The greatest league in the world is nearly ready to raise its curtain again and the excitement grows by the day. In Part three we will examine potential title contenders and a newly promoted side as we continue our Premier League Preview.
City’s owners have barely had time to put the chequebook away before Pep Guardiola has come back to them with another multi million pound star to sign. The total figure spent on the five players so far is over £200M and 4 of the 5 are defensive players. Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and goalkeeper Ederson Moraes have all been brought in to strengthen a City defence that’s been an issue for some time now.
City have, arguably, the most entertaining attack in the league, full of quality players like Aguero, De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Silva and new £43M signing Bernardo Silva to add to that impressive list. However their defence has declined in recent years with once reliable players such as Zabaleta, Sagna and Clichy all dropping in form and starting to show their age.
Guardiola has highlighted this issue and has been backed by the full financial might of owner Sheikh Mansour. This summer has been a real statement of intent from Pep Guardiola and if these defenders settle, as I expect they will, then Man City have the strongest squad in the league and are my tip for the 2017/2018 Premier League title.
Predicted finish: 1st
United may not have been as busy as their neighbours, but Jose Mourinho certainly hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs. He’s identified key positions he needed strengthening and has slowly but surely got his targets. Victor Lindelof was first, a classy operator at centre back who adds quality and strong cover to the defence. Romelu Lukaku was next, the 2nd top scorer in the Premier League last year and one of the most lethal finishers in European football.
One of United’s key issues surrounding their disappointing league campaign last year was their inability to finish their chances, leading to frustrating draws at home to sides they should have comfortably dispatched. Lukaku may not bring work rate or skill on the ball but what he does bring is a killer instinct in front of goal. A player who, if given even the slightest sniff of goal, will find the back of the net. If United can provide him the service he will provide them the goals.
Nemanja Matic is another fine signing for Jose and The Red Devils, signed from champions and big rivals Chelsea. This deal marks the pulling power Mourinho and United have. A player who Chelsea were happy to keep, requested the move and from the offset had his heart set on Old Trafford, despite Chelsea’s best efforts to divert him elsewhere.
It was a tough choice deciding between United and City for the title but I see United pushing City all the way and also going on a good run in the Champions League. One thing is for sure, I’m relishing watching these two old enemies battling for the Premier League crown again.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Newcastle bounced straight back from relegation as Championship champions and will look to rebuild themselves as a Premier League club. The goal will be survival, as it should be, but Newcastle’s squad was far too good for the Championship with players like Shelvey, Ritchie and Gayle all talented enough for several Premier League sides.
One big concern is their lack of transfer activity, with just three first team players brought in. Florian Lejeune from La Liga outfit Eibar, Javi Manquillo, who was on loan at Sunderland during last season’s dreadful relegation campaign and the talented Jacob Murphy from Norwich who has been very impressive for a few years now.
Rafael Benitez is The Magpies key asset and although he has publically expressed his disappointment in the transfer window, he has enough at his disposal to keep Newcastle up, just.
Predicted finish: 17th
Southampton seem to be well established in that middle ground group of Premier League clubs who are unlikely to battle relegation but equally as unlikely to challenge the top 6. They finished 8th last season, 15 points behind 7th place Everton. As that top 7 mini league threatens to pull away it’s up to clubs like Southampton to push forward and close the gap.
My main concern with The Saints however is their inability to keep hold of their prized assets, not just players but managers too. Pochettino and Koeman both had good spells at St Marys and both are now managing one of the top 7 clubs. Players like Wanyama, Lallana, Schneiderlin, Mane and Alderweireld to name but a few stars to exit Southampton for the top 7 in the last 5 years.
Come deadline day, you may be able to add another name to that list as Virgil Van Dijk is expected to seal a move to Anfield and continue the trend of disappointing and potentially damaging departures from the South Coast club. One day this inability to fend off the bigger clubs will come back to bite them, but it won’t be this season as I predict mid-table safety for The Saints again.
Predicted finish: 10th
Stoke City will be in for a tough season for me, with goals proving to be hard to come by. With Marko Arnautovic moving on, Stoke have lost one of their main focal points in attack. Last season they finished in a disappointing 13th place, below the once seemingly doomed Leicester, just 4 wins away from home all campaign and 11 draws, the third highest in the league.
Stoke are a side who base their game on a strong defence and look to get the ball forward quickly and directly so as to catch the opposition off guard. Defence isn’t the problem, especially after adding the quality of Kurt Zouma on a season loan from Chelsea, but attack will be an issue with a lot expected of Saido Berahino. Berahino was brilliant in his breakthrough season at West Brom, but I see him struggling again this season and I predict a tough season ahead for The Potters.
Predicted finish: 16th
Written by @CalDumbell follow him on twitter.
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