So, that wonderful time is upon us again. After 26 LONG days that seemed like 26 years, football is BACK if not coming home….Yes, that period of great togetherness that the World Cup 2018 seemed to bring to the country (i.e. England fans united in support of England and everyone else united in their hatred/jealousy of England) is over and the Premier League is back and ready to tear us all apart again! No longer are pubs full of those jumping on the footballing bandwagon trying to make their mates think they’re cool or make a girl like them by showing off their amateur-grade football knowledge. These days, it’s down to those purists who watch the beautiful game purely because that’s what it is: beautiful. Whether it’s a romper-stomper going in at one end or a penalty being conceded at the other, step away other people because this year is going to drive us nuts. So then, onto business! Here is how I think the league will shape up this season………
Total spent: £71m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Sokratis from Borussia Dortmund has to be my pick. He may be 30 years old but he has a sturdy head on his shoulders and defenders usually age better anyway. (Plus he has that cup-winning experience with Dortmund that Arsenal fans so crave!)
Manager rating: 8/10 – Unai Emery may be coming off the back of a stint at PSG where he seemed somewhat out of his depth, winning what he was supposed to most of the time but failing to impress in the Champions League, but the man won 3 consecutive Europa Leagues at Sevilla. For that reason, he has experience in a team that aims to come fourth and in winning Europa’s which makes him an excellent candidate for the job so I think the board have got this one spot on.
League prediction: 5th
Outlook: With all that being said, I don’t think Arsenal will go off the rails as much as United did post-Fergie. Emery seems to have a cool head on his shoulders, staying to win the league in France after being humiliated by Monaco. I don’t think they’re going to pull up any trees this season but I think the manager’s experience at Sevilla will pay off and they’ll give the Europa League a damn good go, with what was already a rather strong side beforehand let’s not forget.
Total spent: £46m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Has to be Jefferson Lerma from Levante, who is now their record signing and well worth the 25 mil. He looked good at the World Cup and, at 23, can still improve and Eddie Howe is a man who likes to develop young players. Now, this seems like a small change of tack, with Eddie going continental and challenging the likes of Dortmund for players, overall it’s a good sign.
Manager rating: 8/10 – I am a massive fan of Eddie Howe: How he works, how he sees the game and how he keeps Bournemouth going. I am one of those people pointing at him to be a future England manager (After Sir Southgate is done with it of course).
League prediction: 14th
Outlook: Overall, Bournemouth are still a small club from a small town on the South Coast with fans who are living the dream right now. I don’t see them qualifying for Europe any time soon but I do see them avoiding the drop once again. The people of spoken and they want ONE MORE YEAR OF BOURNEMOUTH, and I’m one of them. They’re a club that plays with passion and togetherness and I think it’s that that will pull them through and solidify their position.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Total spent: £63m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: I’m going for the 9 million pound signing of Bernardo from Red Bull Leipzig. A 23 year old Brazilian, I can’t say I know a lot about him but he played almost half the league games in a team that finished 2nd and 6th in the Bundesliga, so for a team like Brighton to get him is a phenomenal signing.
Manager rating: 6.5/10 – Hughton is another plucky manager with a team from a small seaside town. He has a good footballing brain and has been unlucky in his past career. At Brighton, though, he’s found a place where they’re willing to give him time and they have been proven right in doing so, may it go on.
League prediction: 16th
Outlook: Brighton only just escaped the drop last season and all plaudits must go to the manager for what was a whirlwind of a ride for their fans. This year, I think they’re going to try and have very much the same as, like Bournemouth, they’re also a team in dreamland and they’re coming off the back of their first full season of PL football and will be aching for a third come May. I see them beating the drop again, but only just!
Total spent: £30m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: A tough decision, what with them also getting Big Joe between the sticks for a measly 3 mil, but I’m going for the signing of Ben Gibson here from Middlesbrough. He may have been relegated with them last season but for me he looked rather good while doing it and, with some playing time, he isn’t old and might eventually follow in James Tarkowski’s footsteps and earn himself an England call up. You heard it here first! (If you haven’t read the Middlesbrough fan forums)
Manager rating: 7/10 – Sean Dyche is a man who sounds like he’s just smoked 30 fags before doing his interview and, on the pitch, you can still hear him above 70,000 voices. This isn’t me complaining, I’m actually a huge fan of what he has done at Burnley, bringing them up, taking them down and bringing them up again to get the prized chalice of European football, his achievements speak for themselves.
League prediction: 12th
Outlook: The Burnely Express are a team that doesn’t take any sh*t. If you’re beating them it’s likely a one nil. They defend and attack together and that worked so well last season they scared a bunch of Spurs fans by being in the Champions League places for a while. This season I expect a lot of the same, but of course they (hopefully) might have to deal with the Europa League effect which could be of some detriment to their league position.
Total spent: £27m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: To be honest, Cardiff haven’t impressed me with their summer dealings, overpaying for their Championship signings. Bobby Reid is going to have to be the guy I’m going to stump for though as he was very impressive last season, playing every game and scoring 19 goals as Bristol City made a push for the playoffs. They failed….but hey I have to pick someone!
Manager rating: 3/10 – I’m not a fan of Neil Warnock in any sense of the word. He’s a man who gets teams up using ugly football and is very unwilling to change his ways, let’s just say I’m not going to be running to catch one of his team’s games this season.
League prediction: 20th
Outlook: Cardiff had the surprising stat of only completing 59% of their passes last season and this is exactly why I’ve chucked them in at 20th in my league table. They might pick up a few points this season but I just don’t think Neil Warnock is the man to keep them up and I expect them to be facing down the barrel for most of this season.
Total spent: £123m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: A special mention here goes to the signing of Mateo Kovacic on loan, but I have to go for Jorginho from Napoli. Sarri seems like a cool customer and his story seems like a fairytale, so I think taking Jorginho with him was a damn good idea. With Jorginho there to show everybody how it’s going to be, Sarri has someone in the dressing room who knows and trusts his methods which will help him convince the rest of the squad to up their workrate, not something Chelsea are known for. (If a manager has made them work too hard, they usually revolt and get him sacked)
Manager rating: 8/10 – As I said before, Sarri is a man who knows how to calculate, coming from being a professional accountant. He spent a lot of his early career at small Tuscan towns before hitting the big time and it is said that mainly of the games biggest managers are HUGE fans of his and, after reading into his background, so am I!
League prediction: 4th
Outlook: Thibaut Courtois going out the door was a huge move (not least for United fans fearing for De Gea’s future) and how Kepa does is going to have a big impact on this season for them. As I said, Sarri is a cool customer so I trust his decision-making there. In addition, he’s a manger who loves high workrate and attacking football which Chelsea are well capable of and I think that’ll pay off for them this year.
Total spent: £9m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Without a shadow of a doubt, that man is Max Meyer from Schalke. A 22 year old German international, once hailed as the “German Messi”, he has fallen off the wagon a little since captaining Germany to Olympic Silver. That, however, is the type of player Roy Hodgson likes to play with and, if he works the wonders he has with Zaha, Meyer might well be on his way back to stardom and Palace will be dangerous this season,
Manager rating: 6/10 – He didn’t cut it at Liverpool or England level, but I think in Palace, old Woy Hodgson has found his level. He’s not got an attractive style of football but those who have played for him speak of his pragmatic approach to the game and he showed that with his excellent rescue effort last season.
League prediction: 10th
Outlook: After losing a record amount of their opening games last season, Palace pulled off a wonderful escape last season, buying into Hodgson’s tactics almost safely staying in the league almost as if they had never had that disastrous opening. With quality players to boot, I think Palace will pull off some good surprise results this season (maybe even continuing to be one of Liverpool’s many thorns) and finish again in the safety of mid-table.
Total spent: £82m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: The Toffees have had a damn strong transfer window, signing Kurt Zouma on loan and 3 Barcelona players. That’s why I’m lumping for Andre Gomes on loan. He made several appearances in the league winning team last season, also winning the league during his time with Benfica and the Euros with Portugal. Although he didn’t turn many heads in his second season at the Nou Camp, I think Everton is just the place for him to show again what he can really do.
Manager rating: 7.5/10 – Was unlucky last season to be derailed by the interest of his new employers, but now he’s finally here and Marco Silva could really do some good work at Everton if he gets his way.
League prediction: 7th
Outlook: Everton were unlucky to go through a poor season last year, with the managers just not seeming to be right for them and Koeman maybe not really given the time. Now, with Silva and still some quality players to go with their new signings, I think they’re going to be right back up where they belong, just behind the real leviathans. In addition to this, they’ve got some real quality coming from their youngsters and if they continue in this vein they’ll be in good stead come May.
Total spent: £98m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Fulham are one of the teams who have quite impressed me with their summer dealings, revamping their squad ready for a tough Premier League season. Out of all of them, Alfie Mawson from Swansea is my pick. He was a player I’ve been keeping my eye on for a while and although, like poor Ben Gibson, he was relegated last season I’m rather surprised a bigger team didn’t go in for him as he’s still young but has a good defending brain. Special mention also goes to getting Mitrovic from Newcastle and Andre Schurrle on loan!
Manager rating: 5/10 – Jokanovic is someone who was very unlucky not to manage in the Premier League with Watford but he’s gone away, he’s come back with Fulham and now he’s got his chance. I’ve sort of low-balled his score a bit but he could really change my opinion, depending on how Fulham do.
League prediction: 19th
Outlook: Sorry Fulham fans, I’m not sure if this is the dream return to the Premier League that you’ve been dreaming of. Did well to win the playoffs last season, but I think with the power of the league this year, Fulham’s squad just won’t be one of the ones that cut it. Schuerrle was a good player to have a few years ago but I just feel like maybe his powers have faded a little since his Chelsea days. Quality transfer season and, again, maybe I’ve low-balled them a little but hey, who’s to say?
Total spent: £41m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: I’ve got to be honest here and say I don’t know much about Huddersfield’s signings, but Adama Diakhaby is a guy who really helped a good Monaco side finish as runners up last season and is a France U-21 international so for a small fish like Huddersfield to get him in shows some impressive quality.
Manager rating: 6.5/10 – David Wagner kept a very cool head last season when at times his team seemed in real trouble. But he kept it together and kept the dream going for those fans who weren’t alive when Huddersfield won the division.
League prediction: 18th
Outlook: I’m afraid that this season may not be the same as last for Huddersfield. Last time out they really struggled to score goals and approached the league, like ol’ Woy, with a very pragmatic approach, a goal here a goal there getting the job done. Sadly, I don’t think that way of playing can work two years running and, in my view, this year is going to be a lot tougher for the Terriers.
Total spent: £103m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Here I could go for Jonny Evans, Caglar Söyüncü or any of their new players as frankly they’re all pretty good. But, in reality, I have to say that what makes the Leicester fans the happiest is probably keeping hold of Harry Maguire and getting Vardy signed on to a new deal and I couldn’t agree more. Leicester have shown again that, even if a club like Manchester United come calling, you CAN keep hold of a player if you really want to, hats off to them!
Manager rating: 7.5/10 – Claude Puel is another manager who was unlucky in my opinion not to get more time at Southampton. Leicester, however, saw the talent in him and he’s done a pretty good job so far and he signs cheap, young players who he can develop and, given a couple of years, I think he could build a real team that could be a force.
League prediction: 8th
Outlook: I could look very stupid for saying this, but I don’t see Leicester winning the league again this season. They’re still suffering a little from the hangover from that and, although they’re a tough old team to beat, I don’t think they can match what they did then. Saying that, I don’t see them being that far behind and I think, if everything goes for them, they could probably make a good push for European football this season, even if I don’t think they’ll quite be there.
Total spent: £163m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: As much as it pains me to say it as a United fan, Liverpool have flexed their muscle in the transfer market this season and, although some may moan about Klopp’s hypocrisy, I for one am terrified of what they can do now with someone like Alisson between the sticks. The goalkeeper and the centre back was a position that Liverpool fans were crying out for for years since Carra retired they lost Pepe Reina, so with Van Dijk last season and the Brazilian this one, I think Liverpool are close to the finished article and are really going to come strong this year….*gulp*
Manager rating: 9/10 – One of the real super-managers that the league has been blessed with in recent years. Jurgen hasn’t really received the rub of the green the last couple of years but had a superb run last season to the Champions League final and I back his calm leadership to do very well again this season and maybe end that trophy drought.
League prediction: 2nd
Outlook: I think Liverpool this season are one of the teams that could give City a real run for their money this season. Slowly but surely, Klopp has fixed the holes in the Liverpool ship and now their first 11 is looking like a real terrifying propsect. Along with this, their depth has improved significantly with those who had a starting berth last season now making one hell of a strong bench this one, with the likes of Adam Llalana, Wijnaldum and Shaqiri (if he doesn’t start) meaning that Liverpool have all of the tools now to make a real challenger.
Total spent: £64m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: City didn’t need a lot after last season’s near-perfect year but Mahrez was a player they wanted and, after losing out on Alexis Sanchez, they made sure they got him. He’s only going to add even more depth to an already terrifying attack.
Manager rating: 9.5/10 – I’ve got to be honest, when I first heard that Pep was coming to the Prem, I literally wanted to see him fail, it was all I thought about for a good period of time. I thought “Yeah, come on then you pompous Spaniard, lets see how you deal with the best league in the world!”, and for the first season I was happy. Especially since he could only manage 4th with City I was thinking “See? Not so easy is it!”, and then…..well….he proved what an absolute genius he is, scoring 100 points in the process. Needless to say, he’s definitely proved me wrong…
League prediction: 1st
Outlook: After last year, there’s literally nobody else I could pick for the Champions-elect this season. After the season they had last year, although I HATE to say it, I fully back them to be the first team to retain the Premier League in 10 years. If anyone is going to be the person to do that, it’s Pep Guardiola and, with the team that he has at his fingers, he didn’t need to bring in a lot during the summer as he has everything he needs to annihilate some oppositions.
Total spent: £74m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Diogo Dalot, Lee Grant or Fred? Those are my options? Well, I guess it’ll have to be Fred since we’ve seen the last of Grant during the pre-season and Dalot won’t be world class for another couple of years yet, if ever. Honestly, this transfer market was a painful one for United fans since there wasn’t really much of anything going on except the rumour-mill (which I never trust anyway) linking us to everyone and anyone. What I wanted was a statement signing like Maguire, or even Godin gave my heart a bit of a pump on deadline day but, as with a couple of years back, this summer was an absolute flop
Manager rating: 8.5/10 – If this had been 2 years ago, I probably would’ve rated Mourinho a bit higher. Hell, even a year ago I probably would have but his conduct over the previous year, his slamming of his star players and his moaning about backstage happenings has brought him down a bit in my estimations. Don’t get me wrong, somewhere behind those childish exterior antics I still believe there’s a genius hiding, he just has to shut up and let him do his thing!
League prediction: 3rd
Outlook: Although, as I said, United’s transfer window has left a lot to be desired, what many people are forgetting is the actual quality that is still in this United team and what more it has to offer. Sanchez I don’t believe had fully moulded into the squad last season, Pogba didn’t show his best, Luke Shaw was still a chubby bugger and young ones like Rashford, Pereira and Bailly didn’t really get enough playing time to show what they could do, although they look promising. Pereira especially might come in this season and could well show something after many years of just being talked about, plus Pogba had a quality World Cup in the very position Mourinho wants him in. Therefore, I think United will still be up there and may strengthen more in January as the Champions reaches it’s latter stages which Mourinho isn’t afraid to do, but sadly I don’t think it’s their year.
Total spent: £31m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Again, I don’t know a lot about Newcastle’s signings, but Fabian Schaer is a quality centre back who deserves approval and will hopefully shore up a rather leaky Newcastle defence. Rafa Benitez has a good head on his shoulders and usually knows what he’s doing though so we’ll see how it goes.
Manager rating: 8/10 – Rafa Benitez is idolised by the Georgie following right now, and rightly so. He was worked absolute wonders with his squad on what are absolute shoestrings in the modern game. Keeping them up last season was an absolute miracle, but he makes good signings and has a cool head – he’s been there before. Whether he’ll stay much longer working under the pillock that is Mike Ashley remains to be seen, but the fans are getting a little edgy and for good reason.
League prediction: 11th
Outlook: After somehow dragging them to a 10th placed finish last season, I think many of the fans will be crying out for the same this year. They know they’re not going to be picking teams this season, but Rafa has made some decent deals and is trying to mould this team into something that could give the big dogs something to think about and, given a bit more cash, he could well do just that.
Total spent: £56m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Southampton’s strikers last season were a little, if not very, shaky last season and almost lead them to relegation, so someone like Danny Ings could prove very useful for them. He only got one goal for Liverpool last season but then he only got a handful of injury-free opportunities and he will be hungry to show what he can really do.
Manager rating: 6.5/10 – Mark Hughes was a quality striker who played in some teams that played some beautiful football. Unfortunately, his teams do the exact opposite of that. They are plucky underdogs who kick pieces out of their opponents and live on a long ball life support and it is just ugly to watch. Southampton have a history of discovering good managers who go on to better things: Pochettino, Koeman, Puel. Mark Hughes is not one of these, he is a dinosaur winding down his career.
League prediction: 15th
Outlook: Southampton barely survived last season and I expect this season to be no different. Mark Hughes is an expert at avoiding the drop, I’ll give that to him, but he isn’t much good at anything else so for me, with the squad that they have these days, I expect them to be in the battle or at least drifting towards it for most of this season. I’ve read quite a lot about Southampton and their “black box” of scouting, but I have no idea how it managed to pick Mark Hughes out of that hat…
Total spent: £0 (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Umm…..uhh…..Harry Kane signing a new contract? The amount of season tickets they sold? I dunno…..
Manager rating: 8.5/10 – Mauricio Pochettino is another of the footballing geniuses currently gracing the Premier League and he deserves no limit of praise for developing Tottenham into a real force, much to the chagrin of many Gunners fans. He has developed young, classy players who fit well together and Spurs on most days can be an absolute joy to watch.
League prediction: 6th
Outlook: After another stellar season last year, I really expected Tottenham to push on, make some big signings and consolidate their position as maybe part of a new big 4/6. Whether the new stadium costs are the reason for it, but they really needed to sign some useful squad players. In terms of the starting 11, they have one of the best in the league, if not Europe, and their front 4 of Kane, Alli, Eriksen and Son can tear even the best defences apart on their day. However, the problem is the backup to that doesn’t cut it for me, I think the total of 0 signings could well be quite detrimental to them this season and they’ll definitely need someone in January if they want to push for titles this year.
Total spent: £22m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: To convince a Spaniard to move from Barcelona to Watford permanently has to be applauded so therefore my choice here is Gerard Deulofeu. Watford tend to focus on developing players so we’ll have to wait and see what the others produce.
Manager rating: 6.5/10 – Javi Gracia came in last season and Watford were in a bad way. He did his best to do what he could and he just about managed to do that. The problem was, they lost half of the games they played under him and just didn’t show the promise that they seemed to in the first half of the season under Marco Silva.
League prediction: 17th
Outlook: Watford, like Southampton, are another team I’ve read a lot about in terms of the system they run behind the scenes and it seems pretty good if you’re going to be chopping and changing managers once a year. However, this year, their recruitment for me hasn’t been what it was in previous years and, for that reason, I’m predicting another tough year for the Hornets, albeit still staying up.
Total spent: £93m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: West Ham made some damn quality signings in this window and are another of the teams to impress me and I think Pellegrini is starting to build a side that will get the Hammers fans back on side this season with some good football to come, even if they don’t like their new stadium. Felipe Anderson has to be the pick of the bunch and I for one am very excited to see what he will produce this season.
Manager rating: 7.5/10 – Pellegrini has already won the Premier League at City, but this job should be under a somewhat smaller microscope and will allow him to really showcase his managerial talents. I know that the West Ham fans are still very demanding, eager to return to their glory days, but I think Manuel should feel a lot more comfortable in this position than he ever did at the Etihad.
League prediction: 9th
Outlook: With their newly improved team, I expect West Ham to improve vastly on last season when they seemed to lose their way under David Moyes and it was no surprise he was out the door at the end of it. This year, however, I feel like they could have a much improved end-product with some really ambitious signings that will suit their style of play. They already had a strong squad and, with the new additions and a better manager to boot, I expect them to break top-half if not challenge for European places.
Total spent: £63m (According to Transfermarkt.co.uk)
Best signing: Wolves are last but most definitely not least in this respect. After signing pretty much half the Portugal squad (Pepe will still be the one that got away), they have made some larger than life signings and I hope the Molyneux crowd is ready for some good football this season. Joao Moutinho for 5 million in this market is a deal they should put on the entrance to their stadium because they must be laughing because, at only 31, I think he still has a few good years in him left and at a team like Wolves he is going to get games son!
Manager rating: 7/10 – The mere fact that Nuno came to manage Wolves after they had just come up from League One was nothing short of a wonder signing for the Wolves directors and he showed last season why that was so. His inspired signings of his former Porto players meant Wolves went straight to the top and played some bloody good football doing it.
League prediction: 13th
Outlook: I think that Wolves will be the best-performing newcomer from the Championship and the real surprise package this season. They made some real, premier-quality signings and I expect them to shine at some point this season. I reckon they’ll be well clear of the drop and that they’ll have some of the teams lower down in the league shaking in their boots when players like Moutinho, Helder Costa and Diogo Jota come to play. Watch out this season for there is a pack of Wolves wandering about!