2015/16 – What an unbelievable season.
If last season is anything to go by; well, I don’t think this will be the easiest to predict. Leicester City won the league, no I’m being serious! Almost every single pundit predicted the Foxes to diminish and fade into the Championship; what they did, was the unthinkable. Last season will live long in the memory of every football fan, but I think this season will equally be as tantalising. The return of the ‘Special One’, the arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte, and the excitability of Jürgen Klopp, this season has all the credentials to capture some truly special moments.
Here are my predictions:
The Top Four :
1st- Manchester City:
I cannot fail to see Manchester City winning the league this season. Firstly, they have recruited one of the world’s best managers in Pep Guardiola. You only have to look at his track record wherever he has been to see how successful he is. Yes, he has been in charge of ready-made world class sides (Barcelona and Bayern Munich) and Manchester City is not one of these. However, he has gone out and strengthened City massively. Leroy Sane is a brilliant purchase in my opinion: at just 20 years of age he has already established himself at Schalke and is a rising star.
Ilkay Gundogan will add quality into a somewhat struggling City midfield, Yaya Toure seems to have lost his way, Fernando hasn’t shown enough promise and Fabian Delph is simply not fit for the City squad. The most eye-catching signing though of course is John Stones. £50 million paid for his services is a stupendous amount of money to be spent on a player who was anything but world class last season. Despite this, I think he will suit Guardiola’s plans and will see defensive duo Eliaquim Mangala , and Nicolas Otamendi pushed out of the side after some rather poor defensive displays last season; if Kompany can stay fit, Stones would be the ideal partner. I think City has the quality to go and win the title and with the addition of Guardiola, they have increased their chances hugely.
This may come as a surprise to many; but believe me, Liverpool should not be written off. The majority of people will place the Reds outside the top four or perhaps just sneaking into fourth spot. I do not believe this will be the case at all; I suspect another repeat of the 13/14 season; a title charge. With no European football to hold them back I see only one way Jurgen Klopp’s men are heading, and that is for the summit! New additions have strengthened the side , Sadio Mane looks a fantastic buy as he has proven his premier league quality over the past few seasons for the Saints, scoring and assisting plenty. Marko Grujic, the Serbian youngster who has been signed from Red Star Belgrade has impressed during preseason; his mesmerising header vs Barcelona the highlight of his work. Not only this, The Reds have also brought in Loris Karius, who was voted the second best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga last season behind Manuel Neuer, he will be sure to place firm competition on Simon Mignolet, who has come under a lot of criticism over the past couple of seasons for his numerous blunders, Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle will add attacking firepower, and Joel Matip will bring some much needed stability in defence.
The big question though is can you keep Daniel Sturridge fit? If so; 2nd place is even more likely as he is a lethal finisher, however, if he keeps facing injury setbacks like he has the past two seasons Liverpool may struggle. The Reds will be match fit and free of fatigue now that Europa League and the Champions League is not in the frame for the season, enabling them to try and create a repeat of the heroic 13/14 season, which had the same circumstances. With a world class manager now in charge with Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have every chance to secure 2nd and will be the surprise package, attacking football will damage opponents , new players will improve the side, the charisma of Klopp will lead them to a high placed finish. One small slight issue though is the left-back position! Alberto Moreno was quite simply woeful last season, Liverpool need to sign a new player for this position, even more so now that Brad Smith has joined fellow Premier League side Bournemouth.
3rd- Manchester United:
The Red Devils look set for a positive season this year and I have put them in 3rd. Many have backed United to win the league, however I don’t see that as a possibility at this moment in time. Yes, they have recruited extremely well by bringing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan , and of course world record signing Paul Pogba, it just isn’t enough for them to go all the way for me. I don’t think Pogba is as good as everyone makes him out to be… when paying that sort of money you expect to be paying for world class players , e.g Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, who will perform week in week out; Pogba does not fall into that category. United are still very fragile at the back and although Bailly is a good buy, many problems still lie in defence. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, and Matteo Darmian are all simply not good enough to be in a title winning side. Mkhitaryan for me is the best signing they have made, ahead of Pogba. With 19 goals and 24 assists in all competitions last season, Mkhitaryan is a phenomenal buy (especially at £26 million).
Another major change is of course Jose Mourinho who takes charge as Manchester United manager , will his arrogance see him lead United into a rough patch, like what happened last season at Chelsea? I think Mourinho is a great manager, however, not everyone will enjoy playing under a manager who has an ego such as Mourinho’s , which may lead to frayed relationships to form.
4th place for Arsenal sounds all too familiar. Many think that Arsenal won’t even reach the top four this season after failing to spend big in the transfer window again and leaving them short of top class players, such as a new striker. Injuries have blighted any chance of finishing higher than fourth in my opinion, with Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, and Jack Wilshere all out, the Gunners face a torrid start to the season. However, I do still expect them to qualify for the Champions League as they have shown how consistent they are each season. They need to strengthen desperately, with only Granit Xhaka and Bolton youngster, Rob Holding being introduced to the team, Arsenal are lacking in numbers. The rest of the big teams in the league are buying well, is a constant reminder that Arsenal need to adopt this, otherwise it will be another long and frustrating season ahead.
5th – 10th Place:
Chelsea suffered the worst defence of a premier league title in history; I think they will better their miserable 10th place finish of last season and will come in 5th position. The Blues have made a very impressive signing as N’Golo Kante has joined from the champions- Leicester. Kante showed numerous times last campaign how good he is at winning the ball back for his side, as he made the most interceptions in the league. With Antonio Conte in charge, Chelsea will shape up differently; I expect a more aggressive style of play.
Many have tipped The Blues for the title, however, I do not see this coming true. Diego Costa and Eden Hazard were ghosts of the players they were the previous season last year, will they find form again ? Will Conte’s methods prove successful? Will the team spirit be high? There are too many unanswered questions for me, which will hinder their success.
6th- Tottenham Hotspur:
Tottenham is a tough one to call. I have gone for a 6th place finish. Last season they almost went all the way to win the league; however fell short at the last hurdle and lost their nerve. They ended up in 3rd in a two horse race… their noisy neighbours Arsenal pipped them to 2nd place on the last day of the season. I do not see Spurs producing a similar placed finish this season, I have placed them out of the top four as they don’t have star quality to be in the top four. Harry Kane worked wonders again for Spurs last season; but was a ghost in England’s horrific Euro 2016, likewise with Dele Alli. Will they still be in poor form? Or will they find their way to help fire Spurs up the table. Tottenham has a young and promising side, with a terrific manager in Mauricio Pochettino. Summer signings Victor Wanyama, and Vincent Janssen will add depth to an already well rounded side.
7th- West Ham:
I have placed West Ham in the exact same position that they achieved last campaign; 7th. A solid season looks on the horizon for the Hammers, a new exciting stadium at the Olympic Park, new signings in Andre Ayew, Sofiane Feghouli, and Gokhan Tore, but of course the most important thing of all; Dimitri Payet! It is imperative that West Ham keep hold of their superstar as he proved so pivotal for them last season. The likes of Real Madrid chased him, but it appears he is sticking to life under Slaven Bilic.
8th- Leicester City:
Perhaps, the most controversial pick of all 20 teams; I have ranked the champions in 8th place, and here’s why. The amazing fairy-tale of last season has come to an end; I think this year will be too much for the Foxes to handle. With Champions League football now part of their season, I think fatigue will start to cause problems. Last season, Claudio Ranieri’s men just had to focus on the league and therefore kept a fresh squad. Not only this, after being tipped for relegation by almost every pundit/journalist last year, after collecting a few wins they were under no pressure to succeed as nothing was expected of them; anything they went on to do was a bonus. However, after winning the league, certain expectations have now crept in which will lead to pressure on the players.
Losing N’Golo Kante is a major blow for any aspirations of a higher placed finish. He was their key man in midfield last season and I think he will be irreplaceable. Ahmed Musa looks to be a clever purchase from CSKA Moscow for a club record £15 million; he has bags of pace and is extremely agile too. I just think this year will be too much for the Foxes, I may be completely wrong but I just don’t think they will replicate their magical run of last year.
Everton had a very disappointing season last year, finishing in the bottom half of the table. This year they will be aiming to change that. Ronald Koeman the new manager is an excellent appointment. He has shown his talent in the league already with Southampton and will bring knowledge with him to Merseyside. The big news concerning Everton is obviously John Stones’ £50 million departure to Man City, however they have signed a good replacement. Ashley Williams is a solid replacement for Stones at the back and will provide the Toffees with some experience. Even better news is that Romelu Lukaku is still at the club, following ongoing rumours about a potential departure from the club. The transfer window is still open, so it remains unseen as to whether or not he will stay. A factor which will prove decisive on how the season pans out. Also, Yannick Bolasie has been linked with a move to Goodison Park, which if it happens will be a terrific purchase!
10th- Stoke City:
Stoke are consistent at securing a mid-table finish it seems, and this year I have backed them to continue that pattern. The signing of Joe Allen from Liverpool at £13.5 million is a fantastic piece of business by Mark Hughes. Allen showed his talent for Liverpool as he started to become a fans favourite towards the end of his Anfield tenure. He also impressed hugely for the Welsh in the Euro’s too, reaching the Semi Finals and also making it into the team of the tournament. With Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan, and Marko Arnautovic leading the frontline for the Potters, I think it will be a pleasing year at the Bet365 Stadium.
It has been another summer of departures at St Mary’s again this summer. Star man, Sadio Mane followed in the path of his former team-mates Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne by making the move to Anfield. This will be a major loss for the Saints, along with the exit of Victor Wanyama in midfield, who has joined Spurs. However, the biggest disappointment of all; has to be manager Ronald Koeman moving to Everton. Koeman has been very successful during his short time at Southampton, so his withdrawal will be hard to fix. With key players leaving each season now over the last few years, Southampton has still somehow managed to fight back and achieve great things. Will they be able to pull it off again? Not this season I don’t believe.
12th- Crystal Palace:
I am predicting a 12th place finish for Alan Pardew’s men, 3 places higher than last season. FA Cup runners up and Premier League safety, marked a good season for the Eagles, I expect them to have another successful year. Palace have made some impressive signings so far, Steve Mandanda the Marseille keeper has joined, not to mention Andros Townsend, and James Tomkins. The only worry for them is Yannick Bolasie. He has been linked with a £25 million move to Everton, it hasn’t been agreed yet, but looks increasingly likely to happen. Although, should it happen, it will provide Pardew with the money to buy Christian Benteke from Liverpool; who would fit their style of play perfectly.
13th- West Brom:
With not many comings or goings at the Hawthorns, I am predicting a mediocre season for the Baggies, coming in at 13th. Tony Pulis is a master at keeping teams afloat in the Premier League, so with that in mind I think West Brom’s safety will remain guaranteed, but I don’t expect much else from them. Their biggest problem is keeping hold of Sadio Berahino.
Newly promoted Middlesbrough have strengthened fantastically in the window so far; making some astounding purchases. Victor Valdes, the former Barcelona keeper will provide much needed experience in goal, Viktor Fischer from Ajax is a promising talent, and most notably; Alvaro Negredo! The former Manchester City striker has signed; what a signing that promises to be. I don’t think Boro will struggle this season, Aitor Karanka is a brilliant manager, they have spent wisely, and have kept hold of their players who helped them back to the Premier League.
15th – Sunderland:
Constantly involved in relegation battles, year in, year out. Somehow they always manage to survive. I expect Sunderland to find this year slightly more comfortable and I have gone for 15th place. The loss of Sam Allardyce is disappointing, but; the arrival of David Moyes is promising- a proven Premier League manager, with bags of experience will help keep them afloat. Jermain Defoe will be pivotal in helping the Black Cats achieve this; his goal scoring form will bail Sunderland out of trouble.
I am predicting a rather disappointing season for the Swans, a 16th place finish. Swansea didn’t have the best of campaigns last season and I don’t expect them to better it this year. The biggest reason for such a low ranking is due to the fact, Ashley Williams the captain, has joined Everton. Being one of Swansea’s best players he will be a monumental loss. I am not convinced they have made any noticeable signings either, the only exception being Fernando Llorente- a proven goalscorer.
I am predicting Bournemouth will just stay up this season, providing them with another season in the top flight of English football. The Cherries had a brilliant season last year, remaining in the division. They have strengthened well by signing Liverpool duo Jordan Ibe for £15 million, and Brad Smith for £6 million. However, a major loss is club captain Matt Ritchie departing to join Newcastle. Eddie Howe has shown the Cherries can grind out results, to keep their Premier League status intact.
18th-20th Place – Relegation :
The first team I believe will not beat the drop; is Watford. Quique Sanchez Flores had a great first season back in the Premier League with the Hornets, guiding them to a 13th placed finish, however bizarrely departed the club at the end of the season. His exit will be costly for me, the man chosen to replace him is Walter Mazzarri, it is unclear how he will perform as manager. Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney will key in Watford’s games, but they lack the star quality to survive.
The second team to be relegated will be Burnley, in my eyes. With all the bigger clubs in the league spending vast amounts of money and improving their squad, what have Burnley done? Not a great deal. Only four players signed so far, the pick of the bunch being Jon Flanagan from Liverpool. If Burnley are to survive they need to spend some money on star players ; if they don’t, I see this being a tough season for Sean Dyche and his players.
20th- Hull City:
In last place, I think there is only one option; Hull City. Only 13 first team players available for selection, Steve Bruce resigning with just over a week to go before the new season, fan protests about the owners of the club, and one player signed, you start to think; is there any other place they will finish? I am forecasting a miserable season for the Tigers, Steve Bruce would have been the perfect man to guide Hull to safety, having already worked with them in the Premier League before. Now he has left, there is a sense of disarray at the club. Where is all the money Hull received from winning promotion to the league, around £100 million was earnt from their pivotal win to send them back up? None of that has been spent. If Hull expect to stay up, they need to spend money, they haven’t done so. With such a lack of players available, it is astounding how they haven’t thought they need to strengthen. I do not see any chance of Hull surviving, a one way ticket back down to the Championship is looming…