Robbie Savage: Who will challenge Chelsea next season?

Robbie Savage

In his regular BBC Sport column, Robbie Savage looks at what the rest of the top five have to do to close the gap on Premier League champions Chelsea next season.

Chelsea were runaway winners of this year's title race and will clearly take some stopping next season too.

There is serious pressure on Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool to mount a much better bid next time.

They all need to do what Blues boss Jose Mourinho did last summer, which is work out what they are missing and do whatever it takes to put things right.

This is what I think they have to do to challenge Chelsea, but it will not be easy for any of them to close the gap - it goes without saying that Mourinho will improve his team too.

'Man City face a massive rebuilding job'

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba
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The right manager? No. I think Manuel Pellegrini will keep his job at City, but I don't think he should.

Tactically he has not been good enough. It is in the big games where Pellegrini has been found out.

Not just by playing two up front, but by picking a midfield that does not want to do any defending.

Prospects? They are an aging team that has not been performing, and City have got a massive rebuilding job on their hands.

I cannot see them getting any closer to Chelsea and reclaiming the title unless they make some big changes.

What do they need? Paul Pogba from Juventus - whatever he costs.

In terms of spending power, City's hands are tied by Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules.

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Archive: Man Utd disrespected me - Pogba speaking in 2014

But if Yaya Toure is sold then that will free up some money, and they need to spend most of it on making themselves more solid in midfield.

Pogba is the marquee player they are crying out for. To be genuine contenders next season, they need to buy him, but they are looking at four players in total.

They also need another centre-forward to go with Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony, a centre-half and a winger who can deliver the ball into the box.

'Arsenal will be Chelsea's closest rivals'

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin
Tottenham bid for Morgan Schneiderlin last year. Will Arsenal try to sign him this summer?

The right manager? Yes. Arsene Wenger comes under pressure whenever Arsenal lose a match but, regardless of what happens to the Gunners in the FA Cup final, he has to stay.

Wenger has to find a way of beating Mourinho, though. He has not won the title since Mourinho first went to Stamford Bridge in 2004, and has not even won a single match against him in 13 attempts.

Prospects? Arsenal spent four months, or 128 out of 269 days, on top of the table in 2013-14, but led for just one day this season - the first Saturday, before Chelsea had even started their campaign.

The Gunners' title challenge never really got going but they are finishing the season as the form team in the country and I am expecting a much better showing from them from the start next time.

What do they need? I think Arsenal will be Chelsea's closest challengers but, to be better than the Blues, they have got to further improve the defensive spine of their side.

That might sound like the same old story for the Gunners, but I am talking about them signing three players to make them contenders, not a major overhaul of their squad.

Firstly, they need a new goalkeeper. Petr Cech would be ideal but I don't think Chelsea would sell to their rivals.

Then I would bring in another centre-half to give them real strength in depth in an area that has let them down in the past.

And Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin would be ideal in defensive midfield.

He would offer back-up and competition to Francis Coquelin, who has been a revelation since January but cannot be expected to hold things together on his own for an entire campaign.

'Man Utd have to mount a serious challenge'

Man Utd midfielder Michael Carrick
United have lost only two of the 18 league games Carrick has played this season

The right manager? Yes. Louis van Gaal has almost certainly got United back in the Champions League for next season. That was his first target.

Prospects? Just making the top four will not be enough next time. This is Manchester United we are talking about, the club with the third-biggest revenue in the world.

They have to mount a serious title challenge and if they are not in the mix at Christmas this time there will be a massive question mark over Van Gaal's future.

What do they need? I would go all out to get Gareth Bale from Real Madrid. He is the one player who can make the biggest difference to their chances.

If there is any chance of bringing Bale back to the Premier League, then United have to try. If it means selling Angel Di Maria or David De Gea, then I would do it.

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Memphis Depay at the World Cup

The alternative if Bale does not become available is that, if United don't sign him, then who will? It is frightening to think how good Chelsea would be if they got him too.

United's squad needs more work elsewhere, though.

They have already agreed a deal for Memphis Depay but they are still short of another world-class centre-forward, if not two. I'd add a pair of full-backs to their list.

The main thing they need, though, is a replacement for Michael Carrick, who is 34 in July and is going to keep picking up injuries.

You only have to look at how United do when Carrick is not playing to see his influence on the team but the problem is finding someone who can do his job.

Man Utd in the Premier League
With Carrick2014-15Without Carrick
18Games17
13Wins6
2Defeats6
1.8Average goals for1.5
0.7Average goals against1.4
72.2%Win %35.3%
2.3Points per game1.4

United don't have the answer at the moment because Daley Blind can't do it - he is a left-back - and Ander Herrera is better when he plays further forward. Van Gaal has got the summer to sort that problem out.

'Liverpool boss Rodgers deserves more time'

Man Utd striker Radamel Falcao
Falcao is currently on loan at Man Utd, but could he solve Liverpool's problems up front?

The right manager? Yes. This has been a disappointing campaign for Brendan Rodgers but I would give him another year.

Prospects? Before we can talk about the title again, Liverpool must find a way of getting back in the top four. Mathematically, they can still make it this season, but I do not see it happening.

What do they need? Liverpool need to change their transfer policy. I don't think they can keep on going for young players and taking a chance - they need a couple of 'here and now' signings.

Despite the money they spent last summer, they are short of a right-back, a centre-half, a midfielder with authority and two centre-forwards.

That is a similar wishlist to City, Arsenal and United, but the difficulty for Liverpool is that they will be competing for the same players as their rivals but without being able to offer them Champions League football.

So they might have to take a punt on a player that the other teams don't want.

Radamel Falcao might be an idea, if they can get him. He surely cannot do much worse than Liverpool's strikers managed between them this season.

Liverpool's forwards in the Premier League
2014-15BalotelliBoriniLambertSturridgeSterling
Games1612221233
Minutes9403927107502,870
Goals11247

Robbie Savage was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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