The English Premier League season is nearly upon us. This weekend is one I’ve been waiting for since the last kick of last season. Sure, the footballing calendar never ends. But with the Premier League being the one that indoctrinated me to European football as a whole, the start of their season is extra special to me. As many an outlet has done, predicting the upcoming campaign is both an art as well as an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, I am here to put forth my two cents on the coming EPL events. There will be the standard table predictions, Golden Boot, player awards, and some odds and ends of how I feel 2017-18 will go. So without further ado, here are my EPL predictions (that’ll surely go horribly awry).
EPL CHAMPIONS- MANCHESTER CITY
Manchester City is my pick to take home the title. Pep Guardiola finally has the club he wants after inheriting some ill-fitting pieces via Manuel Pellegrini. I’ll be even more confident of this pick if the Citizens find a way to finally get a swap deal of Alexis Sanchez for Sergio Aguero done. The only reservation I have in this selection revolves around the goalkeepers. Ederson is untested at this high a level and Claudio Bravo’s confidence on a club level is shot. They have always been a team overflowing with offensive firepower, but just like Joe Hart and Bravo before him, a bad start from the Brazilian in net could prove their downfall.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACES- 2 MANCHESTER UNITED / 3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR / 4 CHELSEA
Similarly to Guardiola across town, I think this is the year that Jose Mourinho shows what HIS Manchester United looks like. There could still be players brought in before the end of August, but what you see now is more than likely what you’ll get from Man U. I personally don’t think they’ll immediately vault back up into the uber-elite come Champions League time , but in England, they’ll vastly outdo last year’s performance. As for Spurs, their fans and players alike have become res
As for Spurs, their fans and players alike have become restless from their lack of action in the transfer market. But even with their exits, Spurs are the most cohesive team in the EPL. They’ve accumulated more points in two runner up finishes than any other team over the past two years. Barring a slew of injuries, or a shock Dele Alli transfer, Spurs will be back in the European places with ease.
Putting Chelsea at 4 is more a testament to the teams I put ahead of them getting better than Chelsea getting worse. I truly wouldn’t be surprised if any of my proposed Top Four took home the EPL crown. The defending champs strengthened a potent attack further, but I feel Antonio Rüdiger’s addition at the back is going under the radar. He’ll provide Antonio Conte incredible flexibility with his squad, especially with Victor Moses starting the year on the sidelines.
EUROPA LEAGUE PLACES- 5 ARSENAL / 6 LIVERPOOL
Arsenal was a staple in the top four for the entirety of the Arsene Wenger era. That all changed last season. This season will be no different. There are just too many more talented teams ahead of the Gunners. Adding Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac will help, but just not enough. The EPL has passed Wenger by. Until he either steps aside or adapts, Arsenal’s quest for silverware begins and ends in the FA Cup.
As a Liverpool supporter, I desperately wanted to put the Reds back in the top four for 2017-18. But as I’ve already said, the Philippe Coutinho transfer teeter-totter scares the crap out of me. They’ve rejected a £90m from Barcelona for their Little Magician, but the Catalonians seem intent on trying again rather than focusing elsewhere. If ownership accepts an improved bid, it’ll be too late to get a replacement without massively reaching/overpaying. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Daniel Sturridge will only be able to do so much without proper service.
Other teams I feel could potentially crack the Europa League spots are Everton, West Ham, and Leicester City. I’d even go as far to say that at least two of these teams could surpass BOTH Arsenal and Liverpool if things break just right for them.
THE DROP- 18 SWANSEA CITY / 19 NEWCASTLE UNITED / 20 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
These are the most gut-wrenching EPL picks to make. Nobody wants to see clubs get relegated, especially ones that just entered the Premiership that season. Alas, I think two-thirds of the EPL’s new blood is going right back down this season.
Swansea City escaped relegation last year. Paul Clement stabilized a club that was running through managers and players like water. He did it on a shoestring budget as well. Getting £50m for Gylfi Sigurdsson will be all well and good, but losing the Icelandic playmaker this late on would be devastating. Could Swansea survive until January where they could put those funds to use? I think the hole will be too deep to climb out of.
As for Newcastle and Huddersfield, I don’t believe either has done enough squad strengthening to survive the EPL. Newcastle has no excuse with their history. Their lack of ambition may spell the end for Rafa Benitez and send the club into yet another period of instability. As for Huddersfield, they are far from just “glad to be here”, but the Terriers are just overmatched in their Premier League. They are
Newcastle has no excuse with their history. Their lack of ambition may spell the end for Rafa Benitez and send the club into yet another period of instability. As for Huddersfield, they are far from just “glad to be here”, but the Terriers are just overmatched in their Premier League. I believe they are destined to be that team that seesaws between the Premier League and the Championship for the foreseeable future.
In regards to Huddersfield, they are far from just “glad to be here.” However, the Terriers are just overmatched in their Premier League debut. Their defense was suspect in the Championship. It will suffer even more in the top flight. Their EPL fixture list is soft to start, but as the winter drags on I think they are doomed.
PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR & GOLDEN BOOT- HARRY KANE (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)
Kane’s game continues to improve in every way. The 24-year-old upped his goal total each of the past four years. I believe he becomes the first person to top 30 goals in the league since Luis Suarez in 2013-14. Kane will take home his third straight Golden Boot and his first of what could be many EPL Player of the Year awards.
PFA YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR- DELE ALLI (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)
The talented midfielder will be the first three time winner of the Young Player of the Year award. He is currently one of just four players (Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler are the others) to win it twice. Of course, this prediction goes completely out the window if Alli is moved on at any point of this season. If that occurs, consider Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus my stand-in pick.
EPL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- PEP GUARDIOLA (MANCHESTER CITY)
This should come as no surprise with my title pick. Guardiola won the Manager of the Year award four times in La Liga. With a team that finally has his fingerprints embedded in it, this could be the first of many honors for Pep during the 2017-18 campaign.
Now for some off the beaten path kinda picks for the upcoming EPL season:
FIRST MANAGER SACKED- RAFA BENITEZ (NEWCASTLE UNITED)
Rafa is currently the odds-on favorite to be the first manager relieved of duties this season. Though that decision may come from his own volition rather than from ownership, especially with Newcastle’s lack of spending, he’ll still be the first EPL sack of 2017-18.
MOST ASSISTS- WILFRIED ZAHA (CRYSTAL PALACE)
Assists will never be goals, but the statistic is more referenced on broadcasts than I can ever remember. Facilitation is more focused on and I think Wilfried Zaha will get a big move next summer on his assists this season. He had nine last year for Crystal Palace in 35 appearances. I say he breaks double digits this season feeding Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham. He then gets a second chance at a big club, putting his nightmare at Manchester United behind him.
HIGHEST SCORING TEAM- MANCHESTER UNITED
LOWEST SCORING TEAM- HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
Picking a Jose Mourinho team to lead the league in scoring is bold. Picking Huddersfield to struggle is far from it. While City is the sexier Manchester pick in terms of most goals, I say the addition of Lukaku and further development of Rashford is key. The Red Devils will put home at least 30 more goals than the 54 they scored a season ago.
For poor Huddersfield, I don’t see where the goals are going to come from. I don’t think they’ll be as impotent as Middlesbrough was a season ago, but to ask for more than 30 goals in 38 games is going to be difficult.