The 2017/18 Premier League Season is almost upon us, so let’s preview each team and where they are likely to finish. We will go in alphabetical order and look at the teams from A-L to start things off here in Part 1.
Last Season – 5th
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners step into unchartered territory as this is the first time that they have not qualified for the Champions League in the Frenchman’s tenure. Much will depend on how seriously Wenger takes the Europa Cup as to where Arsenal will finish in the League. Arsenal broke their transfer record to bring in striker Alexandre Lacazette in a deal that could go up to £53 million and they may have to break it again to bring in Monaco’s talented midfielder Thomas Lemar. Saed Kolasinac, who was voted into the Bundesliga Team of the Season, joins on a free transfer from Schalke and strengthens the left side of the defence and can also fill in at centre half.
You feel they need more to mount a sustained title challenge, especially at the back; they conceded 44 goals in the 2016/17 season the most they have since the 2011/12 season. Judging by pre season it looks like Arsenal will use three at the back in a lot of games, which was the formation they finished last season so well with. Arsenal may not choose to go full throttle in the Europa League and this would aid their league campaign. Regaining a top four place looks likely, but as the squad currently stands maybe no more than that. This could all change with some late good work in the window. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil against the odds look set to remain at least for the remainder of their contracts and if so they can wreak havoc this season with Lacazette.
Prediction – 4th
Last Season – 9th
Eddie Howe’s boys managed to sneak up into the top half of the table last season and if they are to do it again this time around, then they will need to stop shipping so many goals. Only four teams conceded more than the 67 they leaked last season and three of those teams finished in the bottom four. Howe’s start to solving the defensive issues was by signing versatile left footed defender Nathan Ake on a permanent deal from Chelsea for a record fee that could rise to £20 million. Ake was on loan last campaign and looked good, Chelsea took him back in January and Bournemouth were dishevelled defensively after that, so his return is more than welcome. Chelsea were also raided for their backup keeper Asmir Begovic by Bournemouth for £10m who will now become the first choice keeper ahead of Artur Boruc.
Veteran goalscorer Jermain Defoe was picked up on a free transfer from relegated Sunderland and this shrewd purchase is what should easily see Bournemouth beat the drop and end up comfortably in mid table. In addition, they should be better at the back with the purchases of Begovic and Ake. Howe is not afraid to give youth a chance when needed and it will be interesting to see if the likes of Ryan Fraser can continue to grow. If Callum Wilson can stay fit, he and Defoe could prove deadly at crucial times, add to that Josh King who scored 16 league goals in the 16/17 season and Bournemouth will be competitive.
Prediction – 10th
Last Season – Promoted; 2nd in the Championship
The 2016/17 season saw Brighton somehow slip up and allow Newcastle to steal the Championship title from them, the fact the players capitulated at a crucial time does not really bode well for their first season in the Premier League. They have a good manager in Chris Hughton and he has added some bodies to help beat the massive task of avoiding the drop. Whether it will be enough is a huge question mark though. Australian international keeper Mathew Ryan comes in from Valencia to be the new number one as David Stockdale surprisingly rejected a new contract with the club and instead moved to Birmingham City on a free.
The Seagulls stripped German side Inglostadt who were relegated from the Bundesliga for Austrian left back Markus Suttner and German attacking midfielder Pascal Gross and they will bring much needed experience to the team. Exciting Chelsea youngster winger Izzy Brown also comes in on a season long loan and he can help out up front also. Brighton definitely need more to stand a chance of staying up. Strikers Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed were not the most prolific in the Championship and may be out of their depth at the top level, so more firepower is needed. There will be a huge responsibility on Championship player of the year winger Anthony Knockaert to produce magic. Brighton set a record points total at home last season and will try and make the Amex Stadium intimidating. Brighton are likely to do more business but as it stands, it looks like they will unfortunately be back in the Championship next season.
Prediction – 19th
Last Season – 16th
Burnley managed to stay up last season despite amazingly only winning one game away from home. There is absolutely no way they will be able to repeat such poor away form and stay up again. Manager Sean Dyche complained back at the end of last season that he does not get linked with big clubs because he is ‘Ginger’, (express.co.uk), well if he keeps Burnley up again then he will have no worries about having to dye his hair. Two former Stoke players provide great experience for the Clarets as defender Phil Bardsley and forward Jon Walters have been acquired. Swansea strangely sold Burnley their captain Jack Cork in a deal that could rise to £10m, this is Cork’s second spell at the club and he will provide stability in the centre of the park. Promising full back Charlie Taylor also joined from Leeds United. We await if they will add another striker to help out Andre Gray up front, Gray himself is attracting a lot of attention and they may have a case on their hands keeping him.
The Clarets have suffered some big losses. We already knew of Joey Barton, but George Boyd, a regular in the team, has departed for Sheffield Wednesday, a man who provided energy and enthusiasm which is what Dyche embraces. The biggest loss though is centre half Michael Keane and his absence is another thing that could go on to make or break their season as they have not as yet signed a direct replacement for him. They will need another wonder season from stopper Tom Heaton to get anywhere near survival.
Prediction – 18th
Last Season – 1st
The defence of a title is always harder as everyone will be looking to claim your scalp. Add to that Chelsea are back in Europe after not having to worry about extra midweek games last term. In regards to their coach, on one hand Antonio Conte killed any concerns about his future by signing a new 2-year contract. On the other hand, we have seen in the past with Chelsea this could mean nothing if Roman Abramovich wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. The Blues said goodbye to club legend defender John Terry and have added German international central defender Antonio Rudiger. Chelsea are willing to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the services of Southampton’s centre half Virgil Van Dijk and are apparently sorting a 50m bid. Midfielder Nemanja Matic departed but Tiemoue Bakayoko came in from Monaco, Bakayoko’s combative box-to-box nature should see the central midfielder adapt quite quickly to the English game.
Alvaro Morata arrived from Real Madrid for a record fee in a package around the £70m region. This will be the biggest test in his career finally getting the chance to be a first choice striker. This opportunity comes as Diego Costa, who had his head turned by a previous offer from China, has had Conte put the ‘kiss of death’ on his Chelsea career. Add Willy Caballero who comes in to backup Thibaut Courtois after being released by Manchester City and Chelsea look in decent shape to give the League another good push. Rumours are they are also looking at Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater or Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches. Chelsea will go close again but this time around with Europe they may not quite have enough, but they will definitely be there or there about.
Prediction – 2nd
Last Season – 14th
Sam Allardyce’s resignation out of nowhere meant Crystal Palace needed to settle managerial duties before delving into the transfer market. In now comes Dutchman Frank De Boer. De Boer was great in his time in charge at Ajax, but he comes to South London on the back of leading Inter Milan ‘inter’ mid table obscurity. He was sacked after only 85 days in the job with Inter in twelfth place and must now make amends here in England. The football of 2 of his predecessors; Tony Pulis & Sam Allardyce were not the easiest on the eye, but one thing Eagles fans will know is that De Boer will bring ‘total football’ to Selhurst Park. Chelsea have loaned them midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek for the season and De Boer brings in a man who he gave a debut to at Ajax in 20 year old versatile defender Jairo Riedewald. The only loss thus far in terms of players is keeper Steve Mandanda who returns to Marseille after joining last season on a free transfer. There are small question marks over what happened at Inter, but given more time there, he may have improved. The Premier League is a big challenge and what De Boer does here will be huge in regards to his reputation. If Palace are dragged into a relegation fight will he have the mettle to steer them clear?
Striker Christian Benteke who scored 15 league goals last season, looks set to stay after huge speculation and his goals will be vital. If they can get consistency in the midfield from Jason Puncheon, Yoann Cabaye, Andros Townsend and especially Wilfred Zaha then Palace should be okay and sit in mid table without last season’s drama; ‘consistency’ is the key word though. Luka Milivojevic in midfield was one of the steals of last season and if Scott Dann can stay fit that will help a defence that leaked far too many goals last season. Palace did though score 50 goals which was the most in the bottom half of the table and this is why they will be clear from the drop.
Prediction – 11th
Last Season – 7th
Ronald Koeman deserves full credit for the way he led Everton to seventh place after his shock move from Southampton a year ago. The Toffees finished 15 points ahead of eighth place and Koeman has added well so far with European football back on the agenda. Up front Everton welcome back Wayne Rooney from Manchester United and have signed Spanish striker Sandro Ramirez who impressed for Malaga. These two will try and fill the void left by the exit of striker Romelu Lukaku. At the back, young keeper Jordan Pickford joins from Sunderland in a deal that could rise to a whopping £30m, which happens to be the same price they paid for central defender Michael Keane who arrived from Burnley. Full back Coco Martina also comes on a free transfer from Southampton. In midfield Davy Klaassen joins from Ajax with Koeman confirming he believes local boy Ross Barkley will leave Goodison Park with just a year left on his contract. Attacking midfielder Glyfi Sigurdsson remains a man Koeman wants but Swansea may price them out of a deal.
Youngsters Mason Holgate, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will continue to get some playing time. Mix that with new bodies and Everton look set to maintain seventh place. Now with European football on the fixture list, it will not be as easy as last season but they will do well. There have been murmurs in the press of them possibly coming higher, but looking at the quality of the managers of last seasons’ top six, and the squads they have I think it is unlikely. Especially also as they now are without Lukaku’s goals. Everton were strong at home last season winning 13 of their 19 games, however they will need to be much better away to trouble the top six sides.
Prediction – 7th
Last Season – 5th in the Championship; promoted after winning the Playoffs
Huddersfield played some decent football last season but did finish the campaign with a poor -2 goal difference. At a stage it seemed like they could sneak in and be promoted automatically but they let themselves down at crucial moments. Manager David Wagner impressed so much at a stage that German side Wolfsburg tried to steal him, so even if they do not survive the drop this season his reputation will not be savagely affected.
Huddersfield have added a host of names to try and maintain their Premier League status. The biggest name is Tom Ince who joined from Derby, he will provide goals and add some pace. Tidy midfielder Aaron Mooy joins from Manchester City after being on loan here last season for a price that could go up to £10m. New faces at the back include Danish international centre back Mathias Jorgensen and Fulham’s Scott Malone comes in on a free. Malone was impressive in the Championship last season and will bomb on at left back and can play futher up the pitch too. Another free transfer is goalkeeper Jonas Lossl who comes in from Mainz and he has a chance of being first choice if they can not again borrow play off final hero Danny Ward from Liverpool for the season. The squad is slowly but surely becoming thicker but I just think they lack experience and will not have enough unfortunately. Wagner is a very likeable character; so enjoy him while you can, as they are not staying up.
Prediction – 20th
Last Season – 12th
Leicester were brought crashing back down to earth during their title defence, losing matches left, right and centre and at a stage dropped into the relegation zone. They made a change at the helm and Craig Shakespeare against the odds pulled them together and up the table. Shakespeare was then offered the job full time after his success as caretaker. Now is the huge challenge for Shakespeare. Can he replicate his work, this time around from the start of a season?
Two important figures from their 2015/16 league title winning season are being linked with moves away. Riyad Mahrez continues to interest Arsenal, and Roma have had two offers rebuffed. Danny Drinkwater is now an option for Chelsea and after having lost N’Golo Kante to them last season they can ill afford to lose both of these players. Leicester have done some decent recruiting thus far. Hull were raided for goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic who had some really impressive games last term and giant versatile defender Harry Maguire. Midfielder Victor Iborra comes in from Sevilla; a man they actually tried to buy last season. The only significant departure was back up keeper Ron-Robert Zieler who returned to Germany with Stuttgart. Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho comes in from Manchester City for £25m and he will add to the firepower. Iheanacho has already shown small signs he has what it takes to be an established finisher. With Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa too they will have enough bullets in the chamber and stay up.
Prediction – 14th
Last Season – 4th
Jurgen Klopp’s men crawled over the line and gained Champions League qualification after starting the season like a house on fire. The style he wants to play the ‘gegenpress’ (high pressing) involves a lot of energy and Liverpool seemed to tail off as the season caught up with a squad that lacked depth. This time around the Reds have added winger/forward Mohamed Salah who will give more pace to an exciting front line and picked up Dominic Solanke for next to nothing from Chelsea in what looks like an astute bit of business.
For many years Liverpool’s main worries have been at the back and amazingly they still have not solved things in that department. The only addition this season to the backline so far has been Scottish left back Andrew Robertson from Hull for a package that could amount to £10m. Liverpool must get a centre half and their ongoing pursuit of Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk has become comical. Though they may end up paying an astronomical amount for him it is a part of the squad that has to be strengthened if they are to mount a serious title challenge. If they do not bolster a defence that leaks far too many careless goals then that could diminish their threat going forward where they look devastating at times. A deal for midfielder Naby Keita looks dead in the water but if they can keep on to Emre Can who only has a year on his contract and more importantly stop Barcelona from grabbing Phillippe Coutinho then Liverpool will bat around the Champions League places once again. Without better defending though they may fall short with the extra European games they face.
Prediction – 6th
Be sure to check out Part 2 of this season preview where we will look at the teams from M-W!
Written by Daniel Dwamena