Writing a season preview is hard, there are twenty teams to write about and informing yourself of how each one is setting up for the season can be tricky, however it is all the trickier when the teams who you are writing about haven’t settled on what their squad will be for the rest of the season.
Due to these complications you have to take the season preview with a pinch of salt, things could change dramatically this time next week and hence change how I would judge how the team will go for the season as a whole. With that being said here’s the season preview for the Premier League!
Premier League Champions
Arsenal finished last season in second, progress for a team which has constantly under achieved and bitched about other teams out spending them… Except for the fact that they finished below Leicester and should really have finished behind Spurs, two teams who Arsenal have massively outspent. 2015/16 is the epitome of an Arsenal season, a year where their main title contenders all faltered and opened the door for Arsenal to walk through, only for the Gunners to walk into the door frame and running crying to their mummy.
The problem for Arsenal is that they have more competition than ever for the top four, yet haven’t reacted to the situation. Wenger seems stuck in the mid-2000s with his transfer policy and that inaction is really hurting Arsenal. Yes Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League twenty odd times in a row, however they haven’t looked like winning the league for over ten years, for a club this size it’s an embarrassment.
Every year goes past and you here that this is the year that Arsenal are going to spend big, spend that war chest, then it gets to the start of the season and they’ve signed one player and a bunch of nobodies. Granit Xhaka seems like an Arsenal player; however he is too similar to what is already there. Arsenal have been crying out for a holding midfielder for years, they desperately need a centre back and they need a striker too. The sad thing is that these aren’t new problems, they have existed for a number of seasons, yet Wenger continues to ignore them.
I look at the other teams who will likely be in the title picture and I ask myself how many of the Arsenal players would get into their first elevens, and the answer is not many. The bigger issue for Arsenal is that once you scratch the surface of the first eleven, there really isn’t much in reserve; it’s a weak squad for challenging for the league.
Would Arsenal fans really be happy with another 4th and Champions League last 16 appearance? The answer should be no and the only solution is to get rid of the manager and take a fresh approach. The problem is that you only need to look at how things went when Manchester United lost Ferguson and you will see what will happen to Arsenal, only it will probably be worse. There aren’t many managers available at the top level and teams below Arsenal are beginning to spend more money than them, the future looks pretty bleak unless things are to change soon.
Can Arsenal win the league? I don’t really think so, I have included them because I don’t feel like there is a definitive group of teams which meet that criteria, however of the teams who I consider to potentially be good enough to win the league, Arsenal are the weakest. Arsenal are experts in finishing 4th, I’m not sure that they will get it this season. There are maybe five teams who are currently better than Arsenal, and Arsenal are lacking the difference makers in their team to drag them through, it could be the year that breaks Wenger’s back.
Spurs were a revelation last season, exciting and young football punctuated with a core of good English players, sadly they shat the bed and ended up finishing third. The positives for Spurs is that they have shown that they are capable of taking themselves to a position where they could potentially challenge for the league, they also managed to show that they are very good at Spursing it.
Spurs have a really young team and a young manager too; they have some of the Premier Leagues best young talent and have made two really good thrifty signings in Wanyama and Janssen. If we are talking first elevens then Spurs are up there with the best in the league, you could even argue that they have the best, the issue is that they have little to no depth and with at least six Champions League games to play it is a major concern. Spurs need to sign more depth and get rid of some of their deadweight.
If Spurs are able to go mainly injury free for the season then they will be up there challenging the league, however it will only take an injury to a key player or two and Spurs will be lucky to finish in a Europa League place.
It was one of the worst kept secrets in football, Pep Guardiola going to City. It’s a big move for City, a statement that says that City is a big club and they are here for the long term. One of the biggest issues I believe City have had in the last few years is attracting top talent, they used to be able to outspend their opponents, however as the game has developed and others have got richer City have struggled more and more. Bringing in Guardiola gives City something more to offer than a big wage packet, it really is that important a signing.
This will be Guardiola’s biggest test in management, if he succeeds at City it will finally put to bed any of the doubts which are flung about when people talk about him. To be fair, the doubts are valid in my opinion; he inherited the best team in the world at Barcelona and he inherited the best team in the world in Bayern Munich, he made one of them better and the other worse. The big difference is that City isn’t that great a team, they finished fourth in the league last season and the squad he took over was aging terribly. It should also be noted that the depth of the Premier League is much stronger than the depth in either of La Liga or the Bundesliga. In those leagues teams have a tendency of rolling over when the big boys come to town; it is the total opposite in the Premier League. It may be an ironic meme; however English football is a different animal to its counterparts. This is the biggest task Guardiola has ever taken on; it will be a very interesting season for him.
At the end of last season I felt that very few City players fit Guardiola’s system, so City would need to sign a fair number of players. The City players who I felt really fit into a Guardiola system were; Kompany, Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva, all of whom are injury prone. There are so many holes in this City team if they are playing in this system, there is a lot of deadweight, their signings were going to have to be many and of a quality nature.
So they went and spent around £42 million on John Stones… How can a player have such a poor season yet increase his value? I really don’t understand the hype around Stones, he is good on the ball but the guy is reckless in a position which you can’t really be and leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Stones will probably work out pretty well in the Guardiola system because he is a good fit, however the amount that they paid for him is ridiculous, shouldn’t have been above £22 million.
Sane is an exciting player and will add great pace to the side, however paying £42 million seems a bit of a reach. Gabriel Jesus I don’t really know, however when Barcelona are upset that you snatched him from you then you have probably picked up a good player. Marlos Moreno is another player I don’t really know but from what I’ve read £4.5 million is a bit of a steal, it’s a value signing. Two 19 year olds and a 20 year old, they are signings for the future, however City need signings for now, they will have to step up huge for the club.
One of the signings of the transfer window so far in my opinion is Ilkay Gundogan for £23 million, a player who fits Guardiola’s system perfectly. Gundogan can control a game with his passing, he could be City’s Xavi, the only criticism I can have is that he is too injury prone, if he stays fit he will be a star. The other more experienced signing for City is Nolito, who looks fairly good but I’m not sure that he will be a great fit in the Premier League, for £15 million it really isn’t a risk.
City are absolutely stacked in attacking areas, especially out wide, they have a hot new manager and some hungry young players, all sounds great right? Except that they have too many players who are injury prone, a manager who may struggle to adjust to his new league (pure speculation) and worst of all a defence which looks all over the place and a so so central midfield. One or two injuries for City and they could be royally fucked, the fact that they will be going into another season hoping to god that Kompany can stay fit is a major warning sign.
Predicting where City will finish this season is incredibly difficult, when a team has so much upturn in their squad it generally struggles to find chemistry and results are hard to come by, a new manager who has no experience of the league could find it very difficult around Christmas, it could really go so many different ways. I don’t doubt City will make top four, their team on paper is too good and Guardiola tends to do well in the league, they should challenge but it’s a really hard call.
I wrote a squad analysis for Utd a few days ago which you can find by clicking this link. I’ll write a bit of a cliff notes for the preview.
Utd have had an incredibly good summer transfer window; out went Van Gaal who had a disastrous season last year, in came Mourinho who is in my opinion the best manager in the world. Utd fixed the four biggest issues which I think they had with their squad and first eleven last season, a striker (Ibrahimovic), a right winger (Mkhitaryan), a centre back (Bailly) and a central midfielder (Pogba), all four look like they could be fantastic signings.
Utd broke the transfer record by signing Pogba for £90 million and although they overpaid (by about £25 million), however Utd are desperate for star power and the Pogba signing is a statement of intent. Utd have gone from having no star names and a lack of arrogance, to having two very big stars and too much arrogance…
The weaknesses in Utd’s squad are in mainly in defence; Jones and Rojo are in last chance saloon, Blind isn’t really a centre back, Smalling could score an own goal at any moment and Bailly is a bit of an unknown factor. Shaw is just back from a major injury and doesn’t have a proper back up, if he is to have problems with his recovery or isn’t able to regain form it could be a major issue for Utd. There are also concerns about the lack of goals up front, if Ibra isn’t cutting it then the pressure will once again have to fall on Rashford, a huge ask for his age. Although Mkhitaryan is a great player, he is a slow starter and may be another casualty of the Dortmund curse.
Utd may have a good squad and a good transfer window, however nothing is guaranteed and there are still many questions to be asked about how the team will do after three years of mediocrity. Mourinho is a winner and he is capable of turning a struggling team around, Utd over the last three years are major under achievers, Mourinho is the type of manager who can get players back on track and squeeze that last little bit out of them, it should be a very interesting season for Utd.
Chelsea finished 9th last season, the worst title defence in Premier League history. Antonio Conte was brought in to get Chelsea back to where they think they belong and it will be very interesting to see how he does. Similarly to Guardiola, Conte will likely struggle to adapt to the league, what will hurt him more is that he took over Chelsea later than would have been ideal due to the European Championships.
I have included Chelsea in the title contenders list because I think without European football they will be able to be further up the table than their quality of squad should allow them to be. They only have three centre backs currently and one of them is injured, an odd situation for a manager who likes to employ a back three. Chelsea have only signed two players, a much needed striker (Batshuayi) and Kante who will be very effective in Conte’s system.
Despite the fact that Chelsea have tons of players, they actually have a fairly weak squad. If Chelsea are to do anything this season then they really need to sign about five players or get incredibly fortunate with injuries. It’s hard to say how Chelsea will do; it will really depend on how well drilled Conte is able to get the players, something which he is famous for.
I don’t really know who will win the league this season, there has been too much upturn and there are too many uncertainties. Despite all of that I think that the winner of the league is likely to be from Manchester, they seem like the class of the league and after underachieving the last few seasons I think the two will get back to the top. The other three do have a chance if there are teething pains from the new managers; however I think that they will more likely be fighting it out for the other Champions League places. As things currently stand with their current squads I think that Man Utd are the most likely champions (they have the least uncertainty of the five) and Chelsea will likely miss out on top four.
Europa League Place
West Ham United
West Ham had a really strong year last season; however they should look back on the season with disappointment because they should really have finished top four. This season brings a different beast; they have a new stadium (which was kindly gifted to them by the city of London…) and huge new expectations. The West Ham fans are expecting them to take the next step, however if they consolidated their league position it would be a better season.
I struggle to understand West Ham’s transfer policy this season; they seem to be linked to every striker around and then haven’t signed any. Andre Ayew is a good solid signing but I’m not sure there is that much else there. They have added depth and offloaded Collins for a decent price, however if they are seriously wanting to do better than last season they will need to add more to their squad.
I wonder what West Ham really want from the season because they finished 6th last year; I’m not sure that they can really finish much higher than that in a regular season. West Ham should push hard for the Europa League, however as is so often the way, they will probably not bother because they want to finish mid-table in the league.
Liverpool are the great underachievers of English football, year after year they fall below expectations, and the reason for that is too many people look at the name of the club and not the players in the squad.
I like Klopp; I think he’s a really good manager; however he got a free ride last season. Liverpool under Klopp were pretty underwhelming, he took over in a position where they could have went on and won the league and took them to where they have been finishing for several years. In a season where Leicester were capable of winning the league, it begs the question why Liverpool in the twenty plus years of the Premier League still haven’t won it.
Klopp’s Liverpool struggled against the smaller teams who were willing to sit deep against Liverpool; in contrast they were a thorn in the side of the bigger sides who wanted to hold possession. The question for Liverpool is whether Klopp will have been able to adjust his tactics to allow them to take results in both types of games.
I think the biggest problem Liverpool has is that they have a fairly average squad. The defence looks fragile, their only striker is made of glass and their central midfield is full of workers who all do the same thing, buy hey they have fifty attacking midfielders!!! £35 million for Mane is too much, £25 million for Wijnaldum is too much, and the worst thing is they didn’t really need either. The hope for Liverpool will be that both players who have been woefully inconsistent can become consistent, but it is unlikely, they can be unplayable, however it isn’t often enough. Liverpool also made some thrifty signings in the way of Karius for £5 million and Matip on a free. Both players are better than who they are replacing so that is a strong positive for the club.
Liverpool’s success all comes down to what they expect to get from the season. If they are expecting to win the league with this squad, then they are sorely mistaken. If they think that they are going to finish top four with this squad, they are mistaken. Liverpool are likely to have another typical Liverpool season where they flatter to deceive and finish a disappointing 6th/7th, only to claim that next year will be theirs. The thing is Klopp usually takes a season or two to settle down and start succeeding; will Liverpool be patient enough to give him another season of mehness to potentially get greatness? I’m not so sure.
After many years Everton were finally sold to a wealthy investor, finally Everton were going to have a statement season where they take that next step!!! Yet here we are, just about to start the season and the only players Everton have signed are Stekelenburg (likely backup keeper), Gueye (who had an average season at Villa) and Williams (an aging centre back). They got great money for Stones but haven’t as of yet spent it. The issue with leaving your signings so late is that it will take longer for your squad to gel and likely leads to a very slow start.
I do like how Everton went out and got Koeman from Southampton, I think that he is one of the best young managers in the league and did a fantastic job at St. Mary’s. It will be interesting to see if he is able to turn around a team which totally underachieved the last two seasons under Roberto Martinez (who somehow got the Belgium job), it’s a tough job and he will need to make a good number of signings to get above their city rivals.
Top Half Finish
Last season’s champions will definitely not retain their title… I think that if Leicester are able to finish in the top half then it will be a really good season for them. They aren’t going to get the injury luck or the refereeing luck which they got last season and that will see them fall down the table.
Leicester had four stars that they needed to keep, so far the only one they have lost is Kante, a big blow to their midfield. If Andy King replaces Kante then Leicester are in trouble because he is shit, if Mendy performs like they hope, then they will probably be ok. Mahrez looks unsettled and likely to leave, however if Leicester can keep him it will have a massive boost on their season, if they don’t then I think they are more likely to finish bottom half. Ranieri signed a new contract which is great for the club and Vardy signed one too, especially after turning down Arsenal (very embarrassing for Arsenal).
To be honest as long as Leicester don’t get relegated and do ok in the Champions League then I think that should be considered a good season. They’ve made some good signings and added speed with Musa, however their chances of redoing their achievements of last season are slim to none, the league may be just as uncertain but there is now more quality at the so called bigger teams.
You have to feel sorry for Southampton, every single season their first eleven is decimated and every other season they lose their manager, it is incredible that they have done so well up to this point.
Gone are Koeman, Mane, Pelle and Wanyama, a massive blow to Southampton. You can understand the three players leaving; Mane and Wanyama went to bigger clubs and Pelle went for one last big pay cheque (a ridiculous one at that), however Southampton must be pissed with Koeman. They gave him the chance to recover his reputation and then increase it, only for him to move off to Everton, a team on a similar level to Southampton, it’s a shame.
Hojberg and Redmond are decent signings; how Claude Puel will do as manager I couldn’t really say. This season for Southampton reminds me a lot of Pochettino’s first full season at the club, losing a lot of important players and a new manager who nobody really knows a lot about, it will be interesting if the Southampton machine will continue to chug along or whether this is the last stop at the station.
It’s been a quiet year for Stoke so far, they have only really added Joe Allen (a good signing) and there hasn’t been much more noise out of the club. I don’t know if they intend on strengthening further. Stoke are stuck in this midtable mediocrity, not anywhere near relegation but not really pushing for a European place, there isn’t really much more you can say.
West Brom don’t have the best team in the world, there are too many players who are long in the tooth, however I don’t see a situation where they get relegated. You know what you get with Pulis; he makes his team hard to beat and gets them over the line. So far Matt Phillips is the only signing of the summer and he sold James Chester (bit of an odd one), if it weren’t for Pulis I think that I would probably have West Brom as a relegation candidate, with him I think they will be more than comfortable.
Palace are in for an interesting season, last year was a success, however after a great first half of the season, Palace were terrible in the second half of the year. They went from challenging for the Champions League places to battling relegation. In the end they finished fairly comfortably and got an FA Cup final, I’m not really sure Palace fans can really ask for much more. They’ve made some good signings, however they need to be careful that their poor form from last season isn’t carried into this season.
To lose Big Sam so late in the summer was a big blow for Sunderland; however they have arguably picked up a better manager who has strong Premier League experience. I think the signings of Januzaj and McNair are very good for Sunderland, Djibodji is a bit of an odd one and they probably overpaid, but I guess we will see. Sunderland are perennial underachievers and too often don’t get the right manager, however this time they have followed a good manager with a better one, I think they will be fine this season.
I feel of the promoted teams that Boro are the most Premier League ready. They have had an aggressive summer transfer window, bringing in big names like Negredo and Valdes, whilst also making value signings such as de Roon and Fischer. Their squad is a little too big, so I think they may struggle to keep everyone happy unless they are able to shed some of that deadweight. My only concern over Boro is the blow up which Karanka had last season, if there is a repeat of this then they will be punished, there is much less leeway in the Premier League for infighting and drama in a dressing room.
I find it hard to judge how well Swansea are going to do; they’ve lost a lot of big players and haven’t really replaced them. I understand letting Ashley Williams go for decent money because he is getting up in years and I understand letting Ayew go because they got a good offer for him, however that is a lot of leadership lost in the team. Swansea’s signings have been interesting; importantly they improved their striking options with the signings of Llorente and Baston. Swansea aren’t one of my top picks for relegation, however they are certainly in the mix, what concerns me further about them is their tendency to switch managers mid-season for little to no reason.
Watford had a great year last season, however tailed off towards the end of the season and then sacked their manager unceremoniously. Watford have always hit me as a conflicted club, where the board seem to like being involved a little bit too much. They have taken the risk with the signing of Success, hoping that he can reach his potential and add to their already fairly stacked attacking options, beyond that they haven’t really done much else, although haven’t really lost anyone either. Watford are a solid team but there are better teams in the league, they will probably be ok but a bad start and we could see the manager roundabout out once again.
If I were a Bournemouth fan then I would be very concerned about the upcoming season. Last year Bournemouth as a team played above their collective ability, however the league as a whole as improved and people aren’t going to be caught out by plucky little Bournemouth anymore. Spending £15 million of Jordon Ibe screams I don’t know what I’m doing and I want to be relegated, I’d like to say it gets better than that, however it really doesn’t. It is going to be a very long year for Bournemouth.
I like how Burnley run the club, they don’t financially cripple themselves for short term gains, they allow their manager space and time to develop the squad and it has paid dividends. The problem for Burnley is that when you do get back into the top division, you have to spend a little bit of money and they have barely spent any. They lost their player of the year last season (Barton) and replaced him with Defour (an upgrade in my opinion), the issue is that they haven’t done much else. This is more or less the Burnley team which got relegated from the Premier League two seasons ago, if they weren’t good enough two years ago then they are hardly going to be good enough now.
Hull have signed exactly no players so far this summer… They also sacked their manager a few weeks before the season started… They also lost one of their best players… It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a team who is going into the season without a manager (a sign that nobody wants the job) and without having signed a single player is a good sign that you are going to be relegated in Derby levels of terrible.
I’m currently leaning towards Manchester United winning the league, however I don’t think there is really a definitive gap between them and City. I think the squads are similar and the only real difference is that Mourinho has experience in the league and Guardiola doesn’t, which will likely lead to some teething pains. As things stand relegation will be Hull, Burnley and Bournemouth.
I think making predictions at any stage of the season is incredibly difficult; however pre-season is one of the worst times to do it due to not being able to know the full squads which each team goes into the season with. All it would take is one massive signing for a Chelsea or an Arsenal and all of a sudden they may be title favourites. The positive thing for the Premier League is that it is looking like it is going to be an uncertain season and uncertainty creates excitement, so it looks like it could be a really good one.
If you have made it this far then why not take that one step further and leave a comment about how you think the league season is going to go. Also if you enjoyed the post then it would be great if you could join the Facebook and Twitter pages or share the blog with your friends, thanks for reading.