It’s baaaaack!! Plus VAR, minus Hazard but the new Premier League season is finally here.
This has to be the make or break season for Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham Hotspur project. The core of his squad (Lloris, Vermaelen, Verthonghen, Alli, Son, Kane) has been together for a while now and they proved in their run to the Champions League final last year that they are not so Spursy after all and do have what it takes to beat the very best. Whether they can sustain form and fitness over the course of a 38 game season remains to be seen, but if they can I could easily see them winning the title for the first time in over 50 years. To borrow a phrase from every Liverpool fan I know, this really could be their year. :D
Top 4: Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal
Leroy Sane’s ACL damage is a big blow to City. He proved to be decisive in a number of important matches last season, and is perhaps the only front player besides Raheem Sterling with the kind of pace necessary to do damage out wide. Pep has claimed that he is focused on winning the league again ahead of the Champions League, but that is a ruse. Ol Big Ears is the trophy that Pep was brought in to win, and if he doesn’t get it this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave at the end of the season.
Liverpool have had an oddly quiet off season. The 2018-2019 campaign was their best ever performance in the Premier League, and they were literally inches away from winning it. They did of course go on to claim the Champions League, but they have failed to strengthen in the off season. Despite that, they do have a very strong squad already, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return to fitness will undoubtedly feel like a new signing. But they do have a lack of depth in the back line, and it would be a miracle if they kept everyone fit for a title push and a run deep into the Champions League as they did last season.
Arsenal have made some exciting additions in the off season. Nicolas Pepe is a real coup for them, Kieran Tierney is a huge upgrade at left back, and David Luiz (though inconsistent) is better than the woeful Mustafi. Also encouraging for Arsenal fans, last season Aubameyang and Lacazette showed signs of developing a truly lethal strike partnership up front. As always with Arsenal, consistency is key, but if they can find that they look in a much stronger position to finish in the top 4 than Manchester United or Chelsea.
Relegated: Norwich, Brighton, Sheffield United
Norwich are perhaps the perennial yo-yo team between the Premier League and the Championship. They start the 2019-2020 Premier League season having won the Championship last year, but their squad is still very much a Championship level one at best and so it would be no surprise to see them head straight back from whence they came.
Brighton narrowly escaped relegation last season, and the only player of any note to have joined in the off season is Aaron Mooy. Though they managed to hang on to team captain Lewis Dunk (for now at least), they still are bound to face an uphill battle to remain in the Premier League.
Sheffield United secured top flight football for the first time in over a decade by finishing 2nd in the Championship last season. However, like fellow promoted new boys Norwich, their squad screams Championship quality, and I could see them being the Premier League’s punching bag for the 2019-2020 campaign.
Top Scorer: Harry Kane
If he hadn’t been so unlucky with injuries over the last few years, Harry Kane would no doubt have been further up the goal scoring charts. At 26, he is entering his prime years, and if he can stay fit, it would be no surprise to see him scoring for fun as Tottenham push for a long awaited title. After being something of footballing nomads for the last few years at Wembley, the new stadium will be both a joy and a relief for Spurs and Kane to finally settle into, and could provide a great platform to take them to the next level.
Player of the Year: Harry Kane
There is no denying that Harry Kane is the most natural goal scorer England have produced in a generation. He just needs a sniff, even half a sniff, and the ball usually finds its way into the back of the net. If Tottenham are going to have the kind of season that they are certainly capable of, Harry Kane will be integral to any success they will have. Like Pochettino, this feels like a make or break season for Kane in his Tottenham career. If Tottenham and Kane end another season trophyless, it would be no surprise to see him leave his beloved Spurs next summer in search of silverware.
Young Player of the Year: Trent Alexander-Arnold
The 20 year old Liverpool full back has already played in 2 Champions League finals, and for his country in the World Cup. His delivery both from out wide and from set pieces were absolutely crucial to Liverpool’s form last season, and he is already one of if not the best right back in the Premier League. He is one of the first name’s on Jurgen Klopp’s team sheet and continues to get better and better.
First Manager Sacked: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Poor Ole. Like Jose Mourinho before him, Solskjaer has been set up to fail at United by an incredibly baffling transfer window. The acquisitions of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will certainly improve an incredibly mediocre back line. But in 2019, United have let Romelu Lukaku, Ander Herrera, and Marouane Fellaini leave the club without bringing in any replacements. Lukaku’s departure puts an awful lot of pressure on the worryingly inconsistent Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, and the midfield is one of the weakest in recent memory (which is saying something). Paul Pogba doesn’t want to be at the club, Nemanja Matic is well past his best, Fred looks out of his depth, and Scott McTominay and Andreas Periera are young, inconsistent, and yet to prove that they are of the quality necessary to anchor a place in United’s midfield in the long term. With a tricky Europa league campaign and domestic rivals looking stronger than ever, it would be a surprise to see Ole in the job come Christmas.
League Cup: Manchester City
Manchester City are so strong that even their C team could probably win the League Cup fairly easily, especially if they get as easy a run to the final as they did last season. The League Cup is something of a lost competition these days, and with other rivals surely to be focusing elsewhere, it would make sense that City’s strength in depth sees them clinch back to back League Cup trophies.
FA Cup: Chelsea
It would be magical if Frank Lampard delivered a trophy for Chelsea in his first season as their manager. His Derby team played some lovely football in their cup run last season, and Lampard has (slightly by default) an exciting young team to work with including the American Christian Pulisic. Though Pulisic has the pressure of filling Eden Hazard’s shoes, he is an immensely talented player who should thrive under Lampard’s tutelage. It would be surprising to see them go too far in this season’s Champions League which could mean they turn their attention to a run in the FA Cup in the second half of the season.
Europa League: Arsenal
Arsenal managed to get to the Europa League final last season without really breaking a sweat. They were beaten on the night by not so much a better team but a team with perhaps the Premier League’s best player in Eden Hazard, who has since departed for Real Madrid. Unai Emery is something of a Europa League savant and it would be no surprise to see Arsenal correct last season’s disappointment by winning the Europa League this time around.
Champions League: Manchester City
Don’t let him fool you. This is the one that Pep wants. After back to back Premier League wins, City have to be considered favorites for this years competition. Real Madrid are a hot mess, Bayern aren’t much better, and you would think that City will have learned something from being knocked out by English opposition two years in a row. Juventus look strong but it remains to be seen how Maurizio Sarri gets settled in Turin. Barcelona will always be there or there abouts as long as Messi is around, but as they have shown in recent years, do have a tendency to crap the bed in the latter stages of the competition. Of course, Liverpool will have something to say about City’s march to a first Champions League title, but Pep won’t make the same mistake thrice.
One to watch: Everton
Everton have done some spectacular business in the off season with the signings of Moise Kean, Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi. Though I think it would be a stretch to see them finish in the top 4, with United floundering, and Chelsea and Arsenal inconsistent, they (and Wolves) both could push for a spot in the mini league of teams that usually make up the top 6.