If you ask any football fan what the worst period of the year is they’ll quickly tell you that the off season between late May and early August is an absolutely miserable few months where optimism and sanity go to die. Instead of watching our teams contest one of the most competitive championships in the world we’re left to feed off scraps of horrendous transfer speculation, half of which is patently false. But, good news football fans, we’ve managed to survive the drought and the start of the season is here! Three elite managers taking up new posts, a world record transfer and hundreds of millions of pounds in signings later and we’re ready to go! We’re going to make some predictions about what this season has in store for us!
Best new signing: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
A lot of new players have been brought in at the best clubs in the league, and honorable mentions go out to N’Golo Kante, now of Chelsea, John Stones who just arrived at Manchester City and Paul Pogba’s astounding arrival at Manchester United. The signing most likely to set the Premier League alight though, in my opinion, will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The league has been missing a truly formidable striker since Luis Suarez departed for Spain, but Ibra could be the entertaining replacement the Premier League deserves. Sergio Aguero has been fantastic but unfortunately spends too much time injured to really make a mark on the season. Ibra, on the other hand, seems to be in great shape for his age, and with Mourinho’s moderated use of the Swede’s talents he could provide some very watchable football. He’s highly unlikely to match the 38-goal tally he had in France last year, but he’ll provide some much needed stature and showmanship for a League (and team) sorely in need of a truly world class forward.
Best new manager: Antonio Conte
Many eyes will be on the reignited rivalry between Manchester United and Manchester City now that arch-rivals Mourinho and Guardiola have signed for the respective teams. Guardiola, however, will likely need some time to acclimate to the English game, and Mourinho’s rebuild of United may not be complete as quickly as most United fans would hope. Antonio Conte, though, has taken over a team that lifted the Premier League trophy less than two years ago and that has retained the bulk of that title winning team. Much in the vein of Mourinho and Guardiola he’s an astute tactician with a sophisticated and intricate understanding of the game. It’s easy to forget about world class players like Hazard, Fabregas, Costa, Azpilicueta and Courtois after a forgettable season from the Blues, but Conte could be the man to return them to greener pastures. Without the distraction of European football Chelsea can focus exclusively on domestic dominance, an aspiration for which they now have an accomplished manager as well as an impressively reinforced squad. All the drama might be in Manchester, but there could be a runaway train building up at Stamford Bridge.
Top 4 Dropout: Tottenham Hotspurs
Last season had an unusual top 4, most unusual of which was obviously Leicester City sitting in pole position after their fairytale ascension to the top throughout the season. Tottenham were also included alongside Arsenal and Manchester City, who are both top 4 regulars. Spurs, however, have now got Champions League football to look forward to. While it provides financial benefits and the most elite stage to play football on, this competition has generally provided a stern challenge for Tottenham when they’ve been in it. Juggling a concerted effort to win the Premier League alongside exhausting trips across Europe in midweek will be a challenge for Pochettino’s men, especially since the level of competition will be much higher than the Europa League teams they faced last season. Pochettino’s tactical set-up and ability to galvanize the team have both been exemplary, but a little too much may be asked of a young and inexperienced squad in this coming season and fatigue could likely dampen their prospects for silverware.
Title-winning Dark Horse: Liverpool FC
Jurgen Klopp’s achievements in Germany were impressive to say the least. He took a relatively modest team in Borussia Dortmund, and through his own managerial talents and prodigious movements in the transfer market built a team that dismantled Bayern Munich’s dominance of the Bundesliga for a little while. He took over an ailing Liverpool team in the second half of last season and managed to create a noticeable turn around in record time. Now that he’s managed to reinforce his squad with players of his choice Liverpool will be able to play his fast-pressing and direct game far more capably than before. In addition to Klopp converting the team into his image more extensively they also won’t need to worry about European football, meaning they’re going to be better rested and more able to focus than competitors like Arsenal, Manchester City, Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United. Klopp has taken hard-working but unknown names to title glory before, with other title challengers distracted by European glory he could exploit Liverpool’s more forgiving fixture list.
Premier League winners: Chelsea FC
Although Leicester have achieved the miraculous, it is sadly quite unlikely they are going to turn into top 4 mainstays in a league as competitive as the Premier League. Both clubs in Manchester are undergoing big changes, both from a managerial and a squad perspective. Chelsea, on the other hand have retained the spine of a title winning team and have further strengthened it with a versatile forward in Michy Batshuayi and the best midfielder in the league last season; N’Golo Kante. Antonio Conte’s pragmatic tactical outlook will suit the ruthless and competitive landscape of the English game well, and while the other elite clubs will be trying to achieve success in as many competitions as possible Conte can focus almost exclusively on
the Premier League.
We’ve taken our crack at some predictions about the upcoming season, why don’t you give us your thoughts below? Is there another signing that could put his name up in lights, or another team that could sneak into contention for the title? Share your views below!