By Palatinate Sport
With the 25th season of the Premier League set to kick off after a summer of mad spending, the Palatinate Sport team predict who will be the winners and the losers this time around.
Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero (Sport Editor): It is hard to look past Manchester City after a summer in which Pep Guardiola has overhauled his squad and splashed out over £200m on several signings in key positions. The likes of Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and Kyle Walker are smart additions, while Bernardo Silva could be a steal at £43.6m. City’s strength in depth is frightening, and they will have no trouble dealing with the demands of European football while mounting a title assault.
James Martland (Deputy Sport Editor): Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has performed a much-needed revamp of his squad this summer – a new goalkeeper and three fullbacks are additions in positions which required attention and the acquisition of Bernardo Silva has added excitement to an already talented front line. Question marks remain about John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi, but City should outscore most teams this season.
Ollie Godden (Deputy Sport Editor): Perhaps controversially, I think Manchester United will take it. They have built a strong squad and I think José Mourinho is beginning to build the ‘Special One’ dynasty that he was so well known for during his Chelsea days. Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic will be an exciting and physical duo in the middle of the park, and while admittedly I’m apprehensive about the impact of £75m Romelu Lukaku, they’ve recruited a man who can feasibly step into Zlatan’s rather large shoes and make them a very good side going forwards. The key to their success will be avoiding a slow start and limiting lost points early on – they will only get stronger throughout the season.
Will Jennings (Deputy Sport Editor): Manchester City invested well to reinforce what was an ageing and vulnerable defence and are still blessed with a range of potent attacking options. Stones will continue to improve and Guardiola will have learned from last year’s mistakes. Expect them to be a real force.
Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero: 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Manchester United, 4th Spurs, 5th Liverpool, 6th Arsenal
Chelsea thrived without any European commitments last season, but Antonio Conte has failed to seriously bolster his squad this summer. Rüdiger, Bakayoko and Morata are all good signings, but seem to be high-end replacements rather than genuine additions. This is not to say that Conte’s side won’t challenge Guardiola’s this season, though much depends on whether Morata can replicate the performances of the out-of-favour Diego Costa.
United will be much more of a force this time around having recruited well, but José Mourinho’s team remain some way short of City and Chelsea. Spurs are another side who might rue their lack of transfer activity, even if they have kept last year’s spine largely intact, while the temporary move to Wembley will test them. Liverpool will still have a formidable attack if Phillippe Coutinho does leave for Spain but defence is an issue, while despite victory in the Community Shield and the arrival of Alexandre Lacazette, the Europa League schedule will be unforgiving for Arsenal.
James Martland: 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Liverpool, 4th Manchester United, 5th Spurs, 6th Arsenal
With a depleted squad and a much busier schedule, Chelsea are unlikely to be quite as successful this season as last. However, they are still likely to be in with a shout come the end of the season. Liverpool remain a threat with an exciting attacking line, provided they can keep Coutinho out of the clutches of Barcelona. Manchester United are likely to improve slightly on last season as Mourinho continues to build his team. A move to Wembley, meaning a much bigger pitch, is unlikely to have the desired effect for Tottenham, who have a poor record at the ground, while the signing of Alexandre Lacazette, selected behind Olivier Giroud for the French national team, will not solve all of Arsenal’s problems.
Ollie Godden: 2nd Manchester City, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Spurs, 5th Arsenal, 6th Everton
This is the most open race we have ever seen for these spots. Gone are the days of the predictable ‘big four’ stealing the show, and this is thanks to the quantity of money being spent across the board. The likes of Everton splashing cash this summer opens the league up into dimensions we haven’t seen, which is invariably a good thing for the competition. With this in mind, some big clubs will miss out, and there will be a riveting battle for these money-making positions.
Will Jennings: 2nd Spurs, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Manchester United, 5th Liverpool, 6th Arsenal
Despite their lack of investment, Spurs will be up there again. Retaining Kane, Alli, Son, Dier, Alderweireld and Lloris will prove vital, while Trippier is more than capable of filling the gap left by Kyle Walker. Although Chelsea lost Matic and the Diego Costa situation continues, Conte still has a solid defence – Rüdiger was an excellent piece of business – and Morata will score goals. Mourinho has also bought well at Old Trafford – Lindelof appears a good signing who could forge a productive partnership with Bailly at the back, and Matic will provide an excellent shield in the centre of the park. If Lukaku can emulate his form of recent seasons then United could be a real force going forwards. I’m still unsure about Liverpool’s defence and Coutinho’s future remains uncertain. Arsenal have failed to improve a serially brittle defence and still lack leaders despite the arrival of Lacazette.
Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero: 18th Burnley, 19th Brighton, 20th Huddersfield
Burnley have made Turf Moor something of a fortress under Sean Dyche, but they will find life much trickier this season. Michael Keane and Andre Gray will be big losses, while Jon Walters and Jack Cork are hardly inspired signings. Brighton and Huddersfield have won many fans over with their fairy-tale rise through the divisions, but will probably find the Premier League a bridge too far. Having said that, I would love to be proven wrong by both teams.
James Martland: 18th Swansea, 19th Burnley, 20th Brighton
The departure of Michael Keane, Burnley’s best player last campaign, will cause problems for a side who struggled at times last season. With Gylfi Sigurdsson, who kept Swansea up with important goals and assists last year, looking set to leave the club this summer, Swansea are another side who could be in trouble. Brighton deserve their chance at the highest level but may find they are not quite good enough. The likes of Glenn Murray are unlikely to have as large an impact in the Premier League as they did in the Championship.
Ollie Godden: 18th Brighton, 19th Burnley, 20th Huddersfield
It’s hard to look further than the newly promoted clubs each season when it comes to relegation, and it’s no different this year. Although I’d like to be proven wrong, I think Huddersfield will struggle as their summer business has not seemed to match their ambition of survival. Brighton will make a better fist of things but lacking Premier League knowhow will be a cause for concern. Conversely, Newcastle should blend into mid-table obscurity with their relatively decent squad and Burnley will be the side to stop all three promoted sides plummeting back down.
Will Jennings: 18th Watford, 19th Brighton, 20th Huddersfield
Brighton and Huddersfield are surely bound to struggle. Hughton’s side showed signs of psychological shortcomings in failing to secure the Championship title last season and have failed to recruit any players with proven Premier League quality. It seems to be a similar story at Huddersfield – while Wagner’s work there has been laudable, they will probably lack the resources to remain in the top flight. Newcastle should be fine owing to the arrivals of Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo, so Watford are my pick to fill the remaining spot. Marco Silva is still largely unproven at this level despite relative success at Hull, and they have failed to truly improve their squad.
Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero: It’s a boring answer, but Harry Kane. Nobody guarantees goals like the England striker, whose stratospheric rise is almost Roy of the Rovers material. Spurs may not reach the heady heights of last season, but Kane will find the back of the net regardless. Again. And again.
James Martland: Romelu Lukaku. Few people are convinced by Jose Mourinho’s decision to splash £75million on a striker who has struggled to find form against the Premier League’s biggest teams. However, the Belgian forward notched 25 leagues goals last campaign and, surrounded by better players, he is likely to improve on that this year.
Ollie Godden: It feels like a bit of a cop-out not to stick my neck out with a left-field suggestion, but Harry Kane has to be favourite for me. He has consistently proved himself as a goal scorer in all situations and, notwithstanding Spurs’ lack of summer additions, the side is filled with enough quality to feed the England frontman. Despite being shot down when suggesting it to friends, I think Marcus Rashford will also have a very successful season. Constant game time will serve him well and, fitness providing, I’m sure he will have the best goal return of his brief career.
Will Jennings: Despite the movements of Lukaku, Morata and Lacazette, Harry Kane’s brilliance should prevail, assisted by the dynamic likes of Son, Alli and Eriksen. He ended last season superbly, and is so clinical with both feet and in the air. A top striker.
Signing of the summer
Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero: This slightly defeats the point of the category, but I’m going to go for two signings: Ederson to Manchester City and Jordan Pickford to Everton. Both are keepers with hugely promising futures at 23, and both have joined clubs in desperate need of a reliable man between the sticks. Claudio Bravo endured a horrendous debut campaign at City, while Everton have not had a consistent No.1 for a long time. Pickford and Ederson will give their sides certainty at the back once again and allow the two clubs to push on.
James Martland: Javier Hernández could be a fantastic signing for West Ham. The Mexican had five seasons at Manchester United, proving his ability to perform in the Premier League, but was never classed as the club’s main forward. He went away to Bayer Leverkusen to get more game time, scoring 26 goals in his first season. If he stays fit, Chicharito could fire West Ham into the European places.
Ollie Godden: It’s never easy to predict how players new to the league will perform and adapt given the unique, fast-paced, physical nature of the Premier League. With that being said, Alexandre Lacazette has to be the best bit of recruitment of the window. While Olivier Giroud has established himself as a firm Premier League performer, they have lacked a cutting edge that his French teammate can find with his pace and power; traits that are synonymous with the recent Arsenal outfits. It seems rather hypocritical predicting a fifth-place finish for the Gooners yet choosing the former Lyon man as a stand-out performer, but, with every team spending more and more, Lacazette will be key to ensuring their European finish.
Will Jennings: A toss-up between four strikers: Jermain Defoe to Bournemouth, Kelechi Iheanacho to Leicester, Tammy Abraham to Swansea on loan and Javier Hernández to West Ham. All four are brilliant finishers and terrific recruitments, but Hernández has scored lots of Premier League goals already and will be helped by the creativity of Arnautovic, Ayew and Lanzini behind him. One to watch.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons