Let’s predict 2018/19 – Premier League

Machester City will be champions again, but apart from that, the new Premier League season will be fairly unpredictable. So let’s predict it!

To make this prediction easier to digest, I will divide the table into four brackets, as I’m convinced there are four classes of teams; the Top Six teams, Best of the Rest teams, Good Enough teams and Endangered teams. I think that whether I get these predictions right or not (I won’t), the team in question will at least finish within their bracket. Let’s break it down.

The Endangered

Table positions: 20th – 16th

Teams: AFC Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Southampton.

Summary: These teams will have to fight for every single point if they want to stay up. Survival will be the number one priority as the season unfolds.

20th – Cardiff City

Last season: Promoted

Key player: Junior Hoilett (LM)

It’s hard to see how Cardiff will stay up. Their squad mostly consists of Championship-level players, although the Bluebirds did do two good pieces of business on deadline day by loaning in Bournemouth’s Harry Arter and Real Betis midfielder Victor Camarasa.

However, their manager Neil Warnock, much like the squad, is unproven in the top flight of English football. When your best player going forward is Junior Hoilett, you’re going to struggle. Simple as that.

19th – Huddersfield Town

Last season: 16th

Key player: Aaron Mooy (CM)

Huddersfield did well to stay up last season when the club returned to the Premier League after 45 years. It’s unlikely that they’ll pull it off again, though. Sure, the Terriers made some smart little signings with the likes of Ramadan Sobhi and Eric Durm coming in from Stoke City and Borussia Dortmund respectively. Ten signings were made in total, but no big names were among them, and none of them are likely to push them higher up the table.

It’s a case of everyone around them improving which is going to be the downfall of Huddersfield, or maybe just some good old ‘second season syndrome’, but the squad simply lacks talent compared to the teams around them.

18th – Southampton

Last season: 17th

Key player: Danny Ings (ST)

Last season must have been a real scare for Southampton. They survived by the skin of their teeth after looking like going down for a big part of the season. A Mark Hughes-inspired comeback saw Southampton finish 17th despite only scoring 36 points. Surely the board realized the team desperately needed improvement, right?

Wrong. Dušan Tadić, arguably their best player, was sold to Ajax and wasn’t really replaced. Still, the back-line and midfield are solid, but a painfully obvious lack of goalscoring will be what eventually will send the Saints down. All hope rests on Danny Ings’s shoulders, which is not a great situation to find yourself in.

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Manolo Gabbiadini is a scorer of great goals, but not a great goal scorer. Per Steve Hogg

17th – Brighton & Hove Albion

Last season: 15th

Key player: Alireza Jahanbaksh (RW)

Brighton did what they came to do last season; score 40 points and live to fight another day. An unlikely prolific goalscoring season from Glenn Murray carried Chris Hughton’s team to a very tidy 15th place.

The Seagulls decided to splash some cash, and they broke their club record signing when they spent eighteen million pounds on the now most handsome player in the Premier League; Eredivisie sensation and Iran international Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

I don’t expect Brighton to do as well as last season, but their defence-bolstering signings, as well as Jahanbakhsh and Florian Andone up front, will be enough to keep them up. Just.

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Alireza Jahanbakhsh is one ridiculously good-looking individual. Per Masoud Akbari

16th – AFC Bournemouth

Last season: 12th

Key player: Lewis Cook (CM)

Eddie Howe’s attacking style of football is very fun to watch, but can be detrimental to the team’s success at times. The team attacks at will but is left exposed too often, which has resulted in the team being very streaky over the last few seasons. When the attack clicks, the Cherries can look unstoppable at times, but when it rains, it pours.

They’ve added Levante defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma and Leganes left-back Diego Rico to sure up that shaky defence, and they should be good enough to survive another season. However, I don’t expect them to do much more. A bad run of form could even see them fighting for their lives at the end of the season. Keeping Callum Wilson fit could prove vital in that fight.

Good Enough

Table positions: 15th – 11th

Teams: Burnley, Fulham, Newcastle United, Watford, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Summary: These teams are good enough to survive with relative ease, but won’t amount to much more. They will be stuck in the limbo that is mid-table.

15th – Newcastle United

Last season: 10th

Key player: Rafa Benitez (I’m cheating on this one)

Rafa Benitez probably has one of the worst teams in the league at his disposal, that’s a fact. However, the Spaniard is a specialist in grinding out results, as the Magpies somehow finished all the way up in tenth last season.

Salomon Rondón is a smart signing up top and Ki Sung-Yueng will be a nice option in midfield along his former Swansea teammate Jonjo Shelvey, but the overall lack of strengthening of the squad will catch up to them.

The biggest key for Newcastle this season will be to keep the unhappy Benitez on board. Should he decide to leave, things could get ugly.

14th – Watford

Last season: 14th

Key Player: Gerard Deulofeu (LW)

Watford might have lost their most exciting player in Richarlison, but they did secure the permanent signing of Gerard Deulofeu. The Spanish winger lacked consistency in his earlier loan spell at Vicarage Road, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he grows into their best player of the season, as he’s the only talented attacker on the team.

The midfield is rock-solid, especially with Nathaniel Chalobah coming back from a long injury, and with Ben Foster now in goal, the Hornets should be fine, but nothing more.

13th – Fulham

Last season: Promoted

Key player: Ryan Sessegnon (LM/LB)

Fulham have made their intentions clear during the transfer window; they’re not just trying to survive. 13 (!) new signings, including the highly rated Jean Michaël Seri, World Cup winner André Schürrle and Marseille DM André Zambo Anguissa should propel the club well up the table.

However, I think there will be some teething problems. Buying almost literally an entirely new starting eleven will come with its chemistry issues, and it will take some time to find a healthy balance of young talent and experience.

Speaking of young talents, it will be Ryan Sessegnon who will most likely get Fulham fans off their seats this season, as the ridiculously talented 18-year-old will have all eyes on him now in his first Premier League season. Can he replicate his form in the top flight?

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Fulham fans will be expecting the spectacular from young Ryan Sessegnon. Per Flickr, Nick

12th – Burnley

Last season: 7th

Key Player: Sean Dyche (I cheated again)

Burnley is what Iceland national team would be like if it were a club. Sure, they’re not the most talented team in the world, but they’re extremely well-drilled and well-coached, and will always give you a tough game.

Apart from that, there’s not much to be said about Burnley. Their European commitments will likely influence their league form, but they’ll sit in mid-table comfortably.

11th – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Last season: Promoted

Key player: Ruben Neves

Wolves are the closest we’ll ever get to seeing how a national team would play in a club competition. I just wanted to say that.

Anyway, much like Fulham, Wolves are here to stay. An incredible investment this summer saw an army of players being signed, including 2016 Euro’s winners João Moutinho and Rui Patrício.

Many are tipping Wolves to go finish as high as seventh, but again, much like Fulham, I think there will be some teething problems. A ridiculously talented team for a side that just got promoted with additions being made in every line. I expect them to struggle at the start and pick up steam as the season goes on.

Best of the Rest

Table positions: 10th – 7th

Teams: Crystal Palace Everton, Leicester City, West Ham United

Summary: These are the teams that can’t quite challenge the top six teams, but are definitely a class above the rest of the teams. They are more than capable of upsetting a title contender in a game.

10th – Leicester City

Last season: 9th

Key Player: Jamie Vardy (ST)

Losing a key player like Riyad Mahrez will always hurt you, no matter how you try to replace him. His magic on the wing, his incredible understanding with Jamie Vardy, it’s what kept them being competitive after their title-winning season.

James Maddison came in from Norwich and he should be a very nice addition to an already rock-solid squad, and the same goes Ricardo Pereira and Johnny Evans, who will spark new life into an ageing defence. Leicester will survive without Mahrez, but will miss his magic.

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No Mahrez, no problem for Leicester City? Per Flickr, fourthandfifteen

9th – Crystal Palace

Last season: 11th

Key Player: Wilfried Zaha (RW/LW/ST)

Keeping Wilfried Zaha fit this season will be vital for Palace. It’s essentially cost Frank de Boer his job last season after just four games. Keep the best player outside of the top six on the pitch, and you can pose problems to any team.

Max Meyer, one of the brightest young talents in Europe, was brought in on a free transfer from Schalke, which should help fill the hole that was left by the departed Yohan Cabaye. Vicente Guaita is one of the most under the radar moves this summer, as the Spanish goalkeeper who boasted the highest saving percentage in LaLiga last season will help to make the Palace goal watertight. Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyaté are nice pick-ups too, adding depth to the side.

Don’t get it twisted, Palace will be up there in the upper half of the table.

8th – West Ham

Last season: 13th

Key Player: Felipe Anderson (RW)

West Ham are another team that have been extremely busy this summer. Not every signing is as good as the other (Yarmolenko has major flop potential) but the problems of the team have definitely been addressed.

Ryan Fredericks from Fulham has come in at right-back to put Pablo Zabaleta out of his misery, and Issa Diop will have to do his best to make Irons fans forget about the legendary James Collins.

Up top,  Felipe Anderson will be a game changer. He will inject the team with some much-needed pace and directness. He contributed to a goal every 89 minutes last season in Serie A but struggled to stay on the pitch, but it’s safe to say Anderson has bargain-of-the-season potential.

On the other hand, they might have the most injury prone trio of the league now with Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson. Either way, their team and manager are too good to struggle.

7th – Everton

Last season: 8th

Key Player: Gylfi Sigurdsson (AM)

Everton didn’t mess about this summer. Three Barcelona players were either bought or hired, and they also broke their record signing.

Richarlison and Bernard are two very welcome signings to provide main man Gylfi Sigurdsson with some running in-behind, something that was very obviously lacking last season. In defence, the ageing dumpster fire that was Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams has been broken up and replaced by Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma, and Lucas Digne was brought in to replace Leighton Baines, who isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore himself.

Although they’ve paid way too much to assemble this squad, it’s a very good one, and probably the best one outside of the top six. No obvious weak-points, and a lot of strenghts. Exciting times are ahead at Goodison Park.

The Top Six

Table positions: 1st – 6th (duh)

Teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur

Summary: They will be fighting for those four Champions League places and for the title. The biggest and best clubs in the country, and the two teams who will finish outside of the top four will see the season as a massive failure.

6th – Manchester United

Last season: 2nd

Key Player: David de Gea (GK)

When you see José Mourinho being really bitter before the season has even started, you know that it’s his famous third season at a club.

United might have finished second last season but they did so in a very unconvincing fashion, heavily relying on David de Gea’s sensational shot-stopping. They finished without silverware and nineteen points behind their city rivals in the league, so big changes were needed to close the gap.

Mourinho didn’t get the defender he wanted and fell out with Anthony Martial in the process. The entire right side of the team needed replacing but nothing was done, and only Fred was signed from Shakhtar Donetsk. He’ll be a nice fit next to Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic (or Andreas Pereira).

However, I predict that Mourinho won’t make it until the new year and will leave the club in chaos, as he’s done at other clubs in the past. United have a tough season ahead.

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Anthony Martial seems to have fallen out of favour. Per Дмитрий Голубович

5th – Chelsea

Last season: 5th

Key Player: Eden Hazard (LW/ST)

Chelsea are very hard to predict. They will go in one of two directions. Either Maurizio Sarri’s system will be a hit and Chelsea will play in his free-flowing, attacking style and thrive, or the team will struggle early on and immediately put Sarri’s position under pressure.

I like Sarri a lot, and I hope the first scenario happens, but I think it’ll be the latter. I don’t see his attacking style of play succeeding with a back-line that features David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger.

Eden Hazard will absolutely thrive in the central Dries Mertens role and I can’t wait to see that, and more than anything I hope Chelsea stick with Sarri even if this season won’t work out perfectly. I just think that they’re one year away right now.

4th – Arsenal

Last season: 6th

Key Player: Mesut Özil (AM)

It’s the dawn of a new era at Arsenal, as DT has finally gotten his wish with Arsène Wenger leaving the club.

Unai Emery will bring discipline to Arsenal, something the club has lacked for years. Another thing they’ve lacked for years is a Patrick Vieira-type runner in midfield, and they have that man now in Lucas Torreira.

Bernd Leno will take over from the dead body of Petr Čech in goal, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will hopefully be the anchor in defence they have longed for.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette with Mesut Özil behind them, that’s what this team is all about, though. The two strikers seem to already have a great understanding and find each other well. Arsenal simply have one of the best attacks in the league, and that will propel them back into the Champions League places, I think.

3rd – Tottenham Hotspur

Last season: 3rd

Key Player: Harry Kane (ST)

Literally zero ins or outs in the summer, that’s surprising. Even for Spurs. However, they had little reason to invest, as this squad has been consistently great for the last couple of seasons.

Lucas Moura will feel like a new signing on the right wing, and academy products like Harry Winks and Cameron Carter-Vickers are also a year older and look ready to step up into the first team.

It’s likely that their lack of depth could see them run out of steam at the end of the season, but another top-three finish could be on the cards.

2nd – Liverpool

Last season: 4th

Key player: Mohamed Salah (RW)

Liverpool arguably had the best transfer window of the league. They identified their weaknesses, and got high-profile names to plug those gaps relatively early in the window. Alisson is a massive upgrade over Loris Karius (R.I.P.) in goal, Naby Keïta and Fabinho are championship-level midfielders and Xherdan Shaqiri provides depth off the bench.

Daniel Sturridge looks to be in the plans of Jürgen Klopp as well, but the German really needs to add a trophy to the cabinet this season. It’s now or never.

With the best attack in the league led by the sensational Mohamed Salah,  Liverpool could be pushing for the title, but the 2017/18 gap between the two was a whopping 25 points. Such a gap cannot be bridged in a season, but they will give Manchester City a run for their money, at least.

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Jürgen Klopp will have to win *something* with Liverpool this season. Per Flickr, Kevin Walsh

1st – Manchester City

Last season: 1st

Key player: Kevin de Bruyne (CM)

It was the first sentence of this article, remember? I mean, there’s not much to be said here. A historically good team added the 2015/16 Player of the Year in Riyad Mahrez and had a core that is so young that it will only get better.

David Silva and Fernandinho might be getting on if you really want to knit-pick, and no team has repeated in eight years, but just look at the team. And the manager. The financial backing. There’s no way City aren’t winning the title again. I will say though, it won’t be as easy as last season. They seemed to have a lot of lucky breaks in the last minutes of games.

It’s not a bold prediction to say City will win again, but it’s the right one. I’m sorry.

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