The new premier league season is upon us, and as always I have done my premier league table prediction. This time around it is to a live audience so naturally I am a bit more nervous but I am confident with my table this time around. Just a little side note this was done before the season started if some fans get upset, Brentford fans I’m talking to you!
The new boys in town, finally the bees have their chance to play amongst the elite and Brentford have shown fellow teams in the championship the perfect model to succeed and seem to always come back stronger despite many of their gems in the past moving to the premier league without them, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma to name a few. Now that Brentford join their former stars in the big time, the mandate is clear. Finish above the trap door! Whilst I believe Brentford’s possession-based style of play will certainly cause a few upsets along the way, what concerns me is the lack of invaluable premier league experience in their ranks and for that reason, I am predicting a swift return to the Championship for Thomas Franks men.
Key Man: Ivan Toney- For Brentford to have any chance of survival they will be relying on Ivan Toney to provide the goods in front of goal. Brought in last term to replace Watkins, the former Newcastle man well and truly delivered scoring 31 goals to help Brentford finally achieve promotion. He has already said he is targeting 17 goals in his maiden season as a Premier league regular and if he meets that objective then Brentford have every chance of finishing above that trap door come May!
Last Christmas, it was a very merry Christmas for Ralph Hassenhutl and his team as Southampton were sitting pretty in European contention with the Saints, not for the first time seriously punching above their weight. With the Austrian manager’s innovative 4-2-2-2 formation and their high pressing style of play, it was only looking up for the Saints, however after a 1-0 win over Liverpool early in the year, Southampton only won four times, two of those in dead rubber games and for the second season in a row, Southampton seriously dropped off, perhaps not so surprising if you counter in their small squad and their style of play. Their poor momentum could carry on into this season with three of last seasons top six in their opening six games, and if they start poorly without talisman Danny Ings, it could be a struggle this year for the Saints.
Key Man: James Ward Prowse- The man who never misses a minute, embodies the high pressing game Hassenhutl has brought to Southampton, and with the departure of the Saints only reliable goalscorer in Ings, Ward Prowses set pieces could become even more important to get the Saints goals whether that is from a shot or a cross. A big season will be needed from the England international if he is to help keep his Saints side above the dotted line.
Despite the loss of star man Emi Buendia, Norwich appear to be much better placed to survive than they were two seasons ago, and they will be desperate to survive in order to go against their growing reputation as the perennial yoyo club. The players that stayed at Carrow Road such as Max Aarons have come on leaps and bounds since then and crucially most of the team have the Premier League know how to give them a fighting chance. I think this is a great opportunity for the promoted teams to establish themselves as I see a lot of weak teams in the league this year, however I think it will be disappointment for Norwich once more come May.
Key Man: Teemu Pukki- The Finnish striker dominated headlines in the opening month of Norwich’s most recent campaign in the top flight with six goals in his opening five games. Unfortunately for Pukki and Norwich, that purple patch was as good as it got in terms of a consistent scoring run with just five more goals that season. However the 31 year old looked rejuvenated last term with 31 goals helping Norwich dominate the Championship and they will need their big striker firing on all cylinders all year long to give themselves a good chance of beating the drop.
Another quiet summer compared to the teams around them and it is looking like another relegation scrap for Sean Dyche’s men. Crucially however, for this season at least it appears they are going to hold onto their centre back pairing of James Tarkowski and Ben Mee and those two rocks at the back as well as Chris Wood’s goals up front should scrape Burnley another season of Premier League football.
Key Man: Sean Dyche- Yes you heard me, Burnley’s manager has been and still is Burnley’s biggest asset. The modern day Big Sam, he has managed to get a team of mainly workmanlike players punching above their weight year upon year and if Dyche were to leave Burnley, I think everyone would see how valuable he is. Burnley are lucky to have him, he deserves a lot more backing in the transfer market and I am surprised he hasnt walked away. If Dyche is at Turf Moor, I don’t see Burnley going down.
Yes I have one promoted team above the trap door, and it isn’t just because my editor is a Watford fan, I promise…
Watford were able to hold on to many of their big players from their relegation as well as this I think they have the right blend of youth and experience with promising up and comers such as Joao Pedro and Cucho Hernandez accompanied by seasoned pros like Danny Rose and Ben Foster. A good start for Xisco’s men is vital as they have a five-game run around November where they play four of last season’s top five and Arsenal. Xisco has credit in the bank after coming in midway through the campaign and steering the hornets to promotion but as we all know that will count for nothing if they have a poor start and it will be interesting to see if he is still in charge this time next year.
Key Man: Ismaila Sarr- One of Watford’s bright sparks in their disappointing relegation campaign two years ago, the Senegalese international was levels above anyone else in that Watford team and his pace and dribbling are two assets that could well make him one of the players to watch this year. Sarr being in the mood could be the difference between Watford staying up or not.
One of only two clubs not to have made a signing this window it has been a typically uncertain summer up in the North East. Newcastle appeared to be sleep walking towards relegation last season before the return from injury of Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin and the goalscoring exploits of Joe Willock, on loan from Arsenal. Newcastle have allegdedly agreed a fee to sign Willock and if they sign him as well as keeping the former two fit then Newcastle have a great chance of pushing higher up the table. Unfortunately, Newcastle always seem to be one incident off a crisis so whilst I will back them to retain their Premier league status, I don’t think they will reach their full potential. Why Ashley appears to back Bruce more than Benitez baffles me!
Key Man: Allan Saint Maximin- This guy changes games, one of the most exciting players to watch in the league, someone that gets you off your seat every time he is on the ball, his natural ability is scary and it is no coincidence that a toothless Newcastle who could barely buy a goal let alone a win appeared to have a lot more bite and ammunition when he returned to the side. If he stays fit then a push for top half isn’t beyond Bruce’s men.
For all the admiration Graham Potter and his Brighton team have received in the last two years for their style of play, he will no doubt be disappointed to have only mustered 15th and 16th place finishes and in both campaigns having been nervously looking over their shoulder for major parts of it. Brighton have been very hard to beat under Potter’s stewardship and have a notoriously high Xg so the big problem is the Seagulls is turning draws into wins. In both campaigns under Potter, they have drawn 14 games, the most in the league on both occasions and this has stopped them from progressing up the table. For all the chances the team make, without a clinical striker, they will once again struggle to reach their potential. If Brighton sign a 15 goal a season striker I believe they could come top 10, without one they will remain mid-table and maybe even looking over their shoulder. A kind start where Brighton play none of the traditional top six in their opening six games gives Potter’s side the opportunity to get some early breathing space from the bottom three.
Key Man: Lewis Dunk- With Ben White moving to Arsenal, Lewis Dunk’s role in Brightons back line will take on even greater importance. Whether it is a back 3 or 4, Dunk fits in seamlessly and his ball ability seems to go under the radar. Personally I think he was unlucky not to be considered by Southgate for England and I am surprised bigger clubs haven’t been sniffing around for his services.
13. Crystal Palace
Next up, Brighton’s rivals Crystal Palace. Palace have made the brave move of replacing Roy Hodgson with Arsenal Legend Patrick Viera yet to experience the pressures of Premier League management. It appears that Palace have turned to Viera in a bid to make palace a progressive team after most of their time in the Premier League has been overseen by the more conservative approaches of Hodgson, Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce. Last time Palace turned to a progressive possession based manager in Frank de Boer he was relieved of his duties within four games so surely he will last longer than that!
Key Man: Wilfred Zaha- For all the change in the palace side with many experienced heads exiting Selhurst Park and many younger faces arriving, Zaha will be just as important off the pitch as he will on it. As well as his clear natural ability his experience will be invaluable and his pace and trickery still make him one of the most dangerous wide men in the league, when he wants it. This appears to be the first summer that there hasn’t been a lot of major interest for the Ivorian and this will no doubt help him focus and will only be a good thing and a good Zaha will play a big part in making sure Viera’s stay is a long and successful one.
After three great years under Nuno Espirito Santo, last year appeared to be more difficult for a number of reasons. A small squad, the loss of Jiminez through injury, new signings not performing, a formation change and missing the fans are just a few reasons why Wolves disappointed last campaign and why it was perhaps no surprise to see a worn out Nuno and Wolves part ways. Continuing the Portuguese theme, in comes Bruno Lage from Benfica and he will be charged to get Wolves pushing back for Europe. Ryan Ait Nouri has joined on a permanent deal from SCO Angers and Wolves have managed to get the highly rated Francisco Trincao on loan from Barcelona. This as well as the return from injury of Raul Jiminez and holding on to key players like Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and Pedro Neto means the Wolves faithful can be hopeful of another good season at Molineux.
Key Man: Pedro Neto- The crown gem, Pedro Neto is pacey, direct and has an eye for a goal and at 21 after a promising first full campaign last term will surely go from strength to strength and his performances alongside Raul Jiminez and Adama Traore could contribute an exciting front three to drag Wolves up the table. Big things to come from the young Portuguese.
11. West Ham
After exceeding all expectations last term to come in sixth place, their highest finish since 1999 under Harry Redknapp, David Moyes’s men will be eager to prove that was no fluke and they belong in European football. However the one negative of playing European football, as Newcastle and Southampton will testify to, is the hangover playing on a Sunday, especially after those long haul trips on the Thursday. West Ham are yet to make a new signing yet and their small squad could struggle with the workload and for this reason I can’t see the Hammers performing as well as they did last time out.
Key Man: Declan Rice– One of England’s most consistent performers in their run to the Euros final this summer, Rice and Tomas Soucek’s partnership in midfield gave West Ham a solid foundation to make them tough to beat last campaign. His Ball winning ability and passing range are two of the many reasons why he is a Southgate favourite and why Manchester United and Chelsea have enquired about his services in the past, another big season from the West Ham man.
Farhad Moshiri has been the majority shareholder for five years now and after all the major investment he has put into the club he will be disappointed his record shows six managers and just one European campaign, with their highest finish seventh. After one Hollywood manager in Carlo Ancelotti abruptly departed for Real Madrid after a season with so much potential petered out into a tenth placed finish, Moshiri has stuck with the big name managers with the controversial appointment of former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez. Benitez’s first job will be to make Goodison a fortress, with last seasons shocking home record the reason for missing out on Europe and with favourable home games from the off against Southampton, Burnley and Norwich, Rafa has the chance to do exactly that.
Key Man: Dominic Calvert Lewin- The England international enjoyed a breakout season last term under Carlo Ancelotti with an impressive return of 21 goals in all competitions, whether Rafa will utilise him up front or in a pairing alongside Richarlison remains to be seen, but whatever system is played Calvert Lewin’s performances and goals will be vital.
Many doubted how Marcelo Bielsa’s gung ho approach would work in the premier league, whilst this inevitably led to some thrashings such as 4-1 and 6-1 losses to Crystal Palace and Manchester United respectively, what impressed me the most is how the Argentine manager adapted in certain bigger games, making his side harder to beat resulting in staying unbeaten at home to the big six. I think as players become more accustomed to Bielsa’s methods Leeds will only improve and i expect another successful season for ‘The Whites’ resulting in a second successful 9th place finish, a very impressive feat for a newly promoted club.
Key Man: Raphina- The unpredictable Brazillian, who has reported interest from Tottenham and Liverpool is Leeds crown jewell, his technique and pace make him a defenders nightmare and he totalled an impressive 15 goal contributions in his debut season and under Bielsa’s tutelage i expect him to improve and be even better this time around.
8. Aston Villa
Hear me out, despite losing Captain and talisman, Aston Villa are in a better place…
They have made some remarkable signings, bringing in Danny Ings, a proven goalscorer to rival Ollie Watkins, Emi Buendia to ease the creative burden after the loss of Grealish and they may not be done with the Canaries with a reported interest in Todd Cantwell, and bringing in the highly coveted Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen, surely an upgrade on Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi out wide. These additions as well as the solid foundation they already have with a solid centre back pairing of Tyrone Mings who performed very well at the Euros and Ezri Konsa who was perhaps unlucky to miss out on the squad themselves. With this very impressively assembled squad anything other than a European push as a minimum would be a disappointment for Dean Smith’s men.
Key Man: Emi Buendia- The former Norwich man who can play anywhere off the striker will be expected to ease the creative void after Grealish’s departure, the Argentine burst into life last term in the Championship with 15 goals and 16 assists playing a big part in Norwich’s return to the big time, despite the increase in standard, I don’t expect Buendia to struggle and the year of experience in the premier league with Norwich will no doubt help him.
Despite their impressive community shield victory over Manchester City last weekend, I can’t see how Leicester push for the top four this season after two near misses resulting in two heartbreaking final days of the season. It isn’t all gloom and Leicester once again appear to have made some astute signings ranging from Patson Daka of Zambia to perhaps reduce the burden on Jamie Vardy, who isn’t getting any younger all the way to the free signing of Ryan Bertrand, they were missing a natural senior left back last term. With these signings and their innovative manager Brendan Rodgers i still expect Leicester to be up there, but perhaps not as close as in the past two seasons.
Key Man: Youri Tielemans- With James Maddison’s injury and dip in form last term, the main soruce of creativity last term was on Belgium international Tielemans, with Maddisons future still up in the air, it may be up to Leicesters number 8 to supply the chances to the strikers. The former Monaco man’s passing range and shooting ability, demonstrated in the FA Cup final with that stunning strike against Chelsea are just two of the many attributes the complete midfielder has in his Arsenal and his performances will be key for the Foxes.
There is no doubt Arsenal have a lot of potential right now with many young players starting to shine like Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka and with those players as well as the likes of Kieran Tierney, Nicola Pepe, Thomas Partey and new boy Ben White there is certainly a good core. However Arsenal’s transfer business so far has baffled me for example looking to spend 10 million more on Aaron Ramsdale than what they sold Emi Martinez for, who would most likely still start for them, this budget being spent on a back up keeper is strange where there are many more pressing concerns for Arsenal, such as a starting right back, creative midfielder and striker. If Arsenal fill those positions, they can have a genuine go at breaking back in to the Champions League, without that, I can’t see the Gunners any higher than sixth to eighth and surely that wouldn’t cut it for manager Arteta in what is now his second full season at the helm.
Key Man: Nicolas Pepe- After two seasons at the club, Arsenals record buy really came into his own towards the end of the season, and went some way to justifying why Arsenal spent 72 million pounds on him. Finishing last year with 10 goals, including five in his last four games, this now seems like the Ivorians time to shine and show Arsenal and the league that he was worth every penny.
In each of the last four seasons, Tottenham have moved down positions in the league moving from Champions league regulars and even Champions league finalists to representatives of the inaugural Uefa Conference League in just a couple of years. Not the level Tottenham want to be at! A big problem at White Hart Lane in the last few years is all the money has gone into this fantastic new arena but with no investment on it there could soon be a team not fit to play on that pitch if they aren’t careful. Brought in as transfer guru is former Juventus man Fabio Paratici and he has acted swiftly addressing a gaping hole at centre back in the highly rated Cristian Romero as well as the promising Bryan Gil. Tottenham are expected to remain active later in the window and with it looking more likely that Harry Kane will be staying put it’s not all doom and gloom for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Key Man: Heung Min Son- With the above mentioned Harry Kane’s future still up in the air and his motivation to play is still unknown, Son could take greater responsibility becoming the main man, his recent new long term contract implies he may relish this role and the versatile Korean, who is an assassin in front of goal, will have a big part to play as Tottenham try to gatecrash the top four and return to the European elite.
After last season’s nightmare, which looked a bit too much like an injury challenge on Football Manager for it to be real, Jurgen Klopp’s charges managed to rally together, winning 8 of their last 10 games to steam train themselves into third and a place in the Champions League. They have brought in Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig to ease the burden on Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who have just returned from long term injury, however, I am shocked with the lack of movement in other areas by FSG and Liverpool, with Xherdan Shaqiri seemingly on his way out, Bobby Firmino not the player he once was and Sadio Mane and Mo Salah not getting any younger another forward option seemed like a good idea, as well as this with Naby Keita seemingly spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch and James Milner approaching the twilight of his career, another midfielder to support the likes of Thiago and Henderson wouldn’t go amiss either. With Manchester United and Chelsea improving, I expect Liverpool’s place in the top four to be under the most threat.
Key Man: Thiago- After an indifferent start to his Liverpool career, when Klopp decided to move Fabinho back into midfield to compliment the Spaniard, the ex Bayern and Barcelona man really came into his own, one of the best players on the ball in the league, his class is a level above and his dribbling and playmaking ability will be vital in Liverpool’s attempts to return to their swashbuckling best where they almost exclusively sweeped teams aside with relative ease.
3. Manchester United
After four years without a trophy, surely this has to be the year for the self-proclaimed biggest club in the world to bring home some silverware. A trophy, as well as a genuine title challenge, has to be the minimum requirement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who now in his third full season has had enough time to mould a team in his image. After what seemed like the longest transfer saga in football history, Ole has finally got his man Jadon Sancho and as well as this has finally got a top defender to complement Harry Maguire and his glittering trophy haul will surely only be a plus as this United team is still relatively inexperienced when it comes to trophies. With 33 year old Nemanja Matic, United’s only midfielder who is a natural at sitting in front of the back four, United should look to rectify this and this could free up the likes of Pogba and Fernandes making United a feared opposition once again. Crucially what will help United challenge this time around is a better squad, this has hindered them in the past, in the Europa League final last term against Villarreal, Ole didn’t make a substitution until the 100th minute.
Key Man: Bruno Fernandes- The obvious one yes, but United simply look a different team with him on the pitch and lost without him, you only have to look at when he first arrived with United sitting 7th in the league having just been beaten 2-0 at home to Burnley, with his arrival United soured up the table and for him to be called a penalty merchant is a massive disservice to one of the best players in the Premier League.
Finally it appears Chelsea have solved their long standing striker issue dating back to the departure of Diego Costa with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku who is rejoining Chelsea for approximately 80 million euros more than they sold him for to Everton seven years ago. With a prolific goal scorer most likely to be supplemented by an improving Kai Havertz, the tireless Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech off the back of a great pre season and Christian Pulisic, Thomas Tuchel’s blues look well placed to push Chelsea all the way this time around. If they are able to agree a fee for Jules Kounde or another top centre back to slot into their back three then that could make them title favourites. As well as this it is evidently a good time to be at Chelsea with the Champions League win no doubt fostered by a fantastic team spirit, demonstrated by Kepa Arrizabalaga and Eduard Mendy’s joint interview after the Spaniard replaced the Senegalese for the penalty shoot out victory on Wednesday night vs Sevilla. Like Manchester United above, a genuine title challenge has to be the minimum requirement, something they haven’t done for five years since they won the league under Antonio Conte, and a trophy is something Chelsea seem to get their hands on more often than not. Exciting times at the bridge.
Key Man: Romelu Lukaku– As stated above since the first departure of Didier Drogba, nine years ago with the exception of Diego Costa, Chelsea have struggled to find a reliable goalscorer, in that time the likes of Alvaro Morata, Fernando Torres and Gonzalo Higuain have all had a go with limited success. The arrival of Lukaku could be just the boost Chelsea need, and this lack of a prolific striker could explain why Chelsea haven’t challenged for the title since they won it in 2017 when the above mentioned Costa was firing in the goals. The Belgian could be the final piece in the puzzle for Chelsea.
1. Manchester City
Whilst I believe that any of Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea have genuine reason to believe this could be their year, i can’t see how i can look past Manchester City as title favourites. Whether they are able to sign Tottenham’s Harry Kane or not, they simply have an embarrassment of riches in those attacking areas with Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and of course Jack Grealish, just to name a few. As well as this City seemed to have found their Vincent Kompany replacement in Ruben Dias and with the revitalised John Stones next him, City look to have a formidable centre back pairing. Their depth is out of this world with the likes of Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, Joao Cancelo and Ferran Torres all unlikely to start and many would probably expect City’s B team to get top four. This depth could be what sets them apart from the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea and this is one of the many reasons I expect them to reign victorious once more in May!
Key Man: Ruben Dias- Too many options to choose from but the arrival of Ruben Dias, completely changed the dynamic of City’s defence last term and his arrival seemed to bring the best out of John Stones, not to dissimilar to how Virgil Van Dijks arrival at Anfield improved the performances of the likes of Joe Gomez. Finally the Vincent Kompany replacement Pep Guardiola and Manchester City were craving.
If your team was in here what do you think, Was I too generous? Was I too harsh? Why? Was I right about your key man?
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