Less than one month ago saw the 2018 FIFA World Cup come to a thrilling conclusion, with France emerging as deserving Victors and England finishing 4th in a performance that encapsulated the nation. All eyes now return to Club football, as the English Premier League commences this upcoming weekend. Partisan lines are drawn once again as Man City look to retain their title, and 3 teams begin their journey that will unfortunately end in relegation. I’m no football expert, but like with my World Cup predictions, let’s see who I predict to finish where.
20) Huddersfield: I mean no offence to anyone from Huddersfield, but they’re not exactly a modern footballing great. Rather, they’re destined to become the Stoke or West Brom of this season, in both play style and destiny to be relegated. Although the addition of Lossl and Erik Durm from the Bundesliga adds some European flair to the Yorkshire men, but that’s about it. Expect a side that struggles to string together a series of goals or even wins.
19) Cardiff: The first side from the newly promoted teams on the list, and unfortunately for the Welsh side it’s likely they’re heading straight back down. Neil Warnock is a specialist in getting sides promoted, but Cardiff aren’t likely to stay up. If we’re looking at total number of Welsh teams in each division, it’ll be Championship 2-0 Premiership this time next season.
18) Watford: It was a tough call between who out of Watford and 17th place would find themselves on the losing end of the relegation battle, but Watford have been in decline for months: a seriously unimpressive and underwhelming side even at the best of times. They may feel that a strong start is commonplace for them if their incredible 3-3 draw with Liverpool on last season’s opener is any indication, but Watford will find themselves mired, struggling, and the final casualty in the 2018/19 Premier League season.
17) Crystal Palace: Woy Hodgson has just signed a new contract with Cwystal Pawace (that hurt to read and type). That’s one thing that I would automatically have Palace relegated for, but the bargains of Max Meyer and Cheikou Kouyate add some much needed flair and change to an otherwise conservative and lacklustre side. Come the 30 game boundary, Palace will be struggling, but this will come down to how badly each team fares against the top 6: Watford may be slaughtered, Palace may come out unscathed against the likes of Man Utd.
16) Southampton: The sale of Virgil Van Dijk may have killed any chances Southampton had left of reaching the Premier League top half, which combined with no clinical attackers, could prove to be another troublesome, tumultuous series of games for the Saints.
15) Leicester: Leicester were one of only two teams to make a profit during this Summer’s transfer window (the only other being Newcastle), and the loss of star man Mahrez to Man City strikes a cruel blow to the former Premier League Champions (2 years on that’s still strange to see)
14) Bournemouth: Another side that remains relatively unchanged following the Summer transfer window, and there’s not much else I can say. Bournemouth will stay calm and afloat. No worries here for everyone’s mutually respected club.
13) Brighton: Chris Hughton is a great manager, far better than the side he manages. Jahanbakhsh is one of the most exciting prospects coming out of the Eredivise, so when partnered with the likes of Pascal Gross, the South Coast side could be one to watch for scraping the top half of the table.
12) Fulham: Did you know that Ryan Sessegnon was 18 years old? I’m surprised no one mentions it every time he touches the ball(!). Fulham barely scraped into the Premier League through the Championship play offs, so many would expect them to be closer to the bottom, but if they’re anything like the Fulham of old, expect them to be midtable obscurity before Sessegnon inevitably signs with Man Utd or Spurs.
11) Burnley: Sean Dyche, the quintessential Englishman, astounded many by taking his Burnley all the way into the Europa League spots last season. Good fortune won’t be around this time however. Few impressive additions to the Squad in the Summer, such as Joe Hart and Ben Gibson, will make Burnley a very predictable side to face, and this could lead to Burnley languishing in the middle table because of it.
10) Wolves: Portugal may have taken the Euros in 2016, and they’ve now added the city of Wolverhampton to their conquests. The addition of Rui Patricio to join stalwarts like Ruben Neves and Jota and Wolves look set to make a statement of intent in their Premier League return.
9) Newcastle: Mike Ashley’s travelling Circus never fails to amaze me. Despite the repetitive cycle of depression-inducing transfer windows, nothing seems to change that often. But, victories always seem to be strung together either thanks to a series of bottom half sides, or with convincing victories against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, as seen last season.
8) West Ham: This is the most promising West Ham side of the last few years, where Andy Carroll could actually score and Dimitri Payet wasn’t holding the club to ransom over his market value and wages. Fascinating signings like Felipe Anderson from Lazio could be an early sign of Manuel Pellegrini bringing exciting goalfests to the Olympic Stadium. Or, scrape a few 1-0 victories. The West Ham way, Ladies and Gentlemen.
7) Everton: Many football fans jeered and laughed at Everton last season, myself included, after seeing an expensive Summer transfer window fail to produce the expected results. This, combined with a Sam Allardyce disaster-class, leaves Coach Marco Silva with an uphill battle to keep Everton as a top half side. This battle may be won however with some quality signings in Barcelona trio Lucas Digne (LB), Yeray Mina (CB), and Andre Gomes, as well as exciting Brazilians in Bernard and Richarlison. Say what you will about the vast amounts of money spent, this team should produce results and will throw Everton forcefully back into Europa League contention.
6) Man Utd: Things just haven’t panned out for Jose Mourinho, and this season will be the final nail in his Red Devils Coffin. A lacklustre transfer window (where every man, woman, and child was linked to be their new CB option) and rising player dissatisfaction will see Man Utd implode. Pogba wants to leave. Martial is underutilised. Ed Woodward further diminishes his name and Jose’s by extension. Whilst opposition like Chelsea seem to be emerging from their recent slump, Man Utd only seem to be sinking further under Mourinho. A scrappy battle for the Europa League spot could ensue between
5) Arsenal: Unai Emery is the new man at the helm of Arsenal, and his signings look to have sealed the cracks and frailties found towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. Although Sokratis and Lichtsteiner may prove a hindrance to commentators, but Arsenal’s defence has been their Achilles’ heel for the past few seasons, and a more integrated Aubameyang could see the pacey Gabonese striker push for the Golden Boot and help Arsenal settle for the Europa League.
4) Spurs: St Totteringham’s Day may have ended in the last couple of years, and Tottenham will solidify their place as a top 4 Premiership side this year. Following a morale boosting World Cup campaign over half of the starting 11, a reunited Spurs won’t contest for the title, but Kane will be as prolific as ever, cementing his status as a top class Prem striker akin to Henry and Shearer, though it will be down to Alli and Son, the less consistent midfielders, to provide and conquer for Kane.
3) Chelsea: New season, new manager for Chelsea as former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri takes the helm. Fun fact: 4 Italian Managers have won the Premier League, half of which accomplished so with Chelsea. Sarri has already made enemies with Guardiola by stealing the signature of midfielder Jorginho, and a lack of consistent attacking options (currently Morata, Hazard, and Willian), Chelsea will have to rely on a formidable new midfield and the eternally strong defence they seem to have in order to secure a Champions League position they failed to reach last year. The reduced strain of having no Champions League campaign will be Chelsea’s benefit over surrounding teams in Manchester and London.
2) Liverpool: The Reds of Merseyside (no, that’s not their PES name) utilised gegenpressen football to extreme lengths last season, making the Champions League final and producing the most entertaining football in England. Jurgen Klopp has only strengthened his Liverpool side with acquisitions like Naby Keita, Fabinho, and Alisson Becker, so their formidable nature should not be questioned. They beat Champions Man City 3 times last Season in all competitions, but will be pipped to the post once again with Champions League desires taking precedent once more.
1) Man City: Complete club dominance is often never fun to watch, as marquee teams emerge head and shoulders (like Joe Hart in a shampoo aisle) above any other credible competition. This was the story of Pep Guardiola’s side last year, and this year looks to be no different. Often tipped last season to equal the ‘Invincibles’, a Man City team with the addition of Riyad Mahrez and minimal losses (only Yaya Toure) looks to continue the reign of domestic football dominance one can only associate with Pep Guardiola. With a forunate European draw as well, Guardiola may very well secure the Champions League that eluded him at Bayern Munich. It will take something special from Chelsea or Liverpool to dent City’s chances. This season should be a good one Folks.
Outside of England, here’s my brief predictions for who will win all else in major European football:
PL Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku
PFA Player of the Year: Kevin De Bruyne
PFA Young Player of the Year: Ryan Sessegnon
La Liga-Real Madrid
Europa League-Inter Milan (after being eliminated from the UCL Group Stage)
Ballon D’or-Kylian Mbappe
Puskas Award-Gareth Bale (vs Liverpool in the UCL Final to make it 2-1)