Paul Parker: Chelsea will challenge Manchester City for Premier League title - with or without Romelu Lukaku
Paul Parker believes Chelsea were already the favourites to win the 2021-22 Premier League title before they agreed to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge. He also feels that the pressure will really be on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a big summer of spending at Manchester United to bolster the squad.
The Beautiful Game - Chelsea were always in control of Champions League final
It seems to me that the build-up to the new Premier League season has been quite low key, and maybe people have been saturated by football – as good as Euro 2020 was!
The European Championship came at a good time as people saw matches played in front of good crowds that generated a great atmosphere and now football is getting back to where it should be, with real supporters watching their teams.
Playing in front of a big crowd helped me to understand how important a game was, and there will be players relishing the return of fans as it will help motivate them and get those butterflies swirling around their stomach.
One player who looks set to return to the Premier League is Romelu Lukaku, and I think Chelsea have decided to pay so much money to bring him back because they believe they missed too many opportunities last season, which they did.
Lukaku has spent most of his career in the Premier League and has scored a lot of goals, but I still think he needs to do a lot more to justify the amount of money that Chelsea are about to go and spend on him.
There will be Chelsea fans who are sceptical because they are bringing back a player they have previously let go, and one who went to Manchester United and didn’t quite succeed.
The reason that Lukaku wasn’t fancied at United was not only that he didn’t score goals against the big clubs, but because he did not suit the way that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to play.
It’s brave for Thomas Tuchel to spend that money on a player who’s been there before and, I would say, been ridiculed at times in the Premier League. But he must have a plan to get the best out of him.
Chelsea do possess a number of attacking players who could help Lukaku translate his form for Belgium and Internazionale to the Premier League, and if I was going to pick one club who will challenge Manchester City this season it has be them.
I would have said the same thing regardless of Lukaku signing because I’m sure Timo Werner will be better this season, now that Tuchel has had more time to work with him.
You could already see last season that things were better for Werner after Tuchel arrived, and Kai Havertz improved as well. I think winning the Champions League in such style will also have given the Blues confidence and I’m going to stick my neck out and say Chelsea will win the Premier League.
OLE NEEDS TO MOUNT TITLE CHALLENGE
The media scrutiny on Manchester United is such that Solskjaer will need to be in the title race until the end of the season, otherwise the pressure on him will increase again.
Beyond that United need to at least get to the knockout stages of the Champions League, and for me, Solskjaer needs to fight on all fronts to win a trophy.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United greets Jadon Sancho of Manchester United ahead of a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground on August 09, 2021 in Manchester, England
Image credit: Getty Images
Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho both add something to the United squad but in my opinion what they still need is an all-round box-to-box midfielder. They can’t compete with Fred and Scott McTominay.
I would look at Yves Bissouma at Brighton. He’s energetic, goes backwards and forwards, is very good in the final third, very clever with the ball, can break up play and is a good athlete.
KANE ABSENCE STRANGE
Harry Kane is unlikely to start when Tottenham’s season kicks off against Manchester City, but I find it strange that a player would want to miss the opening game of the season, especially when it’s the first proper one back for the fans.
The first game of the campaign is always a highlight. The sun is shining and you want to flex your muscles and win the adulation of the supporters.
So, I find it quite surprising that he’s been away on holiday for that long.
'We are very interested in him' - Guardiola confirms City want Kane
Will he end up at City? I think the situation has been exaggerated slightly, and although there is some interest there the champions are going to have spend a load more than the over-inflated price they paid for Jack Grealish.
Daniel Levy is the best negotiator in Europe and he’s going to want at least £140 million for a player who’s been the best goalscorer in the Premier League for years.
PALACE IN DANGER BUT BRENTFORD WILL BE OK
It’s going to be tight at the bottom this season and there are teams, such as Crystal Palace, who have lost a lot of players and not really been able to bring many in.
Palace played their hearts out under Roy Hodgson over the last few years but now they have to get used to a new manager, Patrick Vieira, and I think it’s going to be difficult.
There are going to be teams who struggle to have as good a season as they did last year, West Ham being one, but I think new-boys Brentford will be OK.
It’s not going to be easy but they have a young manager who is ambitious and has a way he likes to play, and the players play for him.
Brentford have an incredible stadium and they are going to make it very difficult for everyone who goes there.
PAUL PARKER’S 2021-22 PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS
Top four: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool