Ahead of the opening fixtures of the 2017/18 English Premier League season on August 12th, there’s a greater sense of optimism that this season will be a much closer affair than what we’ve seen over the last two seasons. Last season’s Champions Chelsea ended up winning the title with a 7 point buffer over runners up Tottenham. The sides beyond these two though have done some heavy lifting in the transfer market so far and have the potential to close the gap if they can hit the ground running. Manchester City in particular have focused on their problem area that was defence last season and Manchester United’s spending so far has added plenty of quality. Arsenal, without any Champion’s League football this season, have broken their transfer record whilst Liverpool are pushing hard to spend without a whole lot of luck just yet.
Of course spending doesn’t always mean instant improvement as it often takes time for the players to gel together and build up their own chemistry and that’s precisely why it is looking like a close title race at this stage. All of these big names will be hit and miss at times as they adapt to a new league, a new team and a new country.
Naturally Chelsea are a strong contender to go back to back given they’ve now won 2 titles in the last 3 seasons. Perhaps where it becomes difficult for them this season compared to last is the fact they will need to do so with European football. It’s not a foreign task for them of course, but it’s a challenge nonetheless and it’ll be an interesting watch to see how they adapt to that. They have made some good additions in the transfer market so far also which will help, but the expected outgoing of Diego Costa and the already departed Matic will be difficult to completely replace. Bakayoko from Monaco goes a fair way to replacing Matic, though will need to adapt to a new team and a new league. Similarly for Morata, he’s a great signing but needs to step up a level to match Costa’s goals last season. That’s perhaps where the load will be shared a little more this season with that of Batshuayi who played very little last season after being second fiddle to Costa. He’s a talented player with pace and power that will have a bigger impact this season. The other challenge Chelsea will have will be navigating the start of the season without their star player, Eden Hazard who’s not expected back until early/Mid-September. Regardless, Chelsea will be right in the fight this season but 2017/18 is going to be a lot tougher.
Last season’s runners up should probably be close to the early favourites for the title this season however the uncertainty of how they will adapt to a full home and away season at Wembley leaves some question marks. Their record at Wembley leaves a lot to be desired with last season alone seeing a record of 1 win, 1 draw and 3 losses. It’s a concern given their incredible undefeated home record last season at White Hart Lane and in some ways perhaps the redevelopment of the new stadium came a year too early as they would have a huge chance of success this season. Of all the title contenders, Tottenham are the most settled side and should be able to hit the ground running whilst those around them scramble to improve in the transfer market. They have the best record of any side over the last 2 seasons being 15 points better off than the next best side, Manchester City. Add to that the league’s best striker, Harry Kane, who scored 29 times to claim his 2nd straight Golden boot and from just 30 games. Spurs will be right up their this season but the challenge of trying to win a title from Wembley might be just too much.
The 2017/18 season is looking like it could be a bumpy road for Arsenal this season. No Champions League football and uncertain futures for the likes of Sanchez and Ozil don’t make for great preparation for the season ahead. Perhaps the one positive though is the signing of Lacazette as he’s the sort of striker that they need given his pace and versatility, assuming of course he can adapt to the league quickly. If they do keep Sanchez for the season ahead then they will certainly have a good chance of a top 4 finish however there’s just too much uncertainty about their overall side. Defensively they were pretty poor last season conceding 44 times and whilst a change in formation may help to ease some of those defensive frailties that they have, they need a lot more additions than just Lacazette. That’s perhaps where the problem lies though, the quality they can attract beyond Lacazette is thin and in this market it was always going to be difficult even with Champion’s League football helping attract bigger talent.
Much like a number of sides, Manchester United have spent big so far this window. Lukaku and Lindelof are the big additions but they still need to do more particularly after the loss of Wayne Rooney, albeit somewhat maligned of late. With Lukaku they’ll get pace & power but if they’re to win the title they can’t solely rely on the goals he’ll produce because United’s problem last season was there wasn’t a big enough contribution across the team. They scored 54 times last season, which ranked 8th in the league, 8 behind Everton and 1 less than Bournemouth. The contribution across the team though just wasn’t there either. Ibrahimovic scored 31% of the team’s goals with 17. Their next best was Mata with 6 whilst Pogba, Rashford and Rooney each added 5. Lukaku will likely provide a bigger contribution which may translate into a few more points but they really need another 1-2 players to reach double digits if they’re going to climb further up the table this season. Right now, you’d have to say that’s not yet going to come from Mata, Martial or Rashford. In the end, United will improve, but taking leaps doesn’t seem likely just yet.
There’s a lot of new faces at Manchester City and still perhaps a few more to come. They’ve been hit & miss the last few seasons with a lot of their core persistently injured. Kompany has only played 20 odd games in the past 2 seasons whilst the fitness of Aguero can no longer be relied on. City have certainly done a lot to address their main issue in that of their inconsistent goalkeepers and lack of pacey full-backs. The additions of Mendy, Walker and Danilo at that position may take some time to gel but they offer pace and a stronger attacking threat than those that they have replaced. Likewise, the addition of Ederson in goal will hopefully provide some consistency that they haven’t had for some time. Having watched some of their play over the pre-season, they have shown how threatening they will be this season and if they can hit the ground running there’s every chance they could win the title this season. A lot will rest on the keeping the likes of Toure & Kompany fit and the continued strong performances of Jesus up front after a stellar cameo run of games towards the end of last season. They have all the tools on paper and given how close this season could be, they may just end up sneaking it.
When you look at Liverpool’s frontline attack, they look scary. The raw pace alone from Mane along with the new addition of Salah is going to be a lot to handle for a lot of teams this season. Perhaps where they fall short though, albeit new additions will likely still come, is defensively. They still haven’t solved their defensive issues and although they should improve on last season, they’ve just conceded too many goals (42 last season) without making any major changes to their defensive unit. They are desperately short of reliable full-backs, albeit Milner did a great job filling in last season, and in central defence they need a world class player that can restore some confidence. Despite this though, this is a side that is going to be capable of scoring 80+ goals and when you’re getting into that territory you’re also getting in with a sniff of the title, particularly if they can drop those 42 goals conceded to the mid to low 30’s. Problem is though, they may get closer in the title race but they will fall short simply because they will drop more points than those around them due to lapses defensively but boy will they be entertaining!
Predicted top 6
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
Top 4 Chance
Out of these sides, Everton are perhaps the best equipped to mount a top 4 challenge. The sale of Lukaku has sparked a spending spree that has seen the likes of Pickford, Keane, Klaassen, Sandro & Rooney added which provides them greater strength in depth on paper. Numerous additions though don’t always mean instant success and the loss of Lukaku who contributed 40% of Everton’s goals last season could be too much to replace, at least initially. They could still do with another striker, though the addition of Rooney looks an inspired one as he could play with a lot more freedom and as a result may be presented with more opportunities to score compared to the role he played at United in recent seasons. Perhaps where it may just be too tough for Everton is simply that they’ll take some time to gel. They’ll have periods of brilliance but consistency over such a long season is going to be hard to achieve.
Middle of the Pack
Southampton, Bournemouth, West Brom, Leicester, Stoke, Crystal Palace, West Ham
There’s no reason that at least one of these sides will make a surprise run and there’s generally always one that does. West Brom had some really good patches of form last season but as easily as these sides can sometimes show quick progress, they can just as quickly drop off. Southampton as well as West Ham look the best equipped to show that sort of potential run of form that may see them push into the top 6 at times during the season. Southampton haven’t been overly active in the transfer market but they’ve managed to keep hold of Van Dijk so far and their core defenders around them along with Forster in goal give them a great defensive base to build off. They have some solid attacking talent as well and Gabbiadini in particular will benefit from a full pre-season having joined last January.
West Ham on the other hand have added some decent names across the pitch this transfer window and importantly the likes of Hart, Zabaletta and Chicharito all have Premier League experience. The other thing for West Ham is that they’re now over the transition into their new stadium so you would expect improvement over last year just on that. Though they may have done some great business during the transfer window, they will still need time to gel as a team so they will have some patchy moments through the season. A top 8 finish in the end should be a realistic target though.
The remaining sides such as Palace, Leicester, Stoke and Bournemouth will be there at times but just haven’t yet shown the consistency to push any higher up the table. Stoke have done well in signing Zouma on loan from Chelsea but they need further attention on their striking department to see further progression. Bournemouth’s addition of Defoe adds plenty of experience and guaranteed goals along with King who took big steps last season. Leicester will trouble a lot of sides but just like their title defence, they look like they’ll go missing too often to mount any serious push towards a top 8 finish. Perhaps the reduced pressure from no European football will see improvement but they need to invest a little more. Lastly, Palace will be a dangerous side when they are in form. Their attacking front of Benteke, Zaha, Townsend and Puncheon at their best can hurt anyone but as soon as injuries hit, they look just too short of depth and quality.
Swansea, Huddersfield, Brighton, Watford, Burnley, Newcastle
The remaining sides will have a tough year ahead, particularly the promoted sides. Newcastle are perhaps the best equipped to survive the drop but that’s easier said than done. Huddersfield will enjoy the experience and perhaps their nothing to lose approach may see them surprise a few but they just don’t have the quality or depth. Swansea look the most at risk of dropping down. The potential loss of Sigurdsson as well as Llorente leaves them desperately short of any quality and without those two, they would have been back in the Championship this season. Burnley are solid defensively but they can’t rely on their home form from last season and they just don’t score enough goals. Brighton have a good manager who might be able to navigate them to survival but they need to add some more talent. Watford have enough in their squad to survive but they too need to add a few more to their squad to freshen things up otherwise they too could be playing in the Championship next season.
Predicted Teams to Drop:
18th – Brighton
19th – Swansea
20th – Huddersfield