Chelsea icon Gianfranco Zola has told Sky Sports News HQ that he expects Arsenal and Manchester City to challenge his former club for the title next season.
The creative Italian scored 67 goals in his time at Stamford Bridge, and in 2003 was voted their greatest ever player by fans.
(Yes, Chelsea had fans back in 2003.)
Now he says that the club will be string again next season but need others to compete to push them on.
“I think the question is not what Chelsea can do, it’s what can the others do to challenge them?”
“Chelsea will be there,” said Zola.
“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.”
From January onwards nobody won more points than Arsenal, while the Gunners kept eight clean sheets in the process.
“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.”
Arsenal are likely to be much stronger with the imminent signing of goalkeeper Petr Čech, and will be weakening Chelsea in the process. The goalkeeper is expected to complete his move across London anytime now and Zola says it’s a move that benefits Arsenal hugely.
“I’m surprised, and I’m not surprised,” Zola said.
“Because obviously I wouldn’t imagine Chelsea would give a player like Petr to a team that is one of their rivals.
“But at the same time I understand the decision because Petr has given the club so much.
“I think if Petr goes to Arsenal it will be great for him and a very good move for Arsenal as well.”
Čech is seeking a move to Arsenal after losing his place in the Chelsea first-team to Thibaut Courtois and, as Zola says, would be quite the catch.