest need to improve their teams.
Manchester City are 3/1 second favourites after again mounting what could best be described as a lacklustre defence of their title. The indications are that Manuel Pellegrini will still be around next season, despite speculation surrounding his future as manager.
At the two ends of the pitch, at least, City don’t need to have concerns about their starting XI, with Joe Hart in goal and Sergio Aguero up front. The January signing of Wilfried Bony to provide both support and cover for Aguero should start to pay dividends next season once he has had a pre-season with the club.
But in defence and midfield, City need to improve and they also need to be better in their recruitment this summer. There has been talk of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba being offered £250,000 a week to move to the Etihad Stadium and that would instantly transform the City side. With Yaya Toure not as good as he was last season, and rumours abounding of a reunion with Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan, Pogba would be an ideal replacement, if he can be persuaded to turn his back on Juventus. Further signings are required out wide after underwhelming seasons from Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas. There is also the matter of replacing James Milner, if he leaves on a free transfer.
Defence must also be looked at before City are credible challengers to Chelsea again, with Vincent Kompany’s form dipping in recent months and Eliaquim Mangala yet to convince on a consistent basis.
Manchester United are another club likely to spend heavily in the transfer market and there isn’t currently great appeal about their price of 9/2 to win the title. Louis van Gaal has achieved his first objective of taking the club back into the Champions League. His next target is to mount a title challenge, which never looked likely this season.
Van Gaal isn’t likely to hang around when it comes to bringing in new signings after already agreeing a deal for Memphis Depay. With Van Gaal’s philosophy slowing taking shape at Old Trafford, he will want fresh faces through the door as quickly as possible.
There will be outgoings, probably led by David de Gea. United can’t afford to sign a sub-standard replacement for the Spanish keeper given how many points De Gea has won them this season. Defence, midfield and attack will also require some improvement, with up front probably the more pressing concern given the struggles of Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie this season.
The value in the betting at the moment, certainly when you are betting on two places at a third of the odds, is with Arsenal at 6/1.
Arsenal look to be in a slightly stronger position than United at the moment in terms of the balance and strength of their squad, and they will also have the rare luxury of not having to negotiate the Champions League play-offs.
An upgrade on Olivier Giroud in attack, such as the signing of Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, would nudge Arsenal nearer to being title challengers and, if they can sign Petr Cech from Chelsea, then that would be another piece in the jigsaw.
Liverpool are 14/1 to win the title next season, but it’s hard to see Brendan Rodgers repeating the leap he made a couple of years ago when taking the club from seventh to second in the space of 12 months. Then, he had Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling at his disposal.
Suarez left for Barcelona a year ago, Sturridge has endured an injury-hit season and Sterling reportedly wants to leave this summer. With no Champions League football to offer, Rodgers will have a tough task bringing in the required players to improve on this season.
Tottenham’s price of 66/1 doesn’t appeal either as they will doubtless flatter to deceive again, while it’s 1500/1 for new boys Bournemouth and Watford to cause one of football’s greatest shocks.
So, if you’re having a bet now on who will be Premier League champions in 12 months’ time, you just can’t get away from Chelsea, and you have to remember that a short-priced winner is always better than a big-priced loser. As for the value, well, that lies with Arsenal to finish in the first two.