It's that time of year again: August, a few days before the season kicks off, the sun is shining, the grass is freshly cut, and it is still months before the squeaky bum time of April and May deteriorates the fingernails of fans all over the world. Anything is still possible! Huddersfield can win the league! Sturridge can play 38 games a season! Dare to dream!
With that being said, here are my predictions for the upcoming season. Leave me a comment below with your own predictions so that we can make fun of each other next May when Huddersfield win the league and Man United get relegated.
Champion: Man Utd
After the debacle that was their trip to the far east last summer, United had a near flawless preseason in the States. It's no secret that Mourinho has won the league in his second season everywhere else he's been in his career so far, and while this United squad is nowhere near perfect, it is very much a Mourinho team now. Jose has always liked a strong spine... think back to his Chelsea team (Cech, Terry, Makelele, Lampard, Drogba) or his Inter Champions League Winners (Cesar, Samuel, Cambiasso, Sneijder, Milito). He has something of that now in De Gea, Bailly, Matic, Pogba, Lukaku. United will be a force this season no doubt, and I'm tipping them to turn those draws into wins this season and lift the Premier League trophy in May.
Top 4: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal
I can see City going one of two ways, they'll either be absolutely unstoppable, or it'll all blow up in Pep's face. I don't think he was fully prepared for the week in, week out grind of the Premier League last season, and even though they've strengthened considerably, I'm not entirely convinced by the goalkeeper or their CBs (Stones is still an absolute liability, Otamendi inconsistent, and Kompany is brilliant but can never stay fit), so I still think they may have another midseason wobble. Overall, they have the strongest squad in the league, but the best squad on paper does not a Champion make. (See: Liverpool FC 2013-2014).
As for Arsenal, by all accounts Wenger is going to throw away the Europa League and focus on getting back into that top 4. Kolasnic looks a great signing, and Lacazette will score goals, but I think it will be yet another very typical Arsenal season... promising performances, followed by defeats against bottom of the table opposition. Maybe the one saving grace is that they won't have their customary depressing round of 16 Champions League exit this season.
Chelsea have had an odd preseason after such a strong showing last year. Way too much off the field drama… from the Diego Costa situation to Conte’s repeated outbursts over his lack of signings, it does not seem like a happy camp. On top of that, I am very intrigued to see how Morata does. In the Community Shield he looked low on confidence, and Conte has come out a number of times and questioned his fitness levels, which seems an oddly unsettling thing to do to a record signing who has just arrived in a brand new league. I think they have enough quality with the likes of Hazard, Willian, and Pedro to see them in the top 4 but I don’t think it will be as smooth sailing for them as it was the majority of last year.
As for Liverpool and Spurs… Liverpool have had a bizarre off season, chasing lost causes, and I don’t think that they’ve strengthened an extremely top heavy squad enough to challenge for the title. They scraped into the top 4 last year, and with a likely European campaign on their docket now, I can see Klopp’s men again running out of fuel around Christmas.
Spurs would have been my pick for the title if they had remained at White Hart Lane this season. They struggle on the big pitch at Wembley (the tight pitch at WHL suited Pochettino’s style of play perfectly and made them almost impossible to beat at home), and they’ve had a horrendous off season— no signings to add to a squad that was already thin last season. They are a long term injury to Kane or Alli away from being well off the pace this year. I hope I’m wrong, because they are a joy to watch when they are in form, but I could see this being a somewhat catastrophic season for Spurs, leading to them losing their best players, and potentially their manager next summer.
Relegated: Burnley, Huddersfield, Swansea
Burnley have had a big loss at the back in Michael Keane, and a big loss up front in Andre Gray. They are always there or there abouts in terms of a relegation fight, and I just don’t see them scoring enough goals to stay in the division.
Huddersfield are the Cinderella story of this campaign. And I think they will provide a lot of entertaining games this season with their attack… Could see a lot of 4-3s 3-2s with them involved. But ultimately they just don’t have the quality throughout the squad to keep them up. I hope I’m wrong though as wouldn’t it be great to see a quasi-American manager do well in the Premier League?
Swansea were woeful at times last season. Paul Clement did a tremendous job to keep them up, but I think with Sigurdsson potentially on his way, and only really Tammy Abraham providing any excitement in terms of signings, I think it will be a big struggle for them from the off.
Top Scorer: Big Rom
He scored a crapload of goals in an oftentimes very poor Everton team last season. Even though he might miss the occasional sitter, I still fancy him to put away the majority of his chances (of which he will have MANY at United).
Player of the Season: Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind HEY MICKEY (Mkhitaryan)
The Armenian is a joy to watch with the ball at his feet. He has that ability to glide past players that so few seem to be able to do. He was player of the season two years ago in Germany, and in a stop start season last year for United still put up some decent numbers in terms of Goals and Assists. Remains to be seen whether or not Mourinho will use him more in Europe and save the likes of Rashford etc for the Premier League, but given a run in the team in his best position behind Lukaku, I think he can drive United to the title.
Young Player of the Season: Sir Marcus of Rashford
Having watched United in person against Barcelona this summer, Rashford was the best player on the field besides Messi and Neymar. His pace is devastating, but it is his movement that is particularly impressive for someone so young. If he can add a clinical side to his game this year, he could easily take home the young player gong (which typically goes to a young Englishman).
Manager of the Season: Jose "Playin the Way United Should" (he won't) Mourinho
If Mourinho wins the league in his second season, can there be anyone else?
First Manager Sacked: Paul Clement
As I mentioned before, I think Swansea will struggle, and the Swans owners are not shy of pulling the trigger if they feel a managerial situation is not working out. Just ask Gary Monk or Bob Bradley about that.
League Cup: Tottenham
Spurs need to win something. I have a feeling if they do find some kind of form, or go on a run in a cup it will be earlier in the season when the squad is still relatively fresh.
FA Cup: West Ham
West Ham had a pretty abysmal season last year after their really promising 15-16 campaign. They’ve added a proven goal scorer in Chicharito, and another quality attacker in Arnautovic, so I could see them giving it a go in the cup.
Europa League: Everton
Rooney is always going to have his haters and his doubters, but I suspect Everton were keen to bring him back for his off the field influence more than anything else. He has won it all— literally. Pair that with great signings at the back in Pickford, and Keane, added quality in midfield with Klaassen, and a clinical goal scorer up front in Ramirez, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Everton win something this year. And why not the Europa League??
Champions League: PSG
Despite their capitulation at the Nou Camp, PSG had some stellar performances in the Champions League last year. With the addition of Neymar, they’ve got a genuine world class super star who can lead them to the top of Europe's elite. Bayern, and Barca have stood still in recent years, where as Madrid look as strong as ever, but to borrow a phrase from every Liverpool fan I know, I just have a feeling this year is their year.