Manchester City made it abundantly clear which of the two frontrunners was in better shape for a successful assault on the Premier League title this season when destroying Chelsea 3-0 at the Etihad.
The defending champions were laborious in attack, uninventive in midfield and sluggish in defence (well, for 45 minutes at least) as Manuel Pellegrini’s men dominated the first heavyweight bout of the new season.
By means of response, it is reported Jose Mourinho has been green lit to sign three new players as the proud Blues prepare to abandon the newly-garnered principles they’ve so gleefully boasted about across the past 12 months, with profits generated from player sales funding their purchases.
But despite the resounding loss endured at City, there’s no need for Chelsea to climb down from their high horse just yet.
With just a solitary point to show from their opening pair of Premier League fixtures, big improvements are needed if they’re to retain the title – a feat they’re now priced up at a ripe 33/10 to achieve – but three blockbuster buys aren’t required to bring them about.
The Blues’ failure to strengthen in any meaningful way this summer – replacing three reserves in Petr Cech, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba with Asmir Begovic, Baba Rahman and Radamel Falcao is their only activity to date – has left them vulnerable to a deposing according to widespread opinion, but have their rivals really advanced to a point they’re now stronger units?
City’s signings of Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph will do little to reinforce their problematic defence from the previous campaign (which they’re attempting to address through the courting of Nicolas Otamendi), with the pair far more likely to aid an attack that was already the best in the land last season.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have bought no one besides Cech, a keeper considered inferior to Chelsea number one Thibaut Courtois.
The Gunners are still without the seasoned holding-midfielder and world-class striker the punditocracy is convinced are required if they are to win a first title in 12 years.
Elsewhere, Manchester United have made a big investment in the first team, but they’re still short in central defence and up front, while they look increasingly likely to lose David de Gea, their top performer from the previous campaign.
Based on these facts, it’s hard to ascertain just how the would-be dethroners have grown superior to Chelsea.