2018/19 Season Preview

Yes, I am aware it started yesterday (TOP OF THE LEAGUE!!!). However, I don’t think one game should alter the credibility of these predictions. It’ll take at least a weekend before they start to look ridiculous.

By way of introduction, here is my prediction of what the final table will be in nine months time:

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Tottenham
4. Arsenal
5. Manchester United
6. Chelsea
7. Wolves
8. West Ham
9. Everton
10. Crystal Palace
11. Fulham
12. Leicester
13. Southampton
14. Newcastle
15. Bournemouth
16. Burnley
17. Brighton
18. Watford
19. Cardiff
20. Huddersfield

The Summer Transfer Window recently behind us, the top six, naturally, take the opening spotlight. As naturally, it is Manchester City who take the premier spot in the middle after their implausible successes of last season. 100 points, 103 goals, a 19-point winning margin and if anything, they’ve simply got stronger over the off-season. Riyad Mahrez, a much-maligned signing on social media due to the wealth of attackers already enrolled on City’s books, could prove a shrewd acquisition, more of a match-winner than Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva with enough flair to get fans off their seats. Let’s be honest, City didn’t need anyone and in spite of Liverpool’s impressive transfer business, I can’t see anyone catching up with them.

That said the Premier League has become notoriously difficult to defend. The last three defending champions have finished tenth, twelfth and fifth and Manchester United were the last team to go back-to-back in 2009. Liverpool look placed to go closest. Their goalkeeping issue should be sorted with Alisson having initially broken the world record fee for a goalkeeper before Chelsea gazumped them late on. Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri may all improve the squad in their respexctive positions but they may just leak too many goals again to usurp City.

While Liverpool have fired their way into closest contention via their transfer dealings, the same cannot be said of Tottenham, who became the first team in the history of the transfer window to not sign a single player. That said, they’ve also kept the key personnel. Harry Kane will fire again as he always does but though Spurs don’t look like title winners, a top four berth has been under lock and key for the last few seasons.
The other spot in the top four is up for grabs. There could be a surprise in Unai Emery’s Arsenal. His managerial career has been at its most fruitful when in the role of underdog, a position he finds himself in at the Emirates. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang preparing for his first full season, having scored ten in just thirteen opportunities in the second half of last season, Arsenal could be poised to leave the previous few “banter era” seasons behind them. Manchester United’s dire pre-season and humiliating deadline day could be signs of what is ahead. If they don’t start well, Mourinho may be out the door by Christmas and the post-Fergie blues could be set to return in force.

I have nothing against Maurizio Sarri by the way, nor the fact that Eden Hazard has stayed and promising midfielders Jorginho and Kovacic have been brought in. However, their record purchase, Kepa the keeper, is very young and will have to adapt to life in England very quickly. With a similar profile to David De Gea, a little caution and patience may go a long way. Sarri may rebuild Chelsea successfully but it might take longer than one season.

The rest of the division is fascinating to call. All of Everton, West Ham and Leicester have spent lavishly over the summer and yet find themselves in as competitive a race for Europe as ever. That has been aided by the promotion of Wolves and Fulham, whose business has been as extraordinary financially, the latter having become the first promoted club to spend over £100 million. However, it is the former I’m backing to climb into the final European spot. Ruben Neves was possibly the best player to ever grace the Championship. He became known for his stunning long-range efforts lasts season and will feel as at home now that countrymen Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho have joined up with the squad. Throw in experienced marksman Raul Jimenez on loan from Benfica and Wolves have quality from front to back.

West Ham and Everton were both subjects of fan protest last season and though eighth and ninth may not satiate their infamously demanding fanbases, the hierarchy at both clubs are off the naught step for now. Napoli’s Felipe Anderson and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina are the most intriguing incomings in London and on Merseyside respectively.

Fulham have not only spent big but kept hold of the vital components, Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney in particular. They were arguable the best footballing side in the second tier after the turn of the calendar year and the likes of Jean-Michel Seri and Andre Schurrle have the potential to be incredible signings. Their spot in the top half may be snatched away by Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace, however, who, after the worst start in Premier League history, showed form that would have taken them into Europe had it been shown across all 38 games. If Wilfried Zaha shines, it will likely be his last season in a Palace shirt but his form will be key to their finishing position this.

Leicester’s loss of Mahrez might prove vital in important mid-table clashes and they may fall back into the bottom half as a result while the rest are all under threat of relegation. I predict a fall from grace for Burnley as if they remain in the Europa League, the balancing act is never easy and Sean Dyche worked miracles with a side who were still very goal shy last season. They must remain robust at the back if they’re to avoid the dogfight while Southampton should have had too much quality to be in the trouble they were at the back end of last season. Danny Ings may be the striker they need to fire them back up the table.

Mike Ashley’s purchase of House of Fraser has Newcastle fans wondering why the same cannot be spent on their club as football business was poor for yet another summer. Rafa Benitez can only do so much though Bournemouth will pull their usual jokers act, pretending at some point mid-season that they’re in danger of the drop before Howe and his merry men pull safely enough clear. Brighton were fortunate that so many opponents were so poor last season as it meant they were safe long before the otherwise might have been. I can’t see them avoiding a battle this season but Watford may be in even greater trouble. Gerard Deulofeu may be a great signing from Barcelona but they’ve been stationary since Marco Silva’s departure and Javi Gracia is at a crossroads. On one side is comfortable safety but the other, wider path shows relegation.

Cardiff and Neil Warnock will entertain even if their football does not but we might only receive them for a season while Huddersfield and David Wagner have been enjoyable companions too but their stay looks seriously endangered in a stronger Premier League than last season.

None of this will happen, of course. That’s the charm of the Premier League, it’s unpredictability and as a Manchester United fan myself, I can’t wait to hopefully be proven very wrong indeed.

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