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Having successfully predicted Chelsea’s title win, I was hit and miss when it came to other sides. Spurs and Liverpool surprised me showing far more quality than I expected of them, United sacrificed top 4 for Europa League success and Arsenal went through the worst two months of Wenger’s reign and still only just missed out on Champions League football.
So I’m having to re-evaluate teams and how prepared they other for the season. Quite simply, this year more than ever, past performances mean nothing. In the last three seasons Chelsea have finished 1st, 10th and 1st. Arsenal have come no closer to a Premier League title yet boast 3 FA Cups in 4 years. Tottenham scored the most goals and conceded the fewest in the last two years yet don’t have a trophy to show for their brilliance. Man Utd and Man City have squads built over three windows with their star managers, and Liverpool have the big-game mentality to get them to a title, but for some reason not the same drive against weaker opposition. Everton are even big money spenders now!
So with that in mind, where will everyone finish? Here’s my Premier League table for the upcoming season…
1st Man Utd
I have to say, they’ve built brilliantly since getting Jose Mourinho in. Their transfer business has a structure to it, which under van Gaal and Moyes was lacking. Mourinho has identified 3-4 signings to improve his squad every summer and they’re slotting in perfectly. Bailly, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Matic, Lukaku and Lindelof are all typical Jose signings. Powerful, clinical, mentally tough but elegant ball players as well. I believe Jose has built another great side and his experience and big game mentality will help carry his side to the title.
I think they’ll just miss out on another title. Conte is a man who won’t accept anything but the best and his players thrive off his own personal drive as well. However, teams were starting to work out Chelsea by the end of the season, they just had the quality to get them over the line. I’m not saying they’re not still a class act – I think they’ve strengthened well this summer and have a better squad than last season, but the 3-4-3 was never seen so successfully in England before and clubs have adopted it and understood it – as Arsenal did in the FA Cup final. 2nd for me, but 2-3 points away.
3rd Man City
Don’t get me wrong, the title won’t be walked away with. City will push the two ahead of them. Guardiola has also strengthened well this summer, but he’s got to be more pragmatic and understand that you can’t leave any defence unprotected in this league. I believe the Premier League is won in defence and Mourinho and Conte understand that. I think Pep will deliver some of the most electric and exciting football England’s ever seen, but all-out attacking play comes at a price, especially in a league where teams are playing 3 at the back now.
This is controversial, but here me out. I think Wenger will scrape them back in, but this depends on a few things. If Lacazette is the striker they paid for, Alexis stays, Ozil finds form and the 3 at the back remains a consistent and strong formation for the Gunners, they can be as good as anybody. My worry is Wenger has faith in players that aren’t good enough and that will cost them a real title challenge. The players are there, and a year on Mustafi and Xhaka will be better, Wilshere and Chambers are back and Welbeck is fit from the start. They’re looking encouraging going into the new season.
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Tottenham boast the best striker in the league (in my opinion) and the strongest back four/five. So what is there to worry about? I think this league is punishing for those who don’t strengthen and change things up, because clubs learn quickly. Tottenham need to act in the transfer market. At the moment they have a real reliance on Kane, Alli and Eriksen and the squad depth isn’t there. When they’re at their best they’re the most complete team in the league. I’ll say this for my predictions though… if Spurs make a few signings, top signings, you can jump this side up to 2nd place. So I may re-evaluate this come September.
I don’t expect there to be a huge gap between 1st and 6th, and that’s the worst thing about this league (or best thing), it’s so competitive. Many clubs might have deserved titles but were simply just one step behind a better rival (like Spurs last year). Liverpool have strengthened well but their back four hasn’t been addressed and that’s dangerous. Coutinho may be on his way out which would be disappointing. He’s played badly but won them games on many occasions. When he plays well he runs it. That’s the quality of player they have on their hands. Lallana missing the first 2 months of the season could also cause them issues as they rely on his energy and awareness massively, so there’s no knowing what Liverpool we could see starting this season for them. Due to these uncertainties I feel they’re 6th in the race for top.
Another team who have bought a lot of players in this window, all for big money as well. I think they’ve strengthened their squad, but I’m not sure they’ve strengthened their first XI that much. Lukaku was huge for them, and the truth in they’ve signed players who could either be gems or simply not good enough for this league. With the Europa League as well, Everton might have a much more congested fixture list than they’re used to dealing with. It’s a rebuilding job for them and they’ve only just started, so give them time.
They finished the season how they played the last. Leicester are such an old school team, it’s great to watch. Power, flair, pace and passion, they really do suffocate their teams in both boxes and fight for every ball (when they’re at it). I think the players buy into Shakespeare and they’ve made good signings. Leicester will cause more problems this year.
Anyone else think I’m going mad? Hear me out… Rafa Benitez has done a really good job with Newcastle, and even delivered them silverware. He’s signed players who are too good for the Championship as opposed to Premier League rejects, and that gives the players the right drive and mentality to fight for everything this league demands of you. I think they have a good squad, a winning mentality from the Championship, and they know they’re a club who belong in the top 10, or even higher! They’re slowly trimming the fat and building a really strong, exciting and humble squad that can take this league seriously.
Image from Independent
10th West Brom
They ended last season badly but Pulis always delivers. The interesting thing to look at is; will Pulis try change their style? He knows how to be efficient and deliver results, but fans may get bored. I was critical of West Brom going into last season and I was very wrong. Jay Rodriguez is a great signing, and if they get Vermaelen he would be too. They’re exciting signings, but would understand the demands of Tony Pulis and maintain the work rate he requires. Top 10 every year is brilliant for West Brom, but fans might want a bit of excitement. Would they even prefer finished 12th playing exciting football?
11th West Ham
I think they’ve bought well. For once players who actually know the Premier League and are far less risky. Arnautovic is a really tidy, skilful and clinical player who will add a lot with Lanzini causing havoc in between the lines. Hernandez knows where the goal is, and Joe Hart will be an instant fan favourite. Is Bilic the man to get the best out of them though? I believe he still can be, so they’re right to persist with him.
I don’t know a lot about Pellegrino, but Southampton’s track record of hiring managers is a very good one. I’m surprised they’ve kept hold of so many of their star players. Bertrand, Redmond, Romeu, Forster and van Dijk are the big names in a squad full of young and exciting players who are all deserving of moves to bigger clubs (with all due respect to Southampton). Josh Sims and Sam McQueen showed last season that they’ve got what it takes to break in and add even more to this already exciting young squad.
Image from Daily Mail
13th Stoke City
Mark Hughes has done very well with Stoke. So many managers try to change a teams philosophy and drown doing it. He’s done it slowly but correctly. Stoke are playing a better brand of football but have their steal and fight with it. However, I think Arnautovic is a big loss for them and they’ve struggled to sign the calibre of player that will take them up the table, and therefore will start falling behind their rivals like West Ham and Leicester who have strengthened more. Kurt Zouma is a very good signing, and maybe bringing in Lemina from Juventus would change my stance on the Potters.
I think they’ve done so well to get Marco Silva! That’s the signing of the season so far. I know he didn’t keep Hull up but he didn’t a brilliant job nonetheless in a truly struggling team. Watford have brought in Nathan Chalobah and Will Hughes who will bring a lot of class and skill to the Watford midfield, and have been a proven Premier League team for two seasons now. I’m not worried about them, and think they’ll be a good stepping stone club for Marco Silva.
I thought they’d struggle last season and I was wrong. I think Ake is a great signing and Defoe will continue to score goals. However they go through peaks and troughs and I think they may struggle this year as other clubs around them improve. Fraser will continue to improve and start to become a real force in the league and he may take the team far, but they can’t rely on him, and for that reason I think they’ll hang around 15th.
I expect another solid season from Burnley. They’ve made good signings in Bardsley, Cork and Walters, though might suffer without Michael Keane – now at Everton. Sean Dyche will spend this season doing what he did last – making them tough to beat, strong at home and efficient when the chances come their way. They’ve kept hold of their forwards which is a huge bonus. Whilst I think Burnley may be weaker at the back, I think Gray will start to hit form and earn himself a big move soon.
I’m such a huge fan of Chris Hughton. He was so unfairly dismissed at Newcastle, and he’s back in the Premier League to prove his worth now. A lack of signings might make the season a tough one for the Premier League newcomers, but I think they’ll find their feet and do well. I think they’ll be more equipped than Huddersfield to do well in this league.
18th Crystal Palace
Another controversial prediction but I’m going for it. Crystal Palace have taken a huge gamble brining in De Boer. It’s not that I don’t rate him as a manager, but sometimes the pieces don’t fit the puzzle and for me this one doesn’t. Sam Allardyce knew how to play to Palace’s strengths and did so perfectly. He made them rigid and efficient down the wings, I’m not sure De Boer will approach this season in the same way. I think he’ll want to be exciting and expansive and that makes them vulnerable. They have good players, but not good enough to take on the league punch for punch. On top of that, their pitch at Selhurst Park may hinder any attacking expansive style they wanna play as it’ll simply be too congested. It could be a tough ask for the Palace players to simply change their ways.
I want to see them do well! They’re the baby Liverpool of this league. Managed by Klopp’s best man, David Wagner, they also play a very open style of football with young exciting players. I think this will be exposed in the league, and they only just scraped their way into the Premier League having finished 5th. I think they’ll be exciting to watch, maybe lose a few game 3-2 or have the odd 4-4 draw, but for me they’re going down.
They have to go down! I’m sorry, they may well surprise me but I’d be shocked. They sold Jack Cork, Bafetimbi Gomis, Modou Barrow and Sigurdsson looks to be on his way, and deserves to be. They’re all good enough to be there, and on top of that the signings haven’t really happened. Unless Roque Mesa Quevedo can have a massive impact on this team, I just doubt he can by himself. I think Paul Clement did a good job keeping them up, but I really fear for them now. They’ve completely lost their identity and don’t look close to finding it again anytime soon. Sorry but they’re down for me, and it could get quite ugly.