Barely a month after the world cup, the English premier league is back. It kicks off on Friday 10th August 2018 when Leicester city will visit the red devils. For the next nine months, till mid may 2019, twenty clubs will battle to be crowned this season’s league champions in what is expected to be a tightly contested battle.
- The title race
Having garnered a record 100 points last season, Manchester City head in as the clear favorites. however, no team has defended an EPL title successfully since Manchester United did so in 2009 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Nonetheless, ManCity has a balanced squad brimming with talent, and from defense to attack, they look capable of retaining his one.
Moh Salah’s Liverpool will likely be the main challenger, the club has invested in midfielders such as Naby Keita and Fabinho, the Swiss attacker, the mercurial Xherdan Shaqiri, as well as a new goalkeeper, brazils Alison Becker. A game between Man City and Liverpool is a must-watch for anyone who calls themselves a football fan.
Liverpool can take on anyone in the top six, however, it’s matches against the lesser lights of the division such as Huddersfield, Brighton and Cardiff city are crucial for winning their first league title in 28 years.
Manchester United is also among the favorites this season. The league’s richest team has too often failed to excite, but they finished second last season and have acquired Fred, a Brazilian midfielder who will allow Pogba a more creative license to attack and support the likes of Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, and Rashford.
With Coach José Mourinho seemingly unhappy that he hasn’t gotten new players, the headlines at Manchester United could be as intriguing off the field as last season’s.
The three remaining members of the ‘Big Six’ includes London based Arsenal , Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur who will all be looking to finish in the top four. Last month Chelsea fired hugely successful coach Antonio Conte. Arsenal is currently undergoing a massive rebuilding phase after long-serving manager Arsene Wenger left the club after 22 years.
Their new coach Unai Emery will be pleading for fan patience as he prepares his players to play under a new possibly more defensive system. , and got into the new season without having spent much money in the window, and will hope Mauricio Sarri their new coach can complain less, provide more entertainment on the field and utilize their impressive avalanche of youthful talent.
Tottenham Hotspur also head into the new season with change, having redeveloped their old stadium, White Hart Lane. This means that money to spend on new players is at a premium. (They are the only club yet to spend any money on new signings as at Monday 6th August 2018). Their coach Mauricio Pochettino will do very well to achieve the third place position they got last season.
- The best of the rest
With the top six positions in the league seemingly set in stone, the remaining 14 clubs will have to reset their goals. The battle to finish seventh, best of the rest, will be fought amongst the clutch of clubs that are too good to go down and not good enough to gatecrash the big six-party. In my view, this battle will be amongst these clubs: Everton, Leicester, west ham, Burnley and possibly Bournemouth.
Leicester, the club that shocked the premier league champions two years ago, will hope to move on from the sale of their talisman Riyadh Mahrez and push on for European contention, but there are concerns about their style of play under Coach Claude Puel remain.
Everton finished eighth last season, but the disastrous era of Sam Allardyce lingers in the memory. They will look to consolidate and push on under Mauro Silva, one of the most ambitious young managers in the league.
Burnley finished seventh last season, but participation in the Europe league could distract them. It will be interesting to see how manager Sean Dyche balances the two competitions. West Ham Utd are tenants at one of the biggest stadiums in the league, and under heavily experienced coach, former man city manager Manuel Pellegrini, have made exciting signings such as Felipe Anderson and Ukraine’s Yarmolenko. They could be one of the most exciting teams to watch in their division.
Bournemouth will hope to kick on after three years of consolidation under beloved manager Eddie Howe. They are one of the most stable clubs in the league and play an exciting brand of football. They could be ready to make the next hop.
- The relegation battle
At the other end of the table, as many as ten clubs will start the season knowing that they could end up going a notch below. However, I think Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Wolves, Fulham, Southampton, and Huddersfield are in the most dangerous positions.
Newcastle United starts the season with trouble brewing among the fan base after unpopular owner Mike Ashley failed to back the coach in the transfer window, and this instability off the pitch marks them as a club that could suffer next season. They will need all the experience of the popular coach Rafa Benitez to avoid relegation.
Of the three teams that were promoted last season, Cardiff City appears to be the least prepared, and they will need to extract the maximum from a squad that was far from the best in the Championship season. Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers are the other two that were promoted, but they have spent more than Cardiff City over the summer and both will back themselves to finish at least 17th.
Southampton barely survived last season, and under Mark Hughes, they have struggled to win anything. They will need to finish off more chances, but failure to buy a top striker could haunt them again. For Huddersfield another season of hanging near the bottom beckons. Hopefully, their inspirational coach David Wagner will do a better job of motivating them for this season again.
During this season in a nutshell, although many will have you believe that any of the 20 clubs can win the league, there are three clearly separated strata of clubs. However, the cutthroat nature of the competition and balancing of interest in up to four competitions for clubs means that on any given weekend, anyone can lose to anyone. It promises to be a gripping ten months to come.