So the new season is almost upon us. I’m not so sure if I’m even that excited by it all. Fake fans will no doubt scream through our TV sets of kneeling down players whilst subs and coaches wear masks a million miles apart seated separately spaced out in otherwise empty stands. Martin Tyler telling us all how great it is to be back but such a shame that we can’t be there with him to smell the stadium atmosphere…
I wonder if it’s all even worth it? All this chaos and organising all this razzmatazz and jazz… for what? So that big corporate sponsors don’t sue the FA Premier League? So that TV audiences in China, no sorry they’re banned, perhaps the Middle East and other parts of Asia, can watch their favourite players Salah & Son play in matches screened at midnight?
Perhaps there is a consensus that by playing the Premier League our country and its people will all be happier once again? Perhaps I will be, although I’ll still not be 100% all in… Because I just don’t like this new normal and all the crap that goes with it.
But settle for it I will… Let’s just get on with it and see what happens… Because football is back, in its newest form of energy sapping soulless showboating so here goes… The Premier League.. Who will win it?
Last season I predicted Manchester City would win the league and am not ashamed that I got it wrong. A bit about me, I always get it wrong, I’ve not won a bet since 2017 and I’m no expert (as all my friends keep telling me)… But I like to have my say… And I like to give my reason in why I think things will turn out the way they will.
This season I’m not so sure on the final outcome… I have no doubt in my mind the next champions of England will either be them, Manchester City or the current holders Liverpool, although Chelsea could be a dark horse in running them both close?
As it stands I’ll pomp for City but a lot needs to go right for them if I’m to be proven right myself. Still unsure about them defensively they have added Nathan Ake who I suppose is better (just) than what they have. In Ferran Torres they have a gem in the waiting, but is it too early for him to come good?
For Liverpool, the champions, and best team by a mile last year, having signed nobody of note a lot for me depends on Virgil van Dijk. I said last season put Virgil in the City side and they are champions… It is as simple as that… The difference between the two sides is one decent centre half.
I wonder if Mane & Salah & Firmino can stay fit all season? I wonder if they can deliver the consistent amount of goals that they usually do? If they do, and van Dijk stays fit, then it could be a second successive title for Klopp… If they can’t and City play with the bit between their teeth with KDB excelling and Sterling and either Jesus or Aguero netting 20 a piece, then they could win back their title? At least the race for the top will be intriguing as we watch from our safely distanced sofas.
Of those outside, Chelsea have done most business. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz might grab the headlines but Thiago Silva provides experience at the back whilst Malang Sarr is a savvy acquisition and Hakim Ziyech is a player that can unlock defences. A lot of players to settle but I feel when Chelsea are good, they’ll be very good. Certainly best of the rest for me.
That said, Manchester United ended the last season very well and will look to rely on Bruno Fernandes to continue his unbelievable form into the new campaign. Tony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood could all potentially hit twenty goals each and in Donny van der Beek they have a modern day Roy Keane and I mean the Roy Keane that was a box to box goalscoring midfielder at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest not the one that Sir Alex Ferguson turned into an aggressive kicking anchor man.
Should van der Beek settle United will be even better this season but with a young squad they may lack the consistency of those I’ve categorised above.
Another lacking consistency, as usual, could be Arsenal, who under Mikel Arteta have shown a lot more steel to their game although I still worry about them defensively and perhaps even in the centre of midfield.
Whilst Aubameyang staying will guarantee goals, the addition of Willian looks a good one with Gabriel signing from Lille a boost in defence. I still don’t know if even the dearest Gooners fan knows his or hers best team however and without the warming of Lacazette by Arteta it pains me to say I don’t see him getting the best out of his players each week.
I still see a top five finish for Arsenal but after that it really could be anybody for the ‘other’ Europa League place. Wolves are my favourite with a recent exciting capture of Fabio Silva whilst Leicester should again be strong under Brendan Rogers and Everton, with Carlo Ancelotti bringing in Allan from Napoli potentially improving on last seasons fortunes.
Of those I know least about I really struggle to predict the outcome of Tottenham Hotspur. With the likes of Kane, Alli, Son etc they should be chasing the Champions League pack but with Mourinho I really don’t know where they’ll be? Matt Doherty incoming and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are hardly overwhelming all be them ‘solid’ squad additions.
In the race for mid-table I feel the goals of Callum Wilson will give Newcastle United exactly what they were missing last season. Crystal Palace and Burnley should have enough to again stay clear of relegation, Roy Hodgson signing Eberechi Eze is good business with the youngster having a great season gone at QPR in the Championship.
Southampton are another who should have the goals to avoid the drop, the performances of the Saints towards the second half of last season were superb and Ralph Hasenhuttl has got the best out of the likes of Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings who’s goals will be needed to steer them clear.
Newly promoted Leeds United could be best equipped to stay up? Rodrigo might have failed before in England but he’s much a different player to the one we saw at Bolton all those years ago. Calvin Phillips, Pablo Hernandez and Jack Harrison are exciting on the ball but they’ll be organised and solid at the back too under a top top coach in Bielsa which should see them have enough to march on together in their first year back in the top flight for some time.
Whilst Fulham have goals in them I worry whether West Brom have enough? Brighton & Hove Albion who flirted with relegation under Graham Potter last season could fall this time around with Aston Villa no stronger than they were although spending £16m on a right back might suggest otherwise?
West Ham United should have the attacking threat to see them safe whilst Sheffield United should be strong enough in defence to stay clear of relegation. Whilst I taste a little second season syndrome I doubt they’ll fall enough to be trapped and my three to go down would be West Brom, Fulham & either Villa or Brighton.
First manager out the door? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big hitter like Mourinho or Ancelotti should they start slow although Potter and Smith beware, top goalscorer will be Aubameyang if he stays, Kane if he’s fit, but remember I’ve predicted all this before and got it totally wrong, so please take everything said above with a pinch of salt.
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Newcastle United
- Sheffield United
- Leeds United
- West Ham United
- Crystal Palace
- Aston Villa
- West Bromwich Albion
- Brighton & Hove Albion
Odds with Betfair: 8/11 Manchester City 15/8 Liverpool 9/1 Chelsea 11/1 Manchester United 33/1 Arsenal 60/1 Tottenham Hotspur 175/1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 200/1 Leeds United 225/1 Leicester City 250/1 Everton 500/1 Sheffield United, Southampton, West Ham United 750/1 Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Newcastle United 1000/1 Aston Villa, Crystal Palace 1500/1 Fulham, West Bromwich Albion.