Premier League 2018/19 Season Preview

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After an enormously entertaining World Cup full of drama and decadence, we the football faithful have been cast into the darkness of a month without the beautiful game. This has not stopped the majority of the big Premier League clubs from making money moves in anticipation. Ahead, we preview what to expect from them this season.

Arsenal

Arsenal’s relatively early business in securing the tenacious Lucas Torreira (aptly auto-corrected to terrier), supplemented with the earlier additions of Borussia Dortmund’s spine, looks to be an exciting squad for Unai Emery to work with. With the recent news of Mesut Ozil’s disassociation with the German national team, he could look to shine in North London alongside Arsenal’s new 22-year-old signing.

Featuring in Uruguay’s push for a first world cup in 68 years, Torreira, having been deployed at the base of a diamond midfield was critical to defensive solidity and communication. Alongside Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s midfield is shaping up to be a very cohesively sound unit. Paired with the established 3rd best attack in the league – behind only Manchester City (106) and Liverpool (84) – as of last season, progress looms.

Unai Emery’s Record against Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola may be a cause for concern having played 15 matches against the duo, drawing 5 and losing 10.

One to Watch: Lucas Torreira – Ticks all the boxes for the Premier League with tenacity and tremendous ball-winning ability, we could be seeing the emergence of the next N’Golo Kante

Predicted finish: 3rd

Chelsea

Chelsea’s poor handling of their players and staff is becoming hugely problematic for the club. As a result, early signs show that it may be some time before we see the much-hyped “Sarri-Ball” at Stamford Bridge. In the face of this, the addition of Jorginho next to possibly the world’s best midfielder and World Cup winner in N’Golo Kante, Chelsea look all smiles in midfield. It will be quite interesting to see how Sarri utilises his assets with the new arrivals Mateo Kovacic and Kepa Arizzabalaga adjusting to a new league and system. Perhaps the best piece of business conducted was retaining the services of Eden Hazard.

Their lack of cohesion in an attacking sense may cost them against deep blocks, although their control of the midfield should be constant. With a possibility of seeing more minutes, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi could show their true potential. Whether this squad can adhere to a foreign philosophy in such a short period of time could heavily impact their standing at seasons end.

One to watch: Callum Hudson-Odoi – The 17-year-old has shown immense talent in pre-season, particularly against Hector Bellerin winning his side a penalty with his electric feet. If Alvaro Morata does not impress Maurizio Sarri, the youngster could be given a chance to shine.

Predicted finish: 5th

Everton

The phrase “Emotional roller” coaster does not even begin to sum up the 2017/18 season for the Toffees. Ronald Koeman, the manager of the club, spent big in the transfer market bringing in Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaasen, Wayne Rooney and Jordan Pickford, amongst others. Everton fans were in joyous fits of uproar, singing the praises of the club’s management. There was a slight problem in how these new assets would be used, seeing as the three former arrivals played in the same position.

Inevitably, Koeman was sacked with fireman Sam Allardyce brought in to avoid relegation. Such was the standard of the Premier Leagues’ lower echelons last season, Everton were safe by Christmas, leaving the Goodison faithful with Big Sam for another 6 months, a fact which they vehemently voiced their concerns over.

The arrival of Marco Silva in the summer – the manager they wanted to replace Koeman with, in the first place – will bring an exciting edge to Everton, most notably with the purchase of Richarlison from Watford. The Brazilian forward shone brightest under Silva last season and will be expected to inject a directness that has been missed in recent memory for the Merseysiders.

The top 6 seem to be in a league of their own, however, with the additions of Lucas Digne from Barcelona and Bernard from Shakhtar Donetsk, a Europa league finish could well be on the cards.

One to watch: Ademola Lookman – Coming off a loan spell at RB Leipzig, England under 20 international chalked up 5 goals and 4 assists for the German club in only 11 appearances. With a progressive manager at the helm, Lookman could be set for a breakout season.

Predicted finish: 8th

Fulham

Slavisa Jokanovic will become the first Serbian Manager to take charge of a top-flight English team when the Cottagers take on their London rivals from the south, Crystal Palace, on Saturday afternoon. But don’t let this lack of Premier league experience lull you into thinking that Fulham will be the whipping boys this season. Employing a similar ethos to Pep Guardiola, Jokanovic truly preaches Jogo Bonito at Craven Cottage and it is a joy to watch.

Ryan Sessegnon is a prodigy on the left, notching up 16 goals and 8 assists at only 17 years of age. Alexander Mitrovic has been signed permanently from Newcastle to be the focal point of their attack and the capture of Jean Michel Seri, formerly linked with Barcelona, shows that the beautiful game will be on display in West London this season.

This could be potentially problematic, however, as pragmatism for newly promoted sides is usually the recipe for success. Fulham may win beautifully on occasion, but they may also be put to the sword against counter-attacking sides such as Liverpool. A mid-table finish would be acceptable, with substantial financial backing from Shahid Khan more than sufficient for Fulham to become a mainstay in the Premier League.

One to Watch: Jean Michel Seri – The Ivorians press resistance could be key to Fulham’s attempt to replicate the total football of the 1970s Dutch national side.

Predicted finish: 10th

Leicester

Having finally succumbed to the monetary might of Manchester city by selling possibly their greatest asset in Riyadh Mahrez, the foxes have looked to strengthen their entire squad with the £60 million recouped for the Algerian. Harry Maguire remains at the club despite intense speculation of a big money move to Manchester United and Kasper Schmeichel will start the season between the posts after Chelsea’s interest cooled.

The addition of James Maddison, who scored 14 goals and added a further 8 assists for Norwich in the championship last season, right-back Ricardo Pereira and regular stalwarts Jamie Vardy and Wilfred Ndidi, Claude Puel’s men are primed to battle it out for the last European spot with Everton and Wolves this season. Jonny Evans’ arrival from West Brom results in Leicester possessing the best spine outside of the top 6.

One to watch: Ricardo Pereira – a rampaging fullback acquired from Portuguese champions Porto, Pereira brings champions league experience to the Midlands side and could be a surprise contender for a team of the season.

Predicted finish: 7th

Liverpool

Building on his team’s surprise run to the champions league final last season, Jurgen Klopp has wasted no time in finding the missing pieces for a side looking to challenge for the league for the first time since the 2013/14 season. Early signings of Fabinho, Xheridan Shaqiri, Alisson and Naby Keita – signed from RB Leipzig last season – have injected both quality and depth into the Reds.

Liverpool seem to be the only team in the Premier League capable of beating Manchester City, winning 3 out of 4 encounters with the citizens last season – losing 5-0 away in the league after a Sadio Mane red card. Whether they are able to play the electric style of football which led to these victories and saw them demolish teams in Europe last season every week remains to be seen. The 12 draws achieved last season simply won’t do if they have any chance of chasing down City. Having spent in excess of £150 million, the reds must produce.

One to watch: Naby Keita – The fact that the 23-year-old Guinea international is the first player to wear the number 8 shirt at Anfield speaks volumes about his character and talent. An all-action midfielder in the mould of Gerrard himself and set to be a mainstay at Liverpool for years to come, Keita could prove to be the crown jewel of Klopp’s new look side.

Predicted finish: 2nd

Manchester City

After a season in which Pep Guardiola’s squad was compared with the Arsenal Invincibles, there was a somewhat sour taste to the tail of Manchester City’s season. An extremely fast start forecasted lofty expectations from Kevin De Bruyne and co, however an early exit from the FA Cup and champions league at their hands of their bogey team – Liverpool – City somehow are still some way away into fulfilling their potential and that, as a football fan, is extremely exciting.

Pep Guardiola has won the league in 7 out of 9 seasons in his career as a manager and the return of Benjamin Mendy along with the signing of Riyadh Mahrez strengthens a squad even as strong as the sky blues. Alongside established stars who are primed to dominate for years to come, the former “noisy neighbours” will be satisfied with nothing other than a deep champions league run and a Premier League win.

One to watch: Leroy Sane – Keeping an eye on a player who has come off a season with 10 goals and 15 assists seems trivial, however, Sane’s exclusion from Germany’s World Cup squad may spur him on to even greater heights. A year of further experience in his Premier League career, could he go on to break Thierry Henry’s assist record?

Predicted finish: 1st

Manchester United

Between a disrupted preseason, as a result of visa issues and post-world cup celebrations, Jose Mourinho has not had the best summer. In a recent interview, Jurgen Klopp joked that “it is my goal to make Jose smile”. In truth, it has been many moons since we have seen any smiles at Old Trafford, and with recent news that Paul Pogba is pushing for a move to Barcelona, it may be some time before we see any more, with Mourinho’s third season syndrome looming.

However, everything is not all doom and gloom for the red devils. A squad full of young talents buoyed by world cup success and veterans in the form of Nemanja Matic (Side-lined due to abdominal surgery) and Alexis Sanchez – who can only benefit from his first summer off in half a decade – united look to be poised for cup success this season. The league may be a step too far with the progress that the blue half of Manchester has made over the last two seasons.

One to watch: Fred – The versatile Brazilian could prove to be the final piece in midfield after the club has failed in its attempts to adequately replace Paul Scholes. His influence could spark Paul Pogba into new levels.

Predicted finish: 6th

Tottenham

A lot has been made of the fact that Tottenham are yet to sign anybody in the current window. With an ageing Moussa Dembele in need of assistance, the uncertainty of Toby Alderweireld’s future at the club posing further problems in the dressing room and their rivals strengthening with endless spending, standing still at this time can almost be seen as going backwards.

With a new stadium ready to go and Harry Kane and co-signed to new contracts spurs will look to overachieve on their preseason odds in all competitions and improve on their run to the round of 16 in the champions league last season, an experience which can only benefit this young, cohesive side.

One to watch: Davinson Sanchez – Having been thrust into the limelight in a stellar first season in the Premier League, Sanchez’s ability only has an upward trajectory learning from one of the best centre-backs in the league – Jan Vertonghen. With World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris behind them, Spurs should be their usual solid selves at the back.

Predicted finish: 4th

Wolverhampton

On the back of a rampant championship campaign supplemented with the pulling power of super-agent Jorge Mendes, Wolves look to be in genuine contention for a top half finish. The additions of Joao Moutinho, Portugal’s third most capped player, Adama Traore, aptly named as a dribble-merchant having completed 243 dribbles for Tony Pulis’ Middleborough last season and Rui Patricio on a free transfer from Sporting Lisbon, the Midlands side could see themselves in European competition next season.

Nuno Espirito Santo and the club’s hierarchy are setting the standards so high that even the championships leading assist maker, Barry Douglas, was shipped off to Leeds as he wasn’t seen as Premier League quality. With a midfield anchored by Ruben Neves, considered by the Wolverhampton faithful to be their greatest ever player after one season with the club, the stage is set for a long stay in England’s top flight.

One to Watch: Diogo Jota – Coming off a stellar first season in English football with 17 goals and 5 assists, the fiery Portuguese, alongside further talent, could prove to be decisive.

Predicted finish: 9th

Players To Watch

Alireza Jahanbaksh – Signed from PSV as the Eredivisie’s top scorer (21) and third highest assister (12), the Iranian international joins a Brighton side recently famed for uncovering hidden gems such as Pascal Gross. Emulating the German’s impact should see Brighton retain their Premier League status.

Rui Patricio – The Portugal international keeper is a major coup for wolves on a free transfer from the current club in turmoil that is Sporting Lisbon. Patricio has an excellent penalty save percentage of 21% and kept 17 clean sheets in Liga Nos last season. The Iberian is a welcome upgrade to John Ruddy between the sticks.

Eden Hazard – It’s not exactly a secret hat Eden Hazard is excellent at football. Coming off a successful world cup with Belgium, Hazard can only benefit from a manager with an attacking mindset. The Chelsea legend may even be used as a false nine in the role Dries Mertens performed so well last season.

Felipe Anderson – Signed for monstrous money, to the tune of £40 million, Anderson should flourish with a manager who knows how to coach a defence giving him the platform to excel at what he does best, break up play and carry the ball forward. West ham looks to be a different animal after the shambles which saw fans protesting on the pitch last season.

Daniel Sturridge – Initially when Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield, Daniel Sturridge looked to be the ugly duckling. The clubs pre-season tour of America has given Sturridge a new lease of life, linking particularly well with new signing Naby Keita. Perhaps quite not at the level of the much-vaunted front three, this season could see the Englishman provide a new perspective off the bench.

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