The new English Premier League season is upon us, which means it’s time to predict how I think the League will finish this year. Fellow EPL fans feel free to give your predictions in the comments! From worst to best:
20. Brighton and Hove Albion
Last Season Finish: 2nd in Championship
Notable Signings: Pascal Gross (M, Ingolstadt), Mathew Ryan (GK, Valencia), Izzy Brown (M, Chelsea), Davy Propper (M, PSV Eindhoven)
Notable Departures: None
Week 1 Result: Lost 2-0 to Man City
Brighton played their first ever match in the Premier League this past week. Unfortunately it was against Man City, who have spent more money on defenders this summer than Brighton spent on building their relatively new stadium. Brighton are a classic English football Cinderella story, a club from a small town who have worked their way up through the ranks of English football behind the effort of not just the team but the entire community. However, I think the Seagulls’ maiden flight in the EPL will be a short one. They’ll need heroics from Ryan in goal and the midfield partnership of Propper and Anthony Knockaert to develop quickly if they’re going to stay up.
19. Swansea City
Last Season Finish: 15th
Notable Signings: Tammy Abraham (F, Chelsea)
Notable Departures: Jack Cork (M, Burnley), Gylfi Sigurdsson (M, Everton)
Week 1 Result: Drew 0-0 with Southampton
Last season was a nervous one for the Swans, with the first half seeing two different managers fired as the club struggled to keep the ball out of their own net and put it in the opponents’. Then they brought in Paul Clement, the long-time English assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. He turned the team’s fortunes around and they had a strong second half. However, more important to the team than Clement was Gylfi Sigurdsson, who scored or assisted over half of Swansea’s goals. He’ll be difficult to replace, and the Swans will be looking to Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, to match his 23 goals on loan at Bristol City last season in order to fill the offensive void. That feels unrealistic for the young Englishman, as does Swansea staying in the league next year.
18. Huddersfield Town
Last Season Finish: 5th in Championship, won promotion playoff
Notable Signings: Laurent Depoitre (F, Porto), Tom Ince (M, Derby), Danny Williams (M, Reading), Mathias Jorgensen (F, Copenhagen)
Notable Departures: None
Week 1 Result: Beat Crystal Palace 3-0
The Terriers got off to a phenomenal start last weekend by going on the road and beating Crystal Palace. They are without a doubt this year’s feel-good story. Two years ago they finished 17th (out of 24th) in the Championship, but then climbed to 5th last season and qualified for the Championship promotion playoffs, which they won by beating Reading on penalties. They achieved promotion by the thinnest of margins, which positions the Terriers as this season’s ultimate underdogs. They’re let by manager David Wagner, a German-American who once played for the USMNT and is best friends (and managing disciple) of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. As likeable as this team is, looking at the rest of the league and Huddersfield’s lack of top-flight experience I just don’t think they have enough to stay up. That said, they looked good against Palace. If they can keep that up who knows. I hope I’m wrong.
17. Newcastle United
Last Season Finish: 1st in the Championship
Notable Signings: Christian Atsu (F, Chelsea), Florian Lejeune (D, Eibar), Jacob Murphy (F, Norwich), Javier Manquillo (D, Atletico Madrid), Joselu (F, Stoke)
Notable Departures: Florian Thauvin (F, Marseille)
Week 1 Result: Lost 2-0 to Tottenham
It was widely expected that Newcastle would only spend one year in the Championship, and here they are back in the Premier League! Manager Rafa Benitez knew he was taking on a project when he took charge of the sinking ship that was Newcastle two seasons ago. The question now is, can he keep the ship floating last time? He’s worked to strengthen their squad, but has expressed that he feels he needs more (Newcastle are renown for not spending money). They’re campaign got off to a rocky start, as Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a stamp on Dele Alli and they lost 2-0 to Spurs. Newcastle have plenty of players with EPL experience, but will be looking for more consistency. Their biggest advantages are Benitez and lots of players who have experience fighting the drop. It’ll be a dogfight, but I think they’ll have just enough to stay up.
Last Season Finish: 16th
Notable Signings: Jonathan Walters (F, Stoke), Jack Cork (M, Swansea), Phil Bardsley (D, Stoke)
Notable Departures: Joey Barton (M, cut), Michael Keane (D, Everton), Andre Gray (F, Watford)
Week 1 Result: Beat Chelsea 3-2
This summer Burnley sold their best defender, Michael Keane, and their best attacker, Andre Gray. They haven’t really replaced either of them. Jonathan Walters has been a solid substitute for stoke, but he’s older and slower than Gray and not a good partner for Sam Vokes, a very traditional striker (tall, strong, better with his head than feet). Burnley have widely been picked as a team likely to go down this year, but there’s renewed optimism following their opening day victory over Chelsea (who were down a man most of the game but let’s not rain on Burnley’s parade). It will remain to be seen if they can keep up that kind of performance. My gut says this year will be similar to last: they’ll make Turf Moor (their stadium) a fortress and struggle on the road on their way to barely avoiding relegation.
Last Season Finish: 17th
Notable Signings: Nathaniel Chalobah (M, Chelsea), Richarlison (F, Fluminense), Andre Gray (F, Burnley)
Notable Departures: Valon Behrami (M, Udinese)
Week 1 Result: Drew 3-3 with Liverpool
Last season was up and down for the Hornets, plagued by inconsistency and increasingly over-reliant on Troy Deeney carrying the team on his back, something he’s been doing for years. The bad news is Deeney is getting old and is currently dealing with a lingering groin problem. The good news is they finally got him some help: a talented young Brazilian named Richarlison who can play as a striker or on the wing, and Andre Gray, who Burnley sold to a direct rival for some reason. They’ve also added Marco Silva as manager, the former Hull boss who was given no blame for the Tigers being relegated last year. But while there is optimism up front, Watford’s midfield and defense are both still of significant concern. Silva keeps them up, but it won’t be easy.
14. Crystal Palace
Last Season Finish: 14th
Notable Signings: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (M, Chelsea), Jairo Riedewald (D, Ajax), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (D/M, Man United)
Notable Departures: None
Week 1 Result: Lost 3-0 to Huddersfield
This summer seemed promising for Palace. They brought in former Ajax manager Frank de Boer, who brought Jairo Riedewald with him to try and help solve the consistent center back woes Crystal Palace have suffered in recent years. They also brought in high-profile loan signings Loftus-Cheek and Fosu-Mensah. And then they started the season by losing 3-0 to newly-promoted Huddersfield. That said, I think this team just has too much talent going forward to get relegated (Benteke, Zaha, Townsend) and a strong enough midfield that their defensive weaknesses won’t get them relegated. I think this season will look a whole lot like last year for the Eagles, hopefully minus them firing yet another manager.
Last Season Finish: 9th
Notable Signings: Asmir Begovic (GK, Chelsea), Jermain Defoe (F, Sunderland), Nathan Ake (D, Chelsea)
Notable Departures: None
Week 1 Result: Lost 1-0 to West Brom
We have now reached the point in the list where I don’t think any of these teams are in danger of being relegated. Bournemouth have overperformed a bit in their first two years in the Premier League, bolstered in the table by fighting until the end while other teams stuck in mid-table mediocrity faded down the stretch. They’ve made the signing of Nathan Ake permanent, a great move after their defense was noticeably weakened when Chelsea recalled him from his loan midway through last season. Fellow Chelsea transfer Begovic will be a massive upgrade in goal, and they’ll hope Jermaine Defoe can continue to defy his age; he’ll need to assuming Josh King regresses to the mean in the goal scoring department after somehow scoring 16 in the League last year. I think Bournemouth overall will regress a bit, but nothing to worry about.
12. West Bromwich Albion
Last Season Finish: 10th
Notable Signings: Jay Rodriguez (F, Southampton), Ahmed Hegazi (D, Al Ahly), Gareth Barry (M, Everton)
Notable Departures: Darren Fletcher (M, Stoke)
Week 1 Result: Beat Bournemouth 1-0
West Brom were having their best season in club history, as was Tony Pulis as a manager, when they beat Arsenal 3-1 in March. There were even whispers that maybe West Brom could qualify for the Europa League (they were in 8th at the time). Then, in their last 9 games the Baggies drew 2 and lost 7. They’ve strengthened their defensive credentials this summer, adding Hegazi and Barry, so expect another very very very very boring West Brom season full of low scoring draws. They’re not good, they’re not bad, and that’s just fine by them.
11. Stoke City
Last Season Finish: 13th
Notable Signings: Darren Fletcher (M, West Brom), Kurt Zouma (D, Chelsea), Jese (F, PSG)
Notable Departures: Jonathan Walters (F, Burnley), Marko Arnautovic (M, West Ham)
Week 1 Result: Lost 1-0 to Everton
After just sneaking into the top half the two previous years, Stoke took a bit of a step back last year. They were just generally mediocre, and their most important attacker Marko Arnautovic spent the whole year hurt. He left for West Ham and they’ve brought in Real Madrid and PSG disappointment Jese Rodriguez to try and fill the void. Fletcher will add veteran maturity to their midfield alongside Joe Allen and Ibrahim Afellay, and Zouma should be an upgrade on defense. This is the make or break year for Saido Berahino, who after throwing a tantrum to get out of West Brom has yet to make an impact at Stoke. This could be a really fun team to watch this year, there’s a lot of potential and they could finish anywhere I think from 8th to 15th; we’ll have to wait and see.
Last Season Finish: 8th
Notable Signings: Mario Lemina (M, Juventus)
Notable Departures: Jay Rodriguez (F, West Brom)
Week 1 Result: Drew 0-0 with Swansea
Southampton are reliably average, consistently regarded as “the best of the rest” finishing miles behind the top 7 teams but never in any danger of relegation. I think they might slip a couple spots this year, because as the teams who are traditionally their rivals in the table have worked to get better they’ve done very little. Lemina could be a great add to their midfield, but he played so little at Juve it’s tough to say for sure how good he’ll be. Jay Rodriguez isn’t a huge loss, he was injured most of his Southampton career, and they’ll be relying on Manolo Gabbiadini again this year for goals. Assuming they hold on to Virgil van Dijk there’s no reason they shouldn’t be solidly mid table again; I just think the next two teams have done enough to surpass them
9. Leicester City
Last Season Finish: 12th
Notable Signings: Harry Maguire (D, Hull), Vicente Iborra (M, Sevilla), Kelechi Iheanacho F, Man City)
Notable Departures: None
Week 1 Result: Lost 4-3 to Arsenal
Two years ago, Chelsea had the worst title-defending season in Premier League history, finishing 10th. Then Leicester did them one better and finished 12th last year after winning the title the year before. This wasn’t all that surprising considering how ridiculous Leicester’s run to the championship was, but still. I think they’ve had a really good summer. Maguire provides needed reinforcement in central defense for the aging Huth and Morgan, Iborra is a huge upgrade over Amartey and Mendy (failed replacements for N’Golo Kante) and can be a force alongside Wilfred Ndidi, and Iheanacho is a proven scorer who can be the future of Leicester’s attack (although Jamie Vardy looks like he’s still got it). They almost beat Arsenal this weekend, and there’s plenty of reason to believe this team can take a step back in the right direction this year.
8. West Ham United
Last Season Finish: 11th
Notable Signings: Pablo Zabaleta (D, Man City), Joe Hart (GK, Man City), Marko Arnautovic (M, Stoke), Javier Hernandez (F, Bayer Leverkusen)
Notable Departures: Havard Hordtveit (D, Hoffenheim), Enner Valencia (F, Tigres), Sofiane Feghouli (M, Galatasaray)
Week 1 Result: Lost 4-0 to Man United
Last year I predicted West Ham would challenge for a Europa League spot. Then Dimitri Payet demanded to be sold, was hurt in the meantime, and the team was plagued by injuries the rest of the season (although that’s what you get when you have Andy Carroll as your best striker). West Ham have had a phenomenal summer and I think I may have talked myself into believing they could be good this year. Joe Hart is a big upgrade over Adrian and Darren Randolph, and Arnautovic and Hernandez should slot nicely into the holes that existed at left mid and striker more or less all of last season. They got off to a rocky start last week against Manchester United, but that team is a juggernaut and I don’t believe that game was a fair assessment of what we can expect from West Ham.
Last Season Finish: 4th (Qualified for Champions League)
Notable Signings: Mohamed Salah (F, Roma), Andrew Robertson (D, Hull)
Notable Departures: Lucas Leiva (M, Lazio), ??? Philippe Coutinho (M, Barcelona) ???
Week 1 Result: Drew 3-3 with Watford
Last year Liverpool were exciting on the attack but often struggled defensively, drawing and losing games they should have won. That was epitomized in their opening game of this season, drawing 3-3 with Watford. Mohamed Salah brings some depth to the attack, a problem exposed when Sadio Mane missed long stretches of last season due to injury and to participating in the African Cup of Nations. That depth may be short lived however, as Barcelona are trying desperately to sign Coutinho, with a reported £118 million offer being rejected this week. He’s currently out with a lingering back injury, and I personally doubt he’ll play for Liverpool at all this season. They’ve finally signed an actual left-back in Robertson, but he may not be ready to start for them yet. Between defensive weaknesses and the increased number of matches they have to play due to the Champions League, I think it could be a tough season for Liverpool.
Last Season Finish: 7th (Qualified for Europa League)
Notable Signings: Jordan Pickford (GK, Sunderland), Davy Klaassen (M, Ajax), Sandro Ramirez (F, Malaga), Michael Keane (D, Burnley), Wayne Rooney (F, Man United), Gylfi Sigurdsson (M, Swansea)
Notable Departures: Gerard Deulofeu (F, Barcelona), Romelu Lukaku (F, Man United), Gareth Barry (M, West Brom)
Week 1 Result: Beat Stoke 1-0
It was quite the summer for Everton. They sold Lukaku to Man United for a whopping £75 million and said goodbye to Gareth Barry, who has made more appearances in the Premier League than any player in League history. They’ve spent the Lukaku money wisely, and then some. Pickford was phenomenal for Sunderland last season and deserved a move to a better club; he’s also much better than Joel Robles and Maarten Stekelenburg who he’ll be replacing. They finally got the deal done to bring Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea, and the attacking midfield will be even further improved with addition of Klaassen from Ajax. They also needed another starting-quality center-back and they’ve got that in young englishman Michael Keane. But the biggest story for Everton this summer is the return of Wayne Rooney, who left the club he grew up in 16 years ago and returns as Man United and England’s all time leading scorer. He was surplus to requirements in Manchester but perhaps can help start a new era for Everton, with all of this new investment being made possible by new ownership. Rooney marked his return to the club with a goal in the opening game of the season. For the past couple of years Everton have been comfortably the 7th best team in the League, and I think this is the year they can make the jump into the top 6.
5. Tottenham Hotspur
Last Season Finish: 2nd (Qualified for Champions League)
Notable Signings: Davidson Sanchez (D, Monaco)
Notable Departures: Kyle Walker (D, Man City), Clinton Njie (F, Marseille)
Week 1 Result: Beat Newcastle 2-0
Last season was a solid one for Tottenham. They achieved their highest finish ever in the Premier League and Harry Kane won the Golden Boot for the second year in a row. The biggest disappointment was how poorly they performed in the Champions League, where they struggled particularly at home. Although it really wasn’t “home,” as they had to play at Wembley due to renovations at White Hart Lane making it not up to UCL standards. That problem could only grow this year, as White Hart Lane has been demolished and Spurs will play all of their home games at Wembley while their new stadium is finished. It’s been speculated that the problem is that the field at Wembley, which is larger than the one at White Hart Lane, but it could be as much psychological. White Hart Lane is less than half the size of Wembley in terms of seats and it’s a very different atmosphere, especially when Spurs won’t be allowed to use (assuming they could fill) the fully 90,000 seat capacity of the stadium. Stadiums aside, Tottenham have only signed one player this summer, Sanchez, who will provide some depth at center-back behind the league’s best pairing in Alderweireld and Vertonghen. They’ve managed to hang on to their best players, but expecting Harry Kane and Dele Alli to play every game isn’t reasonable. They also haven’t replaced Kyle Walker, who they sold to Man City for a record fee for a defender, and his former backup Kieran Trippier is currently injured. I think manager Mauricio Pochettino may be just asking too much of his players this season.
Last Season Finish: 5th (Qualified for Europa League)
Notable Signings: Sead Kolasinac (D, Schalke), Alexandre Lacazette (F, Lyon)
Notable Departures: Wojciech Szczęsny (GK, Juventus), Gabriel Paulista (D, Valencia)
Week 1 Result: Beat Leicester 4-3
For years Arsenal fans have implored the team to buy a first-class goal scorer, something they haven’t had since Robin van Persie left five years ago. Finally, they’ve got one, buying Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon in France for a club record transfer fee. Equally important may be the attacker they haven’t sold, as Alexis Sanchez remains at the club despite speculation that he would force his way out after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League. They’ve also brought in Kolasinac from Germany, a versatile defender who can play as a left back, center back, or left wing-back in the 3-4-3 formation manager Arsene Wenger has recently been employing. We’re only a week into the season and Arsenal are already beset by injury problems, and the ability of their best players to stay fit will be vital. They also have the often arduous travel of the Europa League to deal with. Like recent years, Arsenal certainly have the potential to contend, and I do think they’ve got enough to be back in the Champions League next year.
Last Season Finish: Champions (Qualified for Champions League)
Notable Signings: Antonio Rudiger (D, Roma), Tiemoue Bakayoko (M, Monaco), Alvaro Morata (F, Real Madrid)
Notable Departures: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (M, Crystal Palace), Nathaniel Chalobah (M, Watford), Kurt Zouma (D, Stoke City), Nemanja Matic (M, Manchester United), Diego Costa*
Week 1 Result: Lost to Burnley 3-2
It’s been a bizarre summer for Chelsea. Manager Antonio Conte made it known to Diego Costa that he wouldn’t be needed next season, yet Costa is still technically on the club’s books, sitting at home in Brazil because the only club he wants to play for isn’t allowed to buy anyone. Eden Hazard broke his ankle playing for Belgium, and will miss the first few games of the season as a result. They sold Nemanja Matic to Manchester United, a curious decision given that new signing Bakayoko (who would replace him) has been dealing with injury issues this summer and that they sold Chalobah to Watford and loaned Loftus-Cheek to Crystal Palace. They have replaced Costa by spending a club record on Alvaro Morata, and given some depth to Conte’s back 3 by bringing in Rudiger from Roma. However, Conte has lamented that he hasn’t been able to sign more players, and it’s fairly obvious that they need more depth at the wing-back, winger, and central midfield positions. Personally I do think Chelsea will buy at least a couple more players before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, and once the squad is fully healthy (probably a couple of weeks away) they should be a formidable force. But the start of their schedule is among the toughest in the league, and losing to Burnley doesn’t help. Unlike last year, they also have the Champions League to deal with. By the time the Blues are up to full speed, I think they’ll just have too much ground to make up to challenge for a repeat of the title.
2. Manchester City
Last Season Finish: 3rd (Qualified for Champions League)
Notable Signings: Bernardo Silva (M, Monaco), Ederson (GK, Benfica), Kyle Walker (D, Tottenham), Danilo (D, Real Madrid), Benjamin Mendy (D, Monaco)
Notable Departures: Pablo Zabaleta (D, West Ham), Gael Clichy (D, Basaksehir), Jesus Navas (M, Sevilla), Willy Caballero (GK, Chelsea), Bacary Sagna (D, cut), Kelechi Iheanacho (F, Leicester)
Week 1 Result: Beat Brighton 2-0
Last season Man City dealt with plenty of issues at the back. They’re defenders were frequently injured and the healthy ones struggled at times to defend. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who had been brought in from Barcelona, was just awful. They’ve taken steps to try and address those issues this summer, bringing in Ederson from Benfica to replace Bravo and signing defenders Walker, Mendy, and Danilo. The only problem with those three is that they’re all outside backs, and the Sky Blues could certainly use some help in central defense as Vincent Kompany ages and John Stones fails to live up to his potential. The club has also cut a lot of players deemed dead weight, as Pep Guardiola continues to try and remake the club in his image. They have no shortage of attacking talent, adding Bernardo Silva to their ranks. This team is going to score plenty of goals, there’s no doubt about that, but there will still be questions about their defending. For now, their best defense is a good offense. I think City take another step forward this season, but they won’t be able to match the re-emerging superpower across town:
1. Manchester United
Last Season Finish: 6th (Won Europa League -> Qualified for Champions League)
Notable Signings: Victor Lindelof (D, Benfica), Romelu Lukaku (F, Everton), Nemanja Matic (M, Chelsea)
Notable Departures: Club all-time leading goal-scorer Wayne Rooney (F, Everton)
Week 1 Result: Beat West Ham 4-0
At every club he has managed (Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, and Chelsea again) Jose Mourinho has won the title in his second season. Manchester United will be no different. They’ve made some great signings, led by Lukaku who, at the time of writing, already has 3 goals in two games for United. Man United finished sixth last year due to far too many draws, and Lukaku will help turn those draws into wins. He was reliable for 20 a season at Everton, and now has a vastly improved supporting cast. Speaking of that cast, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba are poised to really make their mark on United this season after taking time to adjust last year. Pogba will be most aided by the addition of Nemanja Matic, whose addition will allow Pogba to play further forward in the midfield where he prefers. He’s looked phenomenal in United’s first two games and I think will have a big season. They’ve lost Rooney, but that loss is simply sentimental as there’s no play for him in this team. Top to bottom this is the best squad in the League with depth at every single position. Mourinho’s defensive focus combined with supreme attacking talent will take them to the top.