Liverpool have smashed records on the way to winning the title – so who can stop them next season?

Liverpool have rewritten the record books en route to the most dominant title win the Premier League has ever seen.

Right from the start of the season, Jurgen Klopp’s men have set the standard and the current 23-point margin proves they have been head and shoulders above the rest.

Now Klopp is talking about creating a dynasty of success and next season will want to equal Manchester United’s record of 20 league titles.

But who among Liverpool’s rivals is best equipped to challenge them in 2020-21 and what must they do to catch up?

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side have dominated the Premier League from start to finish

Liverpool set the standard from the first game of the season and they raced into a big lead

Liverpool set the standard from the first game of the season and they raced into a big lead 

MANCHESTER CITY

Second place, currently 23 points behind

Having dazzled us as back-to-back champions in the past two seasons, Pep Guardiola’s City have been well and truly eclipsed this time around.

They lost just six league matches in those two years but have suffered eight defeats during a season of frustration in which standards have slipped badly.

The fact City have lost away to Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves and Tottenham – and also at home to Man United and Wolves – suggests they have lost their aura.

Aymeric Laporte's early season knee injury proved a pivotal moment in City's frustrating year

Aymeric Laporte’s early season knee injury proved a pivotal moment in City’s frustrating year

Certainly opponents sense a vulnerability in City’s defence, which stems from their failure to replace the on and off-pitch leadership of Vincent Kompany last summer.

Having decided that Harry Maguire was too expensive, City didn’t buy the centre-back they needed and paid the price when Aymeric Laporte suffered a knee injury in August.

Guardiola didn’t fully trust John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, instead asking ageing midfielder Fernandinho to fit in. Teams with pace and incision have exposed this fragile back line.

Pep Guardiola must rebuild for next season by urgently addressing his fragile defence

Pep Guardiola must rebuild for next season by urgently addressing his fragile defence

The priority must be to sign a world class centre-half this summer – just as Liverpool did when buying £75million Virgil van Dijk to address their glaring defensive weaknesses.

Looking further ahead, City must also scout out a top quality centre forward to replace the goals of all-time leading scorer Sergio Aguero, who could have just one more season left there.

City also need to ensure the potential two-year ban from European competition – the outcome of their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is due in the coming weeks – doesn’t cause an exodus of key players.

Kevin De Bruyne reacts as Manchester City slump to their eighth loss of the season at Chelsea

Kevin De Bruyne reacts as Manchester City slump to their eighth loss of the season at Chelsea

Two years without Champions League football could make them vulnerable to leading European clubs poaching their best players and it could prevent Guardiola from extending his stay beyond next year when his contract expires.

City’s hierarchy should be doing everything in their power to persuade Guardiola to commit beyond 2021 and backing him with funds to spend this summer.

Fix their defensive problems and City, who still play some of the league’s most attractive football, will almost certainly challenge next season.  

LEICESTER CITY

Third place, currently 31 points behind

While it would be wonderful to think that Leicester could repeat their title-winning miracle of 2016, nobody is expecting them to mount a sustained challenge next season.

Having said that, they have been excellent and until Christmas were touted as the one team that could actually cling onto Liverpool’s coattails.

But since the turn of the year, Brendan Rodgers’ side have allowed standards to slip and a run of two wins from 10 league matches has exaggerated weaknesses.

Leicester's players look deflated after their laboured goalless draw against Brighton this week

Leicester’s players look deflated after their laboured goalless draw against Brighton this week

They turned in yet another flat performance in Tuesday’s goalless draw with Brighton and the momentum of their season has long since vanished.

In order to retain their top four status next season, Rodgers must try and keep hold of star turns Ben Chilwell and James Maddison amid interest from wealthier Premier League rivals.

But should they depart, Leicester have been canny in the past in replacing big names that have left. Just look at how Caglar Soyuncu has replaced Maguire.

Leicester should look to sign another striker to reduce the scoring pressure on Jamie Vardy

Leicester should look to sign another striker to reduce the scoring pressure on Jamie Vardy

Reinforcements will be needed anyway – a better striker to take some of the scoring pressure off Jamie Vardy, and perhaps another holding midfielder to reduce the reliance on Wilfried Ndidi, who was sorely missed when injured earlier in the year.

Squad depth will be required with Leicester set to compete in the Champions League alongside domestic commitments next season, so a busy summer in the market lies in store.

CHELSEA

Fourth place, currently 32 points behind

It’s been a positive first season for Frank Lampard and his young Chelsea team.

As a Stamford Bridge legend still relatively new to management and forced to deal with a transfer embargo last summer, Lampard was always going to be given more patience than most Chelsea managers.

But he’s delivered the goods, with Chelsea on course to make the Champions League again as was the expectation.

Moves have already been made to make the next step and potentially challenge for the title, with the exciting signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner already done and dusted.

Frank Lampard has made very good progress with his young Chelsea side this season

Frank Lampard has made very good progress with his young Chelsea side this season

These smart, early forays into what could be a volatile summer transfer market mean Chelsea arguably have the league’s most exciting attacking options for next season.

Obviously for Lampard, this means the expectation to deliver success will be infinitely higher but his first priority is to ensure the new boys bed in properly and adapt to English football.

Also of importance is making sure the young academy graduates who have performed above and beyond this season – such as Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi – aren’t sidelined as a result.

The addition of Timo Werner should ensure Chelsea have more than enough firepower

The addition of Timo Werner should ensure Chelsea have more than enough firepower 

Other things that need to be worked on include concentration towards the end of games – late lapses cost Chelsea vital points earlier in the season.

And they also need to develop the ruthlessness needed to win games against lesser opposition that Liverpool have been so good at.

They’ve lost to the likes of West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton – all at home – this season, results that simply wouldn’t have happened to previous title-winning Chelsea sides.

But there’s no doubt that Lampard has made a lot of progress in a short timeframe and with plenty of restraints so you’d expect them to be in the mix next season.

What Chelsea will need next season is a ruthlessness in games against lesser opposition

What Chelsea will need next season is a ruthlessness in games against lesser opposition

MANCHESTER UNITED

Fifth place, currently 37 points behind

There have been plenty of wobbles but Manchester United do seem to have hit the groove under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Things didn’t look so certain when they’d recorded more league defeats than victories in early November and were marooned in the bottom half of the table.

But Solskjaer has turned things around – finally achieving the desired defensive stability and finding a creative spark with the January signing of Bruno Fernandes – leading to an ongoing 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

But United trailing Liverpool by almost 40 points isn’t an acceptable situation for Solskjaer, someone used to the high standards set during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time.

Manchester United have improved from earlier in the season but much work needs to be done

Manchester United have improved from earlier in the season but much work needs to be done

The expectation is that United will be closer next season but forward steps have been small and there’s so much more to be done.

Certain performances this season – such as the defeats to Bournemouth, West Ham, Newcastle and Burnley – have been risible though some of those shortcomings have been fixed of late.

Solskjaer is rebuilding his team with a desire to buy young, exciting players and that will continue this summer with a wide forward seemingly the priority.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is undoubtedly making progress but is it too slow to challenge Liverpool?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is undoubtedly making progress but is it too slow to challenge Liverpool?

It’s imperative United make the Champions League in the remaining games of this season otherwise some of the leading players they want to sign may reject their advances.

Why would Jadon Sancho, for example, leave Borussia Dortmund to come and play for United in the Europa League?  

Another quality centre-half to play alongside Maguire wouldn’t go amiss and perhaps another striker to act as back-up to Anthony Martial.

Solskjaer continues to place full confidence in David De Gea – at least publicly – despite an alarming number of mistakes this season. But if the Spaniard continues to lapse, Solskjaer needs to show he is willing to take decisive action.

Something similar may be required with Paul Pogba but the Frenchman’s agitating for a move to Real Madrid has calmed and given the state of club finances post-Covid, it’s doubtful anyone can afford him this summer. 

Solskjaer may have to eventually make a decision on David de Gea if the mistakes continue

Solskjaer may have to eventually make a decision on David de Gea if the mistakes continue

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Seventh place, currently 41 points behind

It’s been a turbulent season for Tottenham and sometimes it is difficult to see whether Jose Mourinho has taken them forward from the state Mauricio Pochettino left them in.

Certainly Mourinho has kept them in the hunt for the Champions League places, for which he deserves credit, but it will take longer to make his mark on the team.

Mourinho keeps saying that he needs a full pre-season working with the players in order to deliver a successful campaign and he’ll get at least a truncated one this summer.

Jose Mourinho is inevitably going to demand a chunky transfer kitty to rebuild Tottenham

Jose Mourinho is inevitably going to demand a chunky transfer kitty to rebuild Tottenham

The past few months have been a free hit but plenty of work needs to be done.

First and foremost, Mourinho will try and clear out those players who have clashed with him, notably midfielder Tanguy Ndombele who could easily be on his way again after just one year.

He’ll need replacing with a top class central midfielder that Mourinho can depend on. He will demand a centre-back, too, with Eric Dier playing there alongside the unreliable Serge Aurier against West Ham the other night.

All of Mourinho’s teams in the past have been built on the rock of defensive solidity and that will be a priority with whatever funds Daniel Levy gives him for the summer.

Tanguy Ndombele's stay at Spurs could be a short one after clashing with Mourinho

Tanguy Ndombele’s stay at Spurs could be a short one after clashing with Mourinho

Further up the pitch, Spurs do have some quality attacking options but the old perennial of another centre forward to ease the scoring burden on Harry Kane needs to be solved.

Look how thin their attack looked after Kane suffered his hamstring injury on New Year’s Day.

Whether Mourinho will get the desired transfer kitty with finances taking a hammer blow amid the Covid-19 crisis remains to be seen. If he doesn’t, Spurs are unlikely to move forward next season.

Talking of Kane, he will eventually receive an offer from a bigger club having made no secret of his desire to actually win something. 

It’s probably not a concern for this summer but a certain amount of forward planning is necessary and Mourinho isn’t exactly the best man for that.

Tottenham will need to plan for life without Harry Kane if trophies aren't delivered soon

Tottenham will need to plan for life without Harry Kane if trophies aren’t delivered soon