mm, the glib answer is 22 years this week.
every team, us included say they are one or two players away every year dont they
if you look at what should be our main rivals.....
Look at the United team - they dont have a central midfield, they dont have a right back, their centre backs are broken, their keeper has a lot to prove. They are joint top. Is Ferguson a tactical genius , not in any way shape of form. He clearly is an extraordinary leader though. They also benefit from their reputation and they have some good young players who may come good - Cleverly, Smalling, Jones, De Gea. They can score goals though.
Look at the City team - its hard to find a weakness but at the same time they are not unbeatable, they have half a dozen exceptional players - Toure, Kompany, Silva, Aguero, Hart maybe.......Mancini seems a good manager but nothing exceptional. They benefit in the main from massive strength in depth of good players.
Chelsea - aging squad, very interesting if they miss out on the CL, what manager next year?
Spurs - same ol. same ol, poor old 'Arry.
Arsenal - same ol, same ol, one day Arsene
Newcastle - luckiest team in the league this season
Then to be honest there is nothing to be scared of.
To challenge for the title - we need 18 or 19 good players, with some exceptional talent but most importantly we need a 'team' - if Benitez can win the CL with Traore, Biscan, Cisse, Vlad, a one legged Kewell, the erratic Dudek and Meeeelan then for me 'team' is always be more important than individuals its just that for the PL that 'team' has to be 18 or 19 strong.
Unfortunately I think we'll be losing a couple of good players in the summer, Maxi and Kuyt meaning we'll need to sign more players to replace them and every transfer comes with a risk. Add to that where we already need to strengthen and you can see why logically it may take a couple of seasons
However if you believe in luck then after this season we should be able to close our eyes and score for fun next year - maybe we've just been doing the first bit this season
add to that I always think we can win every game and we can ever be a season away.