With just days left to the beginning of the English Premier League, fans are gearing up for another nail-biting season, with millions hoping that their club can reach the summit of EPL in May.
Leicester City’s unlikely triumph last season has reinvigorated the hope in fans of all clubs across the country who may think their club have a chance to follow in the footsteps of Jamie Vardy and co. Fans of clubs like West Ham, West Brom and Everton will be thinking of having a flutter on their side, although they won’t get the 5000-1 odds that a few lucky punters received before the beginning of the season last year.
Despite Leicester doing the unthinkable, it is unlikely that they or any of the other teams who aren’t part of the tradition ‘big sides’ will hold the Premier League Trophy aloft come the end of the season. Despite this, there are a number of contenders for the title and it will make for an intriguing season.
Three sides who disappointed last year will be back under new management this term, with the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea all welcoming new men at the helm. Pep Guardiola comes to the blue half of Manchester with an impeccable reputation with Barcelona and more recently with Bayern Munich. City have been busy in the transfer market with Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito and Leory Sane among the big transfers but it will be the purchase of John Stones for a considerable fee from Everton that will be the most intriguing of these transfers. The young Englishman will come under intense scrutiny with such a large transfer fee on his head. If Guardiola can manage to keep Sergio Aguero, who is the best striker in the league, free from injury, they will be very hard to stop. With De Bruyne and Silva providing the fire power, I think that City are the team to beat.
Across the city, Man United have a young starlet with an even bigger price tag to deal with and that is Paul Pogba who left United for Juventus before the end of Fergie’s reign. He now re-joins the club for over €100 million and he will have little time to settle into the team, as he aims to justify the largest transfer fee in the world to date. Pogba is joined at Old Trafford by new manager, Jose Mourinho, who will be eager to impress after such a dismal season with Chelsea last term, which saw him leave the Stamford Bridge Club, despite being the reigning champions. The ‘Special One’ will be undoubtedly plotting the downfall of his former club and he will be hoping new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic can help his side to a first title in the post-Fergie era.
Chelsea will be under the tutelage of Antonio Conte this season and the former Italian manager will be hoping that he can reignite the prowess of players like Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, who were well below par last season. They’ve added N’Golo Kante who took the league be storm last season with Leicester and Belgian striker Micky Batshuayi who comes to the Bridge with an impressive record for a 22 year old.
Leicester themselves will be looking to mount another challenge this season, but one of their biggest obstacles will be keeping hold of their stars, with top clubs lurking. They have managed to keep Vardy, which is a major plus but the loss of Kante and the continued pursuit of Mahrez by top clubs does not ogre well for the champions.
Arsene Wenger is once again bemoaning the lack of quality in the transfer market, as the list of players he ‘nearly’ signed continues to grow unabated. Arsenal fans will be heartened by the signing of Xhaka, but it doesn’t look as if they will get the top striker and centre-half that they so badly need to sustain a title challenge. Everyone knows they have an excellent squad with sublime playmakers, but it is their weaknesses at the back and failure to kill off weaker teams that has been their Achilles heel in recent seasons. If Wenger can pull it out of the bag in the transfer marker within the next month, they may have a chance. Otherwise, they will need to stay injury free for the season, which is about as likely as Leicester reclaiming the title.
Across London, Spurs’ fans will be hoping that last season’s form can be taken into this year, with Pochettino’s men taking everyone by surprise with their energetic displays, which saw them fall just short of winning the title. Dele Alli was the surprise package last season with some sublime performances and he was ably assisted by fellow Englishmen Harry Kane and Eric Dier. Victor Wanyama has re-joined his old boss from St Mary’s and although this transfer came in under the radar, Spurs have signed a really powerhouse of a midfielder who will add real steel to this side.
Liverpool flattered to deceive last season with a few false starts under new boss Jurgen Klopp, but there were signs that something special could emerge at Anfield. Injuries to Daniel Sturridge and the lacklustre performances of Christian Benteke blunted their goal scoring prowess but with Benteke looking like he is heading for the exit and the signing of Sadio Mane, Liverpool will be a different proposition this year. Robert Firmino and Coutinho will also look to improve on last season’s performances and the Scousers could be dark horses in the race for the title.
For years, the ‘top four’ were easily recognised but after a season of turmoil for the ‘top’ clubs it’s now very much a top ‘seven’, with any of the clubs mentioned able to sustain a serious title challenge. For what it’s worth, I’ll make a prediction for the top seven and I’ll monitor how I’m going throughout the season with a weekly review of the action.
- Man City
- Man United
Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero
Player of the Year: Kevin De Bruyne