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How can the chasing pack beat Chelsea next season?

How can the chasing pack beat Chelsea next season?

22/05/2017 at 14:44Updated 22/05/2017 at 17:00

Champions Chelsea finished with 93 points, seven points ahead of their nearest rivals, while setting a new Premier League wins record in the process. So how can the rest of the top six catch the Blues in 2017-18?

Confession time: this is easier said than done.

Chelsea may have lost five games, more than Tottenham and the same as Manchester United, but their relentless ability to turn draws into wins has driven them to the title. In an era where it is claimed the Premier League is more competitive than ever, the rest of the top six have to learn how to ruthlessly put away the teams below them.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates at the end of the Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates at the end of the Premier League match between Chelsea and WatfordGetty Images

The gap between the top seven and the rest of the division is 15 points, despite all this talk of competitiveness an obvious gap is emerging. It's going to be hard for Southampton or even former champions Leicester City to break back into the top seven unless one of them has a spectacularly poor season, or we see something miraculous like the Foxes title win in 2016.

Both of these situations seem unlikely so the question turns to how any of the teams immediately below Chelsea can catch them next season. Here is how we think they could do just that.

Tottenham Hotspur (seven points adrift)

The closest of the chasing pack. Spurs are very, very close to winning their first Premier League title. They have the best defence in the league, one of the best strikers and one of the best midfield pairings.

Tottenham Hotspur's Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart

Tottenham Hotspur's Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White HartGetty Images

Their big task is to not allow the squad to be decimated in the summer transfer market. It seems possible that Kyle Walker might go but he must be the only one; the likes of Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Harry Kane must not be allowed to leave.

Spurs also need to spend to improve their depth. They need at least one, probably two, top-quality wingers – particularly with the vast expanse of Wembley awaiting for 19 home games next season – and they have to find a good back-up to Kane.

Manchester City (15 points adrift)

Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne are very exciting and that’s not even considering David Silva and, if he stays, Sergio Aguero. If one thing is obvious about this side, it's that their problems are not in attack.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides second goal

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides second goalGetty Images

But City’s back five needs a serious revamp if they’re going to challenge Chelsea next season. They badly need a new goalkeeper, a new centre-back to compete with John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany and a new full-back on either side. One or two transfers won’t cut it; they need at least four, while another central midfielder wouldn’t hurt either even if Yaya Toure signs on for another year.

Liverpool (17 points adrift)

Liverpool need to find a way to beat smaller teams. The Reds went unbeaten against teams in the top seven but dropped far too many points against the rest of the division. Points have been dropped at home against West Ham, Swansea City, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

A commanding centre-back to help organise the defence has to be a priority given the team’s frailties, particularly from set-pieces, and a new left-back would certainly help too, not least because it would provide an alternative to Alberto Moreno and James Milner.

There also needs to be another quick winger. It is striking how slow Liverpool look without Sadio Mane, while a striker who is going to score 20+ goals would really help.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Sadio Mane celebrate after the game

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Sadio Mane celebrate after the gameReuters

Arsenal (18 points adrift)

The Gunners are the only top-seven club to go into the summer with doubt over their manager’s future and it will be difficult until it is confirmed who will take charge next season. However, whether it is Arsene Wenger or someone else there has to be an acceptance that this team is in need of an overhaul.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger gives a thumbs up

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger gives a thumbs upReuters

Petr Cech needs replacing after a questionable season with another central midfielder to take on the Santi Cazorla role required.

A world-class striker has to be delivered this summer as well to compete with Danny Welbeck, while obviously keeping Alexis Sanchez is vital. Others, such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, need to be given new contracts.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal during the Emirates FA Cup semi-final match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on April 23, 2017 in London, England.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal during the Emirates FA Cup semi-final match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on April 23, 2017 in London, England.Getty Images

In a season once again hampered by injuries, it might also be worth Arsenal splashing out on a new medical set-up.

Manchester United (24 points adrift)

Jose Mourinho will point to the injuries his team have suffered this season, and he may have a point, but this team is still in need of surgery in the summer, both literally and metaphorically. It also may help if Jose wasn’t so grumpy all the time, take a leaf out of Conte’s and Pochettino’s books.

Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United looks thoughtful

Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United looks thoughtful Getty Images

A new left-back is required given Mourinho clearly doesn’t trust Luke Shaw, whilst another central midfielder to partner Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera should be a priority given that Michael Carrick is getting on.

And finally there’s still that desire for a big marquee signing in attack. It doesn’t matter who it is, but there needs to be a replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Everton (32 points adrift)

Don’t sell them Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.

(Even then, it's not happening. Sorry, Everton fans...)

Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring his team's third goal to make the score 3-1 during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on April 15, 2017 in Liverpool, England

Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring his team's third goal to make the score 3-1 during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on April 15, 2017 in Liverpool, EnglandGetty Images

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