Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola has picked out Arsenal and Manchester City as their biggest challengers for the Premier League title next season, reports Sky Sports.
The Gunners came third last season, 12 points off the champions. However, the former Stamford Bridge hero thinks that their performances in the second half of the campaign merit them being taken seriously by Jose Mourinho next time round. The North London side’s form in the latter stages led to them winning the FA Cup.
The Citizens are also pinpointed as challengers, which is to be expected considering the amount of money they have spent on their squad. They could add more to that before the season starts as well. However, it is bad news for Manchester United, with the step up from fourth to first seemingly too much in the former striker’s eyes.
“I know Chelsea are going to be strong – I have no doubt about that,” Zola said, “I think the question is not what Chelsea can do, it’s what can the others do to challenge them?”
He continued, “Chelsea will be there. It will be very important that teams like City, Arsenal and United improve their performances. City will be stronger next season but I’m expecting Arsenal to be more competitive as well. I thought in the second part of the season Arsenal were outstanding.
“They impressed with the way they were defending, something that was not their best point. If they manage to keep the standard throughout the season, for a little bit longer than they did last year, they will be very, very competitive.
“Regarding Manchester United, we know the potential of the club. The point is I don’t know if they will be able to step up and improve the level of performance. They will be a good challenge for Chelsea as well but I think City and Arsenal will be more competitive.”
With Arsenal very close to signing Blues star Petr Cech, it could be that Mourinho gives his biggest rivals just what they need to beat him in the league. David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny were both error prone last season, and the 33-year-old could add the air of calm at the back that Arsene Wenger’s side need to step up to the next level.