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The Ball Says

The new season is upon us. The English Premier League, the biggest league in the world, kicks off in a few moments, and we waited with bated breath for will undoubtedly be an action packed 380 games full of twists, turns and drama. With an incredibly mouthwatering transfer window just concluded, and the introduction of VAR, this season like many before it, is bound to be an amazing spectacle. We take a quick preview at what lies in store in the form of predictions for the upcoming season.

The Relegation Battle

It has been years since there’s been an incredibly dramatic relegation battle, but this looks likely to break that duck. With many of the lower sides rife with problems and quite frankly on equal footing in many regards.

Top Contenders: Sheffield United(SHU), Norwich City, Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle United(NUFC), Aston Villa(AVA).

NUFC have had an absolutely horrific transfer window. They lost their world class manager (Rafa Benitez), and two best players (Rondon and Ayoze Perez). They sought to replace the manager with Steve Bruce and brought in Joelinton from the Bundesliga. A serious downgrade on a team that was already pushing well above its weight due to the tutelage of a world class manager whom they no longer have.

Brighton on the other hand have been in and about the relegation zone ever since they came up. Potter has come in as manager, but I don’t think there’s much he can do with the squad he has at hand; although they have signed the highly talented Trossard, it will be a straight fight between Norwich and Brighton as to who survives the drop.

Aston Villa adequately recruited, and should be safe.

Crystal Palace are always contenders for the drop, but this season it may be even more dangerous, as Zaha does not want to be there, and it remains to be seen how well he will play for them. Also, they lost Aaron Wan Bissaka and failed to replace him. They were terrible at home last season, and relied heavily on Zaha and Milivojevic’s penalties. If more transfer rumours swirl around Zaha, it may worsen.

Sheffield United quite simply do not have the requisite quality within their team to stay up. Simple.

It will be a huge battle between Crystal Palace, Brighton and Norwich to avoid the 18th spot. Their performances against one another would determine who gets the drop. Crystal Palace for all their frailties did bring in McCarthy and Camarasa, and still have a decent enough to team to at least grind out draws. Norwich and Brighton will both attempt to play “good football” which will undoubtedly lead to more open defences, which may equal a greater amount of losses. If Norwich stand by their manager and not panic and sack him, and if Teemu Pukki can transfer his championship scoring to the Premier League, I think they may just be able to edge out Brighton. However, Brighton do have a decent set of players, and although they still rely heavily on the 37 year old Glenn Murray, the effect of Trossard and Gross could be able to keep them up, however, I doubt it.

 

Predictions: Sheffield United, Newcastle United and Brighton

 

 

The Best of The Rest

Main contenders: West Ham, Wolves, Leicester, Watford, Bournemouth, Everton

Wolves astonished everyone last season with their dazzling performances. Marauding wing backs, dangerous front two, rock solid centre backs, and a mecurial midfield, contributed to an amazing display last season. However, the fact that Everton greatly underperformed last season, has greatly gone under the radar; surely Marco Silva and his men have learnt from their mistakes? On the other hand Watford have done smart recruitment bringing in Welbeck and Sarr, and should pose a problem for most teams. Wolves have the Europa to contend with, and don’t exactly have a large squad, also, Bournemouth are poor defensively, Leicester failed to replace Harry Maguire and such will be left in the lurch, and Watford are a bit shaky. Everton on the other hand are armed with Richarlison, Bernard, Iwobi and Moise Kean, with the incredibly talented Sigurdsson behind them; The Merseyside team is poised to lead the pack, and in fact if the top 6 aren’t careful, they might break in.

 

Prediction: The best of the rest (i.e teams other than “the top 6”) will be: Everton

The Champions League Spots (3rd and 4th)

Main contenders: Spurs, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea

The transfer window has been incredibly intriguing, and the amount of plots and sub-plots that have occurred have made for a fascinating showdown. The difference between 3rd and 5th last season was a mere 2 points, showing just how tight the battle between these teams is. Arsenal had the most work to do in the window, having let go of Cech, Welbeck, Ramsey amongst others, in addition to having the worst defence of the teams in question. Step in Raul Sanllehi, modelling the club in a modern format and marshalling their transfers till Edu came in, Arsenal blitzed the window, and arguably “won” the transfer window. Despite a reported transfer kitty of 45m, Arsenal sign Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, William Saliba (who went on loan to St Ettiene) and Nicolas Pepe. Impressive, however question marks remain over their defence.

Chelsea on the other hand finished 3rd and won the Europa (a very decent season), however, they (similar to Newcastle) lost their top class coach Maurizio Sarri and lost their world class phenome, Eden Hazard. A transfer ban prevented them from signing anyone, so they have to rely on what they have.

Manchester United spent quite a lot of money in the window, and went out to fix their defensive issues. They did just that. Signing arguably England’s best right back after Trent Alexander-Arnold and the humongous Harry Maguire. Added to that they brought in Daniel James. However, they lost Ander Herrera and Romelu Lukaku, and surprisingly failed to replace them both. For a team that was already lacking in central midfield and in goals from forwards, to sell two of their best not replace them is questionable to say the least.

Spurs cashed out and bought Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso. A very good window, although they did lose Trippier and Llorente, and failed to replace both (which is surprising given Kane’s injury record and Aurier’s erratic nature).

The Champions League spots will go to Spurs and Arsenal. Frank Lampard is out of his depth, and would surely be outclassed by the “veterans” in Pochettino and Emery; in addition, the fact that they lost Hazard and couldn’t replace him, puts a huge question mark on their ability to score goals. This is worsened by the fact that Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus Cheek are both on long term injuries. Neither Tammy Abraham, nor Olivier Giroud nor Pulisic nor Willian have shown the ability to score 15+ goals in a season. Manchester United will also struggle for goals having lost out on Lukaku, and have the worst midfield in the top 6 and the second worst attack. Arsenal’s firepower is astonishing, and they have arguably the second best midfield in the league. Spurs on the other hand are the most balanced team, with a tight defence, great midfield, and a goal machine upfront.

 

 

Prediction: Spurs and Arsenal

 

Premier League Title

Main contenders: Liverpool and Manchester City

Last season saw one of the tightest title races in recent times. Liverpool and City pushed each other to the very last day, and whilst this season may not be as dramatic, it will certainly be a tight race.

Liverpool have not reinforced their ranks, whilst City have brought in Angelino, Rodri and Cancelo. Even before this window, City had by far the better squad, now it’s even more crazy. Liverpool are still heavily dependent on their front 3, whilst their midfield is setup to simply be a work engine, no goals seem to come from anywhere other than the front 3. City on the other hand boast of Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Sane, Gabriel Jesus Bernardo Silva and Riyadh Mahrez, whilst midfielders like Gundogan are not shy of having a pop at goal. Despite how close last season’s race was, it is important to know that City won the league without their best player (Kevin De Bruyne) who is now back, fit and raring to go. City showed weakness when Fernandinho got injured last season, but they’ve now brought in Joao Cancelo. The best Liverpool can hope for is that Salah scores 20-30 goals and they have the best defensive record in the league (problem is that this exact thing happened, and it still wasn’t enough).

Man City will win the league for a third year in a row

 

 

Prediction: Man City

 

Golden Boot

Main Contenders: Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Sergio Aguero, Pierre Emerrick Aubameyang, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy

The league will be full of goals this year, and with the introduction of VAR, surely there will be more penalties than usual. The race for the Golden Boot will be hot. Each of the contenders have proven that they are goal machines, and as such, really this race could go either way.

However, Aubameyang will win the golden boot this season. The reason, Nicolas Pepe. Aubameyang came in January of 2018, and from then till the end of the 2017/2018 season, he outscored everyone. He then came the next season (his first full season), and won the Golden Boot (shared with Mane and Salah). This is amazing considering the fact that Aubameyang misses a lot of goals, but also the fact that he played most of last season out of position, and for the first quarter of the season, wasn’t even always a starter in the team. However, now he will be playing in his preferred central position, but more importantly, he finally has a fellow forward who can keep up with him on the break, which is something he thrives on, yet has lacked at Arsenal. In his one and only season with O.Dembele, Aubameyang scored 31 goals and won the Bundesliga Golden Boot (beating Lewandowski in the process). Considering Nicolas Pepe is of a similar mould, it’s hard to look past this being the case.

Aguero is injury prone, and would at some point miss a load of games; although Mane won it last season, he isn’t a proven goalscorer; Jamie Vardy’s best years are behind him and I don’t believe Salah can do a 3 peat, especially as he has gradually begun to plateau and is not on penalties. Harry Kane will be the biggest threat, but methinks the creative engine of Ceballos and Ozil coupled with the super speed of Nicolas Pepe and industriousness of Lacazette should give Aubameyang the edge.

Prediction: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Playmaker Of The Season

Main Contenders: Kevin De Bruyne, Ryan Fraser, Christian Eriksen, Mesut Ozil, Paul Pogba, Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Maddison, Gylfi Sigurdsson

Ryan Fraser was immense last season, and was bettered only by Eden Hazard at the end of the season in terms of assists. However, it is important to note that a great chunk of those did come from set pieces. James Maddison created the most chances last season, whilst Trent Alexander Arnold’s crosses were menacing all season. The key will come down to the attacking players in front of the playmaker. You can be as creative as you want, but if those in front of you aren’t converting your chances, then there’s little that you can do. For this one, Kevin De Bruyne stands heads and shoulders above anyone else as the favourite. Although, Eriksen and Ozil have pedigree behind them, and Trent has Mane and Salah to aim for, KDB has a plethora of targets, and is so proficient at finding his men (who all incidentally are prolific goalscorers)

 

 

Prediction: Kevin De Bruyne

Young Player of The Year

Main Contenders: Moise Kean, Marcus Rashford, Declan Rice, Dani Ceballos, Kieran Tierney, Daniel James, Tanguy Ndombele, Aaron Wan Bisaka

This award is open to players aged 24 and under, so basically the number of contenders are numerous, and surely players not indicated above will be in the run in. If Marcus Rashford can finally play up to his touted potential and be consistent, this should be a walk in the park for him. However, if Man United do well and it is down to a defensive shift, AWB will be the favourite to do win this. Moise Kean is an interesting proposition, and with Richarlison and Iwobi playing on either side of him, he should be able to wreak havoc on many teams and defences. However, if Marco Silva can properly oil Everton’s engine, Kean could bag up to 15 goals, which I suspect would be enough to land him this award.

 

Prediction: Moise Kean

 

 

We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

 

By:

 

Emilio Estevez

One comment
  1. Sophie Belle

    A well-informed write-up. Let’s see how the season goes. As predictable as the Premier League is, there’s still so much to look forward to.

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