2018-19 Premier League season preview: Team-by-Team guide for the coming season

Previews for the other teams will come shortly

Arsenal:  

Last season: 6th

Relegation Odds: 2000/1

Title Odds: 25/1

After 22 years under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal are finally beginning to set into the unknown with Unai Emery now at the helm. The Spaniard was confirmed as the Arsenal Boss back in May giving him a full summer to best prepare his squad for the coming season – his first in England. But the Gunners are not sure what to expect. He will definitely breathe new life into the club with a different style of play. Contending for the Premier League is out of the questions. Emery hopes to instill a new culture in the locker-room and he hopes to make Arsenal an elite team in a couple of seasons.

It will take time for Emery to get his philosophy across to the players. He has a different role than Arsene Wenger who was also in charge of recruiting and selling players. Emery is only in charge of the locker-room leaving the chaos of the transfer market to his employers. Arsenal have been synonymous with drab transfer windows and panic buys. It is a refreshed change to see a productive and well thought out summer for the North London club. They improved in all areas of the pitch. Bernd Leno is a quality goalkeeper and will replace an aging Petr Cech. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephen Lichsteiner may be on the wrong side of thirty, both players should bring structure and composure Arsenal backline filled with holes. Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi are both robust midfielders and will see a lot of game time. There is optimism surrounding the new arrivals in a season where the expectations of title contention are low – as reflected by their odds. Emery primary goal is to change the way the Gunners play. Wenger was revolutionary in the way he approached English football was a pioneer with in the regiments of his players. His later years were marred with mediocrity and this is something that Emery hopes to erase.

The former Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain manager favors an up-tempo game with an emphasis on the high press. He favors players that with a relentless work-rate to win back the ball and play off the counter. We’ve seen his philosophy assimilate well during the pre-season though the real test will come in the league. Emery has an obsessive relationship with video sessions. He educates his players with hours of precise gameplay as he and his coaching staff analyzes their play and their opponents. This is quite the contrary approach to Arsene Wenger’s more laidback approach to the game. These preparations do pay off though Emery’s ability to get through to the players and make them buy into his thinking is yet to be seen. 

Arsenal’s biggest problems over the past few years has certainly been their back line. Last season alone, they conceded 51 goals in the league. That was more than the likes of Burnley and Newcastle. This was the most they had conceded under the Frenchman and it was inevitable given the depleting talent year after year in the Arsenal defense. Creating a tight and competent backline is not an easy task; especially for Emery given that he yet to figure out his best four. Their new signing in Sokratis is injury prone, as is Laurent Koscienly. Mustafi is error-prone. Rob Holding is too young to be asked to lead a back four. Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin have been developing for years and are yet to pull a string of consistent games together. Arsenal finally has a holding midfielder in Torreira who has the discipline and work ethic to protect his defenders. Emery can bring about a sense diligence into his defenders which should reduce the numbers of goals conceded though it is up to the Arsenal players to play with a level head. 

Ozil is the biggest x-factor at Emery’s disposal. The 29-year-old has had a traumatic few months which ended in a shock group stage exit in the World Cup and declaring his “retirement” from the German national team. This should translate well into club football as Arsenal will be the sole team he can focus on. Emery has shown that he had faith in his attacking midfielder, giving Ozil a chance to captain the side during the preseason. Having the confidence of his manager has always brought the best out of Ozil. Emery is willing to play him in his most favored position behind Arsenal’s Number 9. While his form has   wavered since his move to the Premier League. Emery has his plate full in trying to get the best out of his players on all fronts though a jovial Ozil can be a leader on the pitch who can carry out Emery’s tactics.

Change was necessary for Arsenal. It looked as though the club and its board and succumbed to being average. Emery is sure to bring a much needed change into the Gunners’ locker-room. The addition of several veteran personal was key to provide depth to a dwindled squad. Ozil might finally play a full season in his preferred No. 10 role with the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette linking up with him to create a devastating partnership. Handing Ramsey a new contract is the only question mark that Emery and Sporting Director Raul Sanllehi. Securing a top 4 spot seems unlikely at this point and Emery should not try to challenge for the title. His goal for this season is to break down the many bad habits of this squad and bring upon a fresh start for Arsenal Football.

 

Bournemouth:  

Last Season: 12th

Relegation Odds: 9/2

Title Odds: 1000/1

Bournemouth have often been targeted as a relegation favorites. Over the past three seasons, they have defied expectations and managed to secure a place in the English top in each of the past three years. Goal difference was the sole reason The Cherries did not finish in the top half of the table. They are once again likely to be a team that will be in the relegation battle for much of the season before Eddie Howe finds a way to lead his side safety. Since getting promoted, they have run on a tight budget within the £20-30 million range. The addition of Diego Rico will shore up a defence that conceded more than the likes of West Brom and Swansea – both of whom were related to the Championship. David Brooks also joins the South Coast team as a 21-year-old midfielder. In his break out season Sheffield United in the Championship, he started only nine games. Eddie Howe has shown that he can get the best out of young players so the idea that the Welshman will blossom with the Bournemouth badge on his chest should not be surprising. For a team were survival is their main goal, Bournemouth are on the path of regularly having mid-table finishes. That being said, more and more teams that are being promoted are often of better quality than the Bournemouth side that made the Premier League a few years ago.   

Bournemouth will be alright given that their biggest asset is Eddie Howe. He can will his team to safety and may even challenge for a top 8 berth. The big problem that he has failed to find a fix for is Bournemouth’s inability to defend the goal. He has been too loyal to his back four and changes need to be made for a side that consistently ranks among the lowest in goal difference. Most other teams in their tier have gotten better with the likes of Cardiff and Fulham joining the party. Bournemouth are a fun team to watch and always feature in entertaining matches with some of the elite teams in the league. The signing of Diego Rico will help Eddie Howe prevent his side from getting blown out of the park though he is simply not enough to aid an aging defensive team.   

 

Brighton

Last Season: 15th

Title Odds: 9/4

Relegation Odds: 9/4

Their debut season in the top flight of English Football will forever warm the hearts of all their supporters. They were among the favorites to go back down to the Championship last season but defied the odds to finish seven points clear of danger with a 15th place finish. This team always gave their all and more; with the brightest moments of their season coming in treasured wins coming against Arsenal and Manchester United. Adding the likes of Pascal Gross, Mat Ryan, Davy Propper, and Jose Izquierdo are all valuable additions that joined the club’s maiden season and were key to keeping them afloat. They will be key to keep Brighton in the league as they will face an uphill battle to at best tread water. Their most exhilarating arrival was club-record signing Alirez Jahanbaksh. The 24 year-old scored 21 goals in the Eredivisie last season and will take the scoring burden off of the rather barren forwards currently at the club. Jurgen Locadia also joined the club from the Eredivisie in January and has spent the past few months adapting to the conditions of the Premier League. The signings are indicative of the aspirations of Brighton who want to establish themselves in the top flight of English Football. They would easily settle for a 15th place finish though they would look to challenge for a place in the top half of the table.

Their biggest issue is goal scoring. Glenn Murray got a lot of goals for Brighton last season and Locadia and Jahanbaksh will definitely take the burden off him. They have plenty of poachers in the box but known with the flair or creativity to create a scoring chance on their own. Chris Hughton is a competent manager who does not panic or make rash decisions. The center back pairing of Dunk and Duffy are leaders who surprisingly were not snatched away by other teams. They will likely struggle to stay afloat but have just about enough to finish just above the bottom three teams.  

 

Burnley

Last Season: 7th

Title Odds: 1000/1

Relegation Odd: 7/2

Their seventh placed finish last season was historical given that Sean Dyche had one of the lowest budgets in the league to work with. After more than fifty years, the club will grace the European stage. Burnley’s 2017-18 season will go down in the history books. Their challenge for the coming years to is repeat and progress from the platform they have built for themselves. They were one of the hardest teams to breakdown and very extremely dangerous going forward. The extra commitment of having to play in the Europa League will test their stamina and squad depth. Nobody can question their heart and effort as they give 110% in each and every game. There are still some more games that Burnley have to play before making the group stages though their summer has been gloomy. The sole addition has been Vinnie Steels, a teenager from York City. Burnley simply cannot contend with the other Premier League teams to bid for players. A highly inflated transfer market has ensured that the Clarets will struggle to attract new players. 

“The challenge for us is to still try being successful and that means recruiting well but that’s been tough as it has ever been,” he said last week. “We’re wealthy in the sense of being a balanced club financially but we’re not wealthy in the Premier League terms. Everyone is looking down on us. We’re the minnows of the Premier League.”

Truer words have never been spoke.

The big worry for this club is that they might very well become victims of their own expectations. Dyche has gotten the best out of his young players while has done the best to rotate his old-timers. They have mostly targeted British players and this has worked well for them in the past. With them know on the European stage and the expectations of making another top 8 finish, their limited scope by solely recruit locally might bite them in the back.

Burnley are going to have their toughest season yet. Nick Pope is yet to make a comeback after sustaining an injury and with European obligations on a thin squad, Dyche has to dig deep and get the best out of his players. Another question that they are yet to answer is who is going to be their goal scorer? Burney work well as a unit to produce goals no they lack the individual talent to break down some of the better defenses in the league. If Wood and Barnes can both get into double figures, they have a chance to repeat the glory of last season. 

Cardiff

Last Season: 2nd (Championship)

Title Odds: 2000/1

Relegation Odds: 4/6

Cardiff were not even fancied to get this far. Their veteran manager – Neil Warnock – saw his eight promotion as he guide his team to the top flight of British football. Let’s face it, his team earned it. Cardiff are a tough team both mentally and physically. The Bluebirds found a way to overcome the stout competition from the other Championship side. They bring to the Premier League a combination of little attacking skill, tough tackles, and an overall solid defence. Warnock’s side had defied the odds before though they face their toughest test yet. Much of the focus will be on the Cardiff manager as this will be his first outing as a Premier League manager. There are concerns that this tactics and players have specialized to the conditions of the lower tiers of the game and simply will not translate well into a league with more flair. Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison ran amock last season and are overqualified a center back pairing for the second tier. But there is a major risk that they simply lack the pace and will be pulled and spread apart by some of the quicker strikers. Cardiff will need to score goals if they are hang on for a second season. Kenneth Zohore only score nine goals in his 36 league outings last season with his goal tally unlikely to rise. That burden will be placed on Hewitt and Mendez-Laing though even they will initially struggle. 

Josh Murphy, Alex Smithies, Greg Cunningham, and Bobby Reid are again all proved in the Championship and the group only have 11 appearances between them in the Premier League. TO make matters worse, none of them have come in the past four years. This definitely explains the 4/6 odds that makes them the favorites to get relegated. Warnock has an uphill battle facing him and this is one he might likely lose.

The biggest win for Cardiff was promotion – one that will earn them over £100 million. Keeping them in the Premier League will the cherry on the cake.  Much of this money will not be used high end players and Neil Warnock prefers to roll with the battle-tested players he trusts. He had created a side that is hard as diamonds and compete will the very end. They will be a difficult team to break down though they will struggle to win games with the lack of individual talent on their roster. Relegation seems inevitable bull Warnock’s team will fight tooth and nail to stay afloat.

 

Chelsea

Last Season: 5th

Title Odds: 14/1

Relegation Odds: 1000/1

Chelsea came into the offseason knowing that it would be fraught and full of uncertainty. Antonio Conte’s departure was inevitable though the Chelsea board were recruiting his compatriot – Maurizio Sarri – while Conte was still on their payroll. The former Napoli Boss was signed in the middle of July and it was race against time as he attempted a do-over of the Chelsea style of play. He made Napoli play some of the more attractive football in Europe and has promised to do the same The Blues. He is in the middle of implanting is philosophy to the squad and it remains to be seen how quickly they can begin to play to his liking.

Sarri brought in Jorginho who was core part of Napoli. The only other summer signing was Robert Green; who is a back-up goalkeeper at best. The Italian manager has not complained about the lack of transfer activity which is odd considering his predecessors. He is more interested in coaching which and he hopes to build a working rapport with a group of players who have thrown previous managers under the bus. Hopefully, he can implement a new tune to some old faces. Regardless of his abilities as an excellent man-manager, he has many issues on his plate.

The Italian manager employs a style of football that liken to Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Nevertheless, this Chelsea squad are used to playing a pragmatic game and molding them to play an up-tempo and exhilarating style will be less than straight forward. The Italian is going to ditch Conte’s back three for a 4-3-3 that he favors. Sarri has publicly said that his main goal is to let his players have fun and express themselves on the pitch. This will be a new feeling for a majority of the players who have had to endure the regimes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. It took Napoli a couple of months before they started to play to Sarri’s liking. It is still unclear whether his employers will have the same patience. A complete overhaul of a rather successful style of play while keeping Chelsea in the hunt for a top 4 spot may be too much for Sarri to handle.

Chelsea Academy graduates have failed to nail down starting spots for well over a decade. Andreas Christensen became the first to do so since John Terry. The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hodson-Odoi will get plenty of chances. Sarri is yet to nail down on a favored XI and he prefers younger players who have unlimited work rates. He has as his disposal one of the best youth Academy’s in the country. They had inroads in the UEFA Youth League and have won the Youth FA Cup for the past five years. Chelsea fans would revel in knowing that their young players finally have the trust of their first team manager.

Alvaro Morata is all but failed to fill in the void left by Diego Costa. The London Club scored the least amount of goals out of the top six sides with 62. The worrisome aspect for Sarri is that Morata is yet to show that he can lead a quality frontline and there is no feasible back-up that the Italian can deploy. Higuaín was linked with joining his former manager before he moved to A.C. Milan. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi are not known as prolific goal scorers. Given the lack of traction for Chelsea in the transfer market, getting a new striker seems highly unlikely. None of his three options have the mobility or work-rate of a Dries Mertens who has had a stellar run at Napoli. Either, the three Chelsea strikers have to improve or Sarri has to tweak his system to suit his squad.

They looked horrible in the final third during the Community Shield. I hate to draw out too much from a single game but it is indicative of many problems that Chelsea will have to try to solve during the course of the season. Hazard has never worked as a No. 9, Giroud has no pace whatsoever, Morata (I am surprised he is still in London) cannot stay on his feet, and Batshuayi is yet to show that he can be starter for an upper echelon Premier League team. N’Golo Kante may be the most mobile player on the squad though he will see very little team in the opponent’s box. Jorginho was excellent during his time in the Serie A though he might fall flat in trying to adjust to the English game.

Coming in late has doomed Sarri's first season with Chelsea. He is not helped that this is a World Cup year and that the transfer window closes early for English teams. They have until Thursday to buy a much-needed striker though at this point bringing in anybody at this point will be a panic buy. Chelsea can secure a top four berth if luck and more is on their side. 

Crystal Palace

Last Season: 11th

Title Odds: 1000/1

Relegation Odds: 6/1

Palace are gearing up for a sixth consecutive run at top flight football and once again will be in the midst of a relegation battle. Last season they were rock bottom in the handful of games they played under Frank De Boer before he was sacked and replaced by the Messiah, Roy Hodgson. The former England National Team manager guided the club to a surprising 11th place finish and were unlucky to miss out on having a place in the top half of the table. Despite this, optimism in the Palace camp appears to be at an all-time low. Hodgson had a rather defeatist attitude when he stated that the coming season was “all about survival again.” The sole signing for Palace was goalkeeper Vince Guaita on a free transfer. Yohan Cabaye, Loftus-Cheek, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have all the left Palace. Wilfred Zaha might also force is way out of London and he was the only player who stood between Palace and the Championship. He might be the best player in England outside of the top six teams.  

Thankfully for Roy Hodgson, Cheikhou Kouyate has moved to the club from West Ham and bolsters a week midfield along with Max Meyer who comes in on a free transfer from the Bundesliga. Meyer is one of the best young prospects in Germany and has signed a three-year contract to call Selhurst Park his home. He may even be the long-term replacement for Zaha should he leave. This past season was his best of his career with nine goals and three assists. He is now a target for Tottenham and Chelsea with a deadline day transfer feeling inevitable. Palace where abysmal when me missed a chunk of the season with injury. They lost all ten of the league games he missed. For now he remains a Palace player. He is crucial to their survival with the Eagles desperate to try and replicate the heroics of the 2017-18 season.  

Keeping Zaha for at least the next twelve months is Palace’s biggest priority. They will not find better than him – especially in much shorter transfer window. Benteke has one of the worst seasons a professional striker can have and he can only go up from here. Connor Wickham is another goal-scoring option be he has simply struggled to have consecutive games where he is at least decent. They seem like too good of a team to spend much of their season struggling in a relegation battle. They should be naming for a top half finish though they are likely to repeat in the 11-15 range.  

 

Everton

Last season: 8th

Title Odds: 250/1

Relegation Odds: 33/1

The gloom of Sam Allardyce’s tenure was most remembered for Everton’s reckless spending. That experiment quickly ended with Big Sam coming and going amid tensions with the fan base. Everton now hopefully have a manager who can remain at the wheel for years. Marcos Silva has been on radar for The Toffees for some time now and he has been tasked with taking the club back onto the European stage. This is a sentiment that is shared by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who is riding the momentum of a historic World Cup run. Everton finished behind 14 points behind the sixth-placed Arsenal and The Gunners have significantly upgraded their squad. All the other top six sides either stayed at the same level or gotten better.

At one point over the summer, Richarlison was the only player to have signed with Everton and has reunited with his Silva after their short spell together at Watford. He is talented forward but his £40 million transfer fee seems ridiculously absurd for a player who only scored 5 league goals. He was outstanding under Silva during the early parts of the Premier League season. Should be able to replicate his form on a more consistent level, he has the talent and ability to lead a team that has previously struggled to score. Lucas Digne was another Everton signing that has some buzz surrounding it. He likens to a suitable replacement for a 34 year old Leighton Baines with the French International moving to the club from Barcelona for a measly £20 million. He has the pedigree to be a competent left-back in the Premier League and his recent signing has lifted the spirits of the Everton faithful. 

Silva employs an up-tempo and intense style of play. He commits numbers forward to create some first-rate attacking football. This will certainly lift the spirits of both fans and players who had to endure the dismal style of Sam Allardyce. Silva only has a small window to adopt his philosophy before the fans begin to get restless. The Everton board will also hope that their squad – who has previously struggled under former regimes – will blossom under a manager who has a positive approach to the game. With no new names linked to the club, their excitement is warranted though highly limited.

Everton are favorites to finish in the top half of the table with their eye on sixth place. They’ve set their names quite high and will have to make to with seventh or eighth place. With Arsenal starting a fresh new chapter and Sean Dyche leading an uncompromising Burnley side – The Toffees simply have not done enough to jump ahead of both those teams. Silva has to engineer the Richarlison that had everyone’s eyes glued to him from August – December 2017. The forward we have seen for most of 2018 has looked like a colossal waste of money and talent.

 

Fulham

Last Season: 3rd (Championship)

Title Odds: 1200/1

Relegation Odds: 2/1   

Nine months ago Fulham were in 16th place in the Championship. Police were called to the club’s training ground following a following a series of clashes between Craig Kline (Fulham’s assistant director of football operations) and a number of key club figures. Kline was later fired by the club. They are now basking in the glory of promotion and are to grace the Premier League after five long years. The discourse and pandemonium did not impede Fulham as they had an unpredictable turnaround to their season and are now £160 million richer.  

They have signed a number of players over the summer and look like Borussia Dortmund 2.0. Alfie Mawson was their latest recruit and signed a five-year deal with the newly promoted club despite interest from bigger Premier League teams. Getting Andre Schurrle was a highly impressive move. The former World Cup winner is only 27 years old and can still be a productive player. The highly-rated Jean-Michael Seri may be the most astonishing of all their signings. He is the rare ability to command the tempo and rhythm of the game. His vision is sublime and brings class and gracefulness to a rugged club. He is the perfect fit for Slavisa Jokanovic’s philosophy. This is a team that picked up more points than Wolves over the second half of the Championship season by keeping possession and breaking down teams with killer passes. Seri will only make things better. Expect them to even beat one or two of the top EPL teams. Mitrovic will get another run at the Premier League and has had a successful string of games on loan to Fulham before becoming a permanent signing. He is desperate to continue his scoring run to prove his former club (Newcastle) wrong.  

Jokanovic also is eager to prove his former club wrong. He guided Watford to promotion a few seasons ago and was let go before he was given a chance to coach in the Premier League. Given how self-destructive the first half of last season was for them, there must have been times when the Serbian native must have doubted that he would ever have the opportunity to coach at in the top tier of football. He will saver every moment for the next twelve months and hopes to make it one of many seasons in the Premier League.

They will be alright in the league and already have a style of play that draws parallels to that of many of the Premier League teams. They have been able to steal away players who were targets of bigger clubs than Fulham. Fulham and Jokanovic will not be able to control the flow of the game against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. Their biggest question surrounding their season is their ability to adapt and play in a different manner against teams that are more talented than them. Will they be in the relegation battle, no. But the chances of them finishing in the top half of the table are unlikely as well.   

 

Huddersfield

Last Season: 16th

Title Odds: 1500/1

Relegation Odds: 11/10

Survival is the only for Huddersfield. They narrowly made the drop back to Championship last season and David Wagner has to will his side once again to they are to stay afloat in the bottom half of the Premier League. Their manager is under no illusion about the challenges his team has to face yet again. They should have gone down last season and are among the bookie favorites to drop. They finished four points ahead of eighteenth placed Swansea and sealed their survival on Matchweek 37. The Terries continue to maintain their status of having the league’s smallest budget. Even the likes of Fulham and Wolverhampton – both of whom are new promoted teams – have the finances to flex their muscles in the transfer market.  

It is not liked Huddersfield had an offseason without acquiring a new player. They broke a club record to sign Terence Kongolo, a defender who they had loaned from Monaco, for a fee of £17.5 million. He had a successful spell with the club last season as his contributions in the second half of the season were vital in keeping The Terries in the Premier League for another season. They also brought along his former teammate Adama Diakhaby. The Frenchmen is a touted for his abilities on the ball which should translate well into England. Huddersfield also signed Jonas Lossl and Florent Hadergjonaj to permanent deals with Sobhi signing with the club from Stoke City. Huddersfield brought in a much needed full-back from Wagner’s former club, Borussia Dortmund, Erik Drum who will play an essential role to keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League. This is largely the same squad that won them promotion from the Championship with the new additions likely to help their cause.

The Terries got off to an excellent start last season with notable wins against Crystal Palace and Newcastle and they will need to replicate this once again. Luck does not favor them with their opening games coming against Chelsea and Manchester City. Good grief.

It is a season too much for Huddersfield. The only reason they did not go down last season is because they won their first two games will Swansea squandered their opening games. That is the only reason they have another chance to go down. This is a team that got 25% of their points in their first six games. Their first six games this season come against Chelsea, Man City, Cardiff, Everton, Crystal Palace, and Leicester. They will at most get four points from these six games. They finish off the season against the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. Huddersfield are getting relegated. They’ll try their all to prevent this from happening but odds are heavily stacked against them.  

 

Leicester

Last Season: 9th

Title Odds: 250/1

Relegation Odds: 11/1

The Foxes will struggle without Riyad Mahrez. They were the unlikeliest of league champions. Jamie Vardy scored the headlines with his scoring but Mahrez was by far their best player. With him gone, they lose one of the best attacking players in the league. Leicester were able to get a sizeable fee from Manchester City which they have spent wisely as they look to life beyond the Algerian winger. They brought in former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans on a bargain of a deal for £3 million. He never truly worked out with the Red Devils but he should have a productive time with Leicester. They still have Harry Maguire, for now, who is as confident as ever after a fruitful World Cup run. James Maddison was superb for Norwich and there is no reason to believe that he will not be able to replicate his form for the Foxes. He will sure-up a Leicester midfield that is shockingly thin. Wilfred Ndidi has also joined the club and will provide a physical presence for Leicester in the middle of the park.

The absence of Mahrez will be glaringly visible. He was possibly the only player at the King Power Stadium who can create a goal out of thin air. Without him, Claude Puel’s drab and unspectacular style of play will come under pressure. Even though Leicester has consistently scored goals under Puel, he is one of the bookies favorites to receive a pink slip next season. They were awful in the new year wining only twice in twelve games. They suffered another collapse towards the final weeks of the season. Inconsistency has been the only consistent trait for Puel’s Leicester side. All of the mid-table sides have made enhancements to their teams. West Ham have spent big money on quality players and have brought in a top manager in Manuel Pellegrini. Everton acquired Marcos Silva who brought along Richarlison with the pair likely to blossom with the Merseyside team. Newcastle and Burnley are both formidable teams. Having terrible runs where they struggle to string five successful passes will leave Leicester off pace for a berth in the Europa League let alone the Champions League. On the Brightside, if their summer signings work out and fulfil their potential, they could have a season where without a managerial sacking for the first time since winning the league in 2016.

Since coming back to the Premier League in 2014, they have been known to upset the top teams in the Premier League. But their biggest problem is that they play to their competition. Against some of the teams will marinate in a relegation battle, they can play like school boys. They will be in the fight with Everton, West Ham, and Burnley for the fight for seventh place. Maybe they can pull a good run of games in a cup competition but winning silverware seems impractical for the Foxes. They will once again have to settle with a mid-table finish and wonder where they went wrong.  

 

Liverpool  

Last Season: 4th

Title Odds: 4/1

Relegation Odds: 2000/1 

A heartbreaking defeat in the Champions League finals has been washed away by the array of marquee arrivals. Hopes are high among the fan base and Liverpool’s American Owners as Liverpool look to challenge Manchester City for the title. Naby Keita finally arrived after agreeing to terms in the beginning of the calendar year. Fabinho’s arrival from Monaco will likely transform the middle of the park for the Reds as they lacked a much needed balance in their midfield. The club also shattered the world record fee for a goalkeeper with the £65 million signing of Brazilian sensation Alisson. Klopp clearly has the backing to go all out to fill Liverpool’s cabinet with silverware as he head’s the most talented squad he has ever had to work with. Mohammed Salah is their obvious superstar and talisman despite having played for the club for only one season. They are now amongst the best teams in Europe but they still have some big questions to answer in their quest for trophies.

Their new signing have clearly added much needed depth to squad that was paper-thin outside of their starting XI. Keita and Fabinho are automatic starters. Henderson, Milner, and Wijnaldum are still at the club with no signs that they will leave for at least the next year. They can keep things fresh as look to compete on multiple fronts. Mohammed Salah, Firmino and Mane are the obvious front three for Klopp. But beyond this trifecta, there is a severe drop off. Sturridge, Solanke, and Danny Ings managed four goals and two assists in nearly 1300 between them last season. None of these three are expected to grace the field for long periods of time. In the unlikely event that they are called upon, Liverpool will likely dry-up in the goal scoring department. Xherdan Shaqiri is the only attacking player who can provide a spark off the bench. That being said is ego will take a hit given that he will now be a bit-part player. Will he able to set his pride aside to help Liverpool steal a point or a win in a dire situation? Can he be the game changing spark who can bag valuable points for the Reds?

Klopp has a good record against most of the Premier League teams. Nonetheless, he has struggled to break down sides that are willing to sit deep and absorb pressure. He saw out seven draws at home last season. This included a stale draw with a now relegated West Brom side while a defeat to Swansea highlighted Liverpool’s weakness against teams that are willing to park the bus. Keita maybe key in breaking down this trend and opposition defenses. He was recruited by Klopp for his creativity and poise with the ball. Best used on the left side of a midfield three, he can penetrate defensive teams with his dribbling and killer passes. He will be key to unlock things for Liverpool when the likes of Salah and others are denied space to run and cut through. He gives Klopp multiple options to use and he can adapt on the fly – something he has struggled to do since his teams normally can only play in one way.

Liverpool were one of the best attacking teams in Europe. They outscored every team in England not named Manchester City. On the other end of the field, they conceded 38. That is only one better than Burnley who finished 7th. Liverpool have been synonymous with leaking goals for a number of seasons now. They have struggled to find a balance with Klopp at the helm and it has proven costly in the past. The signing of van Dijk goes a long way in trying to sure up their back four. They conceded fewer goals than Man City since the signing of the towering Dutchman. Loris Karius saved the worst moments of this career for the biggest stage in club football. Alisson is a much self-assured keeper in-between the posts. They should get better as a defensive unit should Dejan Lovren not let his World Cup comments reach his head.

Liverpool have strengthened all facets of their already talented squad. They will chase the defending champions till the final week and are looking to repeat their majestic Champions League run. 

 

Manchester City

Last Season: 1st

Title Odds: 5/7

Relegation Odds: 5000/1

I am a firm believer that some titles have more significance and more worth than others. This can be applied to City’s historic title win last season. Pep’s transcendent side score more goals enroute to more wins than any team since the top flight of English Football moved to a 20 team-38 match season. What’s more is that they were able to achieve this by playing some of the sexiest football in the world. And in typical City fashion, they have strengthened their squad. Surprisingly, the broke a rather modest club record of £60 million to buy the services of Riyad Mahrez. While he may not be a guaranteed starter, he will certainly come in handy as City look to repeat as champions and make a deep run into the Champions League. Laporte has now settled to the conditions in the Premier League and has the potential to be an elite center back. Leroy Sane is well rested and must feel blessed in knowing that did not play a part in Germany’s shock World Cup exit. He can only getter better from here and is a generational talent. By keeping their core players intact, City are expected to be as every bit as impressive as they were last season.

The biggest factor for why they are the overwhelming favorites to repeat is gap that exists between them and the rest of the Premier League. They were a record 19 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United. That is a huge gap to try and close and United simply do not look good enough to get the job done. Liverpool finished 25 points behind the league champions and have made strides to improving their roster. But a lot of things have to go in favor of Liverpool and a calamity has to occur in the Man City locker-room for the 25 point gap to be closed.

Winning the league again is will be the base expectation for City. Their main focus will be on the Champions League. A European crown has alluded Guardiola for years. The common criticism for the Spanish manager is that he has unable to be win the title without having Lionel Messi on his squad. They’ve already been installed as the odds on favorites by the bookmakers. Reaching the semi-finals is a realistic target for them given that they have one of the best squads in Europe. But, if the emphasis for The Citizens becomes a European crown – particularly towards the finals weeks of the season – it is entirely possible that they will takes their eyes of the Premier League. 

On the brightside, competing for multiple titles. This should ensure quality time on the pitch for his loaded squad. An injury to Sergio Aguero will give Gabriel Jesus a real run of games but what happens when they are both fit? The arrival of Riyad Mahrez gives Pep an overwhelming number of attacking players to choose from. Who would lose their starting spot to give way for him? Pep also has a number of starting center backs who he might need to play out of position (he has thrown around the idea of playing John Stones as a holding midfielder) if he wants to start all of his best players. Ultimately, these are all internal questions for Manchester City. Guardiola can be described as a perfectionist who has notoriously high standards. When he tinkers with his starting XI there is little reason to think that the quality of play will significantly dip. For the first time since Fergie’s Manchester United sides, will a have a probable chance of repeating as champions.

City has only added one player to their squad and are still miles ahead of everyone else in England. Winning back-to-back Premier League titles is difficult. There’s a reason why no team has come close to doing it in the past decade. If Guardiola is able to convince his players to put their collective goals ahead of their personal ambitions, they can cement their place in history. It will be one hell of an achievement to win back-to-back league titles in Spain, Germany, and England. This would definitely reinforce the idea that he is deserving of being on the Mount Rushmore of managers. Kevin De Bruyne will be key to City’s ambitions for the coming season – especially with an aging David Silva. He is the engine that drives Pep’s philosophy and me even be one of the smartest players on the planet. It will be interesting to see how many titles City will be able to stock in their cabinet.   

Manchester United

Last Season: 2nd

Title Odds: 8/1

Relegation Odds: 2250/1  

Jose Mourinho brings tension and chaos to whatever club he has had. But he has taken his frustrations to a whole other level during this preseason.  It’s gotten to the point where he hates everything around him, “Everything is really bad.” This is probably the first time where I hate the fact that I am a staunch United fan. People constantly tell me that they empathize with me given how outrageous Mourhino’s antics have been. I miss the days when they envied me because of how successful the club was. His mood has dampened the optimism around the club and has doomed the coming season. His third-season syndrome should be classified as a disease with its side effects being that it can affect anyone in the world. Mourinho is the obvious favorite to be fired at some point during the season, the question is when.

A strong start to the season would temporarily diminish the notion that their season is doomed. It would also hopefully lift Mourinho’s spirits. It could also be improved by any new signings. At this point in time, it is unlikely that this is going to happen. Not that the Red Devils don’t have a good squad, but they don’t have a squad that is to Mourinho’s liking.   

He’s taken his negativity to a whole other level. His harsh words for Anthony Martial who left the team to attend the birth of his second child was completely uncalled for. His biggest grievance is that he simply is not getting the backing from his employers that he feels he deserves. Ed Woodward and the Glazer family have already splurged out massive amounts of money to build this current squad. There are also concerns that he will not stay behind this coming season. Would he not be better served if he played to the strengths of his squad? Instead of actively trying to sabotage his team, Mourinho can put up quality season with a talented team. This is his best hope of closing the gap and putting up a fight against their noisy neighbors.

United cannot also solely rely on De Gea to bail them out. He’s the reason why United have statistically looked as solid as they are. They only conceded 28 goals in the league last season. This is not due to a stellar back four. It is because the Red Devils have the best goalkeeper in the world. With it now being unlikely that the club will be able to attract the likes of Alderweireld or Harry Maguire the development of Victor Lindelof is crucial. Bailly and the young Swedish center back were bought for a combined £62 million. Can Mourinho get the best out of them?

The second half of the second Manchester Derby showed the best of Paul Pogba as he staged a historic comeback against their neighbors. He scored six goals and assisted on ten in his 27 league games. Two years after United broke the transfer record to bring back the Frenchmen, it still feels as though Old Trafford is still wondering what his role is. His tense relationship with Mourinho has not helped at all. He might be able to ride the momentum after leading France to a World Cup. The ball is now on the manager’s court to create the set of circumstances to get the best out of Pogba. The arrival of Fred does allow Pogba to venture forward and roam around the box to deadly effect. 

Alarm bells have been blaring around Old Trafford for months now. Sanchez has gotten a full summer of rest and a pre-season with the squad which should help him have an excellent season after being rather lackluster in his first few months. They have still retained De Gea who is still United’s best player. The biggest x-factor in the pitch is Pogba and whether Mourinho can get the best out of him. They are too talented a side to fall out of the top four. But winning or even challenging for the title seems completely out of question. 

 

Newcastle

Last Season: 10th

Title Odds: 750/1

Relegation Odds: 6/1

Rafa Benitez secured a top half finish – something that a newly promoted side had not achieved in five seasons. They had a strong finish to the season after being rather lethargic for many months. He had hoped this would result in some financial backing from Mike Ashley but who could have predicted that the Billionaire would be stingy? Answer: Everyone.

The South Korean captain Ki Sung-yueng was brought in on a free transfer and will hope to reinforce the middle of the park. Fabian Schar and Yoshinori Muto were brought on deals that Newcastle haggled on. These are not bad players but for a manager like Benitez deserves better. This is the epitome of averageness. The experienced Spanish manager can get the best out of a run-of-the-mill squad but it must be frustrating for see the lack of transfer activity. In a world where the transfer market is grossly inflated, Newcastle have not broken their own transfer record in 13 seasons (when they bought an injury riddled Michael Owen for £17 million). 

The fan base remains passionate as they are aware that a sale for the club is imminent and that Benitez can work wonders for their squad. They are a tough team to breakdown given that they sit deep and muck up the game. Finishing in the top half of the table seems improbable given that all the other mid-table teams have spent on improving their squads.  They are a Championship team with a Champions League manager. This may be the last season where Benitez coaches The Magpies.  

 

Southampton

Last Season: 17th

Title Odds: 1000/1

Relegation Odds: 4/1 

Mark Hughes was handed a three-year contract after he goaded Southampton to barely surviving relegation last season. He was not a popular appointment when he replace the outgoing Mauricio Pellegrino. He was only supposed to be an interim manager but he know hopes to ride the momentum they gained from last season. They once again will be amongst the bottom teams in the league as they look to scrap their way to survival. Southampton was once a side that churned out young talent and was more than capable of challenging for a top eight spot. Now, a top 15 spot seems like a longshot. Wolves and Fulham were newly promoted and both teams have spent money on getting Premier League talent. Southampton have lost their best player in Tadic and have failed to find a replacement for him.

Gabbiadini is the sole player who is capable of preventing The Saints from slipping down to the Championship. He had an excellent start to his tenure with Southampton before rutting in his inconsistencies. The Italian forward has improved on his movement and first touch and it likely to have a productive season. I wish I could say the same of the club.

 

Tottenham

Last Season: 3rd

Title Odds: 14/1

Relegation Odds: 1000/1

Daniel Levy has spent nearly a billion pounds on a new stadium and precisely £0 on new players. Pochettino signed a long-term contract on the notion that he would have the backing to pursue high-end talent in the pursuit for silverware. And the North London team were not even close to signing anybody and are likely to lose some of their best players in Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele. The savvy Argentinian manager is being tasked to taking the next step with a side that has consistently finished in the top-three without lifting a trophy.  How is he supposed to do it when his team may have reached his ceiling?

Tottenham racked up 14 straight home wins in their final season in the old White Hart Lane. They had previously struggled at Wembley but were able to adjust on the fly and only lost two “home” games of their 19 league games. They will transition to a brand new stadium in the middle of September and cut the ribbon by facing a loaded Liverpool side. The one thing that they have lacked at home is consistency – especially in the opening weeks of the season.   

There is no better way to open a new stadium than by filling its cabinets with silverware. This is the one thing that have evaded Pochettino and the Spurs in recent years. They have consistently been one of the best teams in the Premier League but have yet to come close to actually finding a way to win any silverware. The last trophy that the club has won was the 07/08 League Cup. Daniel Levy has done an excellent job in keeping and retaining their core player and have signed them all to multi-year contract. Though are these players really good enough to lift a title? Will another League Cup title break their curse or does their ceiling even prevent them from even making a final?

Tottenham have been extremely slow in the transfer market but this is not a bad sign. Maybe they are completely satisfied with the players that they have and maybe they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Given the uncertainty surrounding Chelsea and Arsenal, the Spurs are all but secure in the top four. Their starting XI is one of the strongest in the league. But Pochettino simply does not have the squad depth to keep up with the rest of the elite teams.

 

Watford

Last Season: 14th

Title Odds: 1000/1

Relegation odds: 3/1

Watford have rarely run things by the books. They change their managers almost as often as I change my Facebook profile picture. They are yet to spend big on some players since getting promotion a few years ago. To add new players in the squad, they have run wild on the loan market. But the Hornets have surprised all by making sure that they survive year on year. And they have had relative stability since the New Year after Marco Silva’s sacking. The Hornet now have a very different squad with Richarlison leaving for Everton. Their goal scoring options are very limited with their three forwards scoring a combined 11 goals last season.  

Watford has plenty to worry about. They will struggle over various phases of the season. Watford were headed for a top-half finish with Marco Silva and Richarlison as the two combined to lead the club to a decent start to their season. The duo are not here this season. Those wins that secured their survival are gone. Luck is on their side because there are worse – much worse – teams than them. They are bad on every measurable metric a bad team. Watford’s silver lining is that they just are not as bad as their contemporaries.

 

   

    

Takeaways from Matchday One of the EPL

Big takeways from the Community Shield