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Premier League Predictions 2019/20

After a long summer wait, the Premier League is almost back! Though there is inevitably still transfer business to be done, we’ve made our Premier League predictions for the 2019/20 season by forecasting the final league standings.

Do you agree with these finishing positions?

 

1st – Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Already the only Premier League team to defend their title in a decade, City will be hoping to become the first side to win a hat-trick of titles since Manchester United managed the feat in the three seasons leading up to 2000/01. The signs at the Etihad are good.

Despite Liverpool harvesting the third highest points total in Premier League history last season, they still fell short of City who, if anything, seem to have have grown stronger. There is perhaps a question mark over the Citizens defensively, with the departing Vincent Kompany leaving a gaping chasm to fill in terms of leadership as well as ability.

However, the signing of Rodri looks to be one of the deals of the summer and should answer the long running questions about who will succeed the aging but influential Fernandinho.

Additionally, Pep will be hoping that City’s best player, Kevin De Bruyne, has overcome the injury problems which restricted him to 974 minutes last year, under than a third of the season. It’s a scary prospect but City could be even stronger and it would take a brave man to bet against them continuing their domination.

 

2nd – Liverpool

Manager: Jürgen Klopp

Liverpool enjoyed a fantastic season in 18/19, taking the title fight to the final game of the season in what proved a thrilling climax. They ultimately lost out by a point but did receive the small consolation of winning the Champions League.

Their campaign was a fitting reward for substantial financial investment in their squad over the last 18 months which, in itself, has been a sign of faith in the manager. However, so far this summer they have stood still. The return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from injury and the emergence of Rhian Brewster will inevitably be described as being ‘like new signings’, however not as similar as actual new signings.

Liverpool’s first XI is a match for anyone but they do not possess the same depth as City and I am wondering about the physical and mental toll last season took. The Reds were fortunate to go through the season largely injury free but their fearsome front three have since played in draining summer tournaments for the second year running. Klopp will need to use them sparingly to avoid burn out or injury.

I am also wondering what the psychological effects of their near title miss could be. Being pipped on the line by City after surrendering a big lead must have made the players wonder what more they can do. I predict that Liverpool will fall short of their previous points tally but still be too good for the rest.

 

3rd – Manchester United

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjær

I know what you’re thinking but hear me out. Solskjær seems to be the lowest-rated of the current top six managers, including the rookie Frank Lampard. Yet in a Premier League table of results since the Norwegian took over in December, United sit third, five points clear of Arsenal, six in front of Chelsea and a whopping eight ahead of Spurs.

United’s form eventually tailed off but so did that of their three aforementioned rivals and I would argue that the drop was down to the gaps in their squad rather than any deterioration in Solskjær’s management.

United’s single biggest drawback last season was their defending. They conceded the second most goals in the top ten, one less than tenth placed West Ham. However, they’ve taken steps to address the issue with the signing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, arguably the best defensive full back in the league. The signing of Harry Maguire should follow and the two Englishman will transform the Red Devils rearguard.

The most exciting signing could be the mooted swap deal that would see Romelu Lukaku trade places with Juventus’ Paulo Dybala. The Argentinian is far more mobile and versatile than Lukaku and is able to play anywhere in the front three, a perfect fit for the fluid attacking system that Solskjaer is trying to build with Marcus Rashford and Antony Martial.

United have also been linked with Bruno Fernandes who would greatly strengthen their midfield. If United land the trio, and it’s a big if, they will have made greater strides than any of their top six rivals.

 

 

4th – Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Things looked rosy at Tottenham when they broke their transfer record to secure the services of Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman could be a fantastic purchase and will hugely improve Spurs’ central midfield options.

However, after failing to splash out in the previous two windows, his transfer alone isn’t enough. Their Champions League heroics masked how drastically Spurs fell away in the second half of last season as a potential title challenge soon became a struggle to remain in the top four.

Tottenham only conceded 39 goals in the league with the Belgian defensive partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Verthongen still among the classiest in the league. However, 23 of those goals came in the second half of the season and with the pair now in their 30s, Spurs could  do with a younger alternative to add energy. Kieran Trippier played 27 of Tottenham’s league games last season at right back and, following his surprising transfer to Atletico Madrid, hasn’t been replaced.

Daniel Levy’s transfer dealings seem to have infuriated manager Mauricio Pochettino who sulkily declared that he is not in charge of transfers, suggesting that things aren’t well behind the scenes. Spurs still have a fantastic first team but, without further investment, may tire again as the season draws on.

 

5th – Chelsea

Manager: Frank Lampard

What a pickle the Blues are in. With their best player, Eden Hazard, finally securing his dream move to Real Madrid, Chelsea’s two window transfer ban couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Club legend Frank Lampard takes the helm from Maurizio Sarri and it will be a baptism of fire for the rookie manager who is in just his second season in management.

There is still plenty of talent at Stamford Bridge and, fortunately, the Blues had already secured the services of Hazard’s replacement, the highly-rated Christian Pulisic. The sheer volume of players which Chelsea had out on loan also gives them options. However, it will undoubtedly be a tough season in which Lampard will need to blood the youngsters.

Chelsea finished third last year but were only two points clear of fifth and the impact of Hazard’s departure simply cannot be emphasised enough. Expect Chelsea to drop down the table.

 

 

6th – Leicester

Manager: Brendan Rodgers

Since Leicester’s incredible title win in 2015/16, one of the greatest underdog stories of all time, the top of the Premier League has been a closed shop with no club managing to breach the strangehold of England’s big six. It seems appropriate then that Leicester could be the best placed to challenge the status quo once again and might have the tools to break that monopoly this season.

The Foxes finished a credible ninth last season despite a turbulent campaign in which they had to overcome the shock helicopter crash that killed their owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, in October as well as a managerial change in February, with the unpopular Claude Puel making way for Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s impact was instant and he won five of his first six matches and taking 20 of a possible 33 points to finish the season. The upturn in form came as a result of his shrewd decision to restore the influential Jamie Vardy as the team’s focal point, with Vardy scoring an astonishing ten times in 11 games.

Leicester have a creative, young team supporting Vardy, characterised by the talented James Maddison, and have recruited along similar lines, adding James Justin, Ayoze Perez and Youri Tielemans to their ranks on a permanent basis.

The Foxes don’t have the distraction of Thursday night football so can concentrate on the league. Assuming they replace Harry Maguire, if he even departs, I predict that they’ll be in for a cracking season.

 

7th – Arsenal

Manager: Unai Emery

Following a bright start in which Arsenal embarked on a 14 match unbeaten streak, their season slowly unravelled before, eventually, fully combusting. The Gunners won just two of their final seven league games, suffering defeats to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester as well as drawing with Brighton. The meltdown was completed in the Europa League final when Chelsea pumped them 4-1.

It was their defending that truly cost them as they only kept one clean sheet in their final seven games, leaking 12 goals. The calamitous Shkrodran Mustafi was vilified following a series of costly errors but, in honesty, their was collective responsibility.

To make matters worse Arsenal’s captain and leader, Laurent Koscielny, has burnt his bridges at the club by refusing to travel on the club’s pre-season tour, stating that he doesn’t see himself playing for the club again. His probable exit coupled with the imminent departure of Mustafi means that the Gunners desperately need experience and quality in their backline, yet have so far recruited one defender, 18-year-old William Saliba.

With a wealth of attacking options, including the superb loan acquisition of Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid, Arsenal will be as aesthetically pleasing going forward as ever. However, without last minute defensive reinforcements they might once again be relying on winning the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League.

 

8th – Wolves

Manager: Nuno Espírito Santo

Wolves were a revelation following their promotion from the Championship as they finished seventh and proved a thorn in the side of the top six all season. In fact, in a mini-league of encounters between the top seven, Wolves finished third with 16 points, three above Arsenal in fourth.

They’ve recruited sensibly this summer, making permanent the loan moves of Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker whilst the signing of young, Italian striker Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan looks smart.

However, my fear for Wolves is the impact that Europa League football could have on their season. The Thursday night competition is notorious for disrupting league progress, with gruelling trips to the furthest reaches of Europe having a detrimental effect on form. Just look at how Burnley began last season.

My hunch is that they’ll give the Europa League a real crack which may have enough of an impact to slightly hinder their league progress.

 

 

9th – Everton

Manager: Marco Silva

Following a cracking climax to their season in which they won six and drew three of their final 11 matches, I thought it would be Everton, rather than Leicester, who would be best placed to mount an assault on the top six. However, after an underwhelming summer, I’ve revised my opinion drastically.

The secret to the Toffees success last year was a staunch defensive record that saw them concede the joint-fifth fewest goals in the division. In fact they kept an astonishing eight clean sheets in that 11 match run, conceding just six times.

However, the band has broken up this summer with Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams leaving and, more significantly, Kurt Zouma returning to Chelsea who are keeping the Frenchman due to their transfer ban. With no defensive reinforcements arriving so far, they could become vulnerable.

Furthermore, Everton have sold the hugely influential defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye to PSG, recruiting Fabian Delph in his place. Delph would have been a fine addition to the squad but, as a replacement, he is a definite downgrade.

One bright point is the imminent arrival of striker Moise Kean from Juventus, with the extremely talented youngster helping to bolster Everton’s strikeforce which was their weakest area. Barring a late splurge on signings though, Everton are actually weaker than last season. A missed opportunity.

 

10th – West Ham

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini

The Hammers have splashed out trying to bulldoze their way up the table but my fear is that it’s being spent in the wrong areas.

Sebastian Haller and Pablo Fornals will add guile to an attacking unit that already features Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini. However, it is defensively where West Ham are vulnerable and the six clean sheets they kept last season was the third fewest. It is telling that Lukasz Fabianski finished as the club’s Player Of The Season, having to make more saves than any other Premier League keeper.

Perennial shithouse Marko Arnautovic has finally been granted his boyhood dream of playing for Shanghai SIPG, but Haller should be a like for like replacement. Overall the Hammers appear to neither improved or worsened significantly and, accordingly, they’ll probably finish mid-table again.

 

 

11th – Southampton

Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl

Southampton’s redemption after the appointment of Ralph Hasenhüttl in December was stark. The Saints looked in grave danger under Mark Hughes, winning just once in their opening 15 matches. However, once the Welshman was dispatched the Saints saw a drastic upturn in form, winning eight of their remaining 22 games and easing to safety.

Their signings this summer have been solid but unspectacular, adding Moussa Djenepo, Che Adams and Danny Ings with no notable departures. It is no accident tha each of these players are attackers as, with just 45 goals scored last season, the Saints were among the most impotent sides in the league.

Hasenhüttl has them on an upwards curve and, if you extrapolate his points per game ratio over a season, they would have finished 12th on 49 points. With their added firepower, I believe they can go one better than and will finish 11th, never flirting with danger.

 

12th – Watford

Manager: Javi Gracia

An oddly quiet summer so far for Watford, who have grown accustomed to raiding Udinese or Granada, Giampaolo Pozzo’s other clubs.

At one point last term the Hornets looked as though they might finish as the best of the rest ahead of Wolves but, distracted by their run to the FA Cup final, they lost seven of their final 11 matches and slipped out of the top half altogether.

Watford are solid but unspectacular in most areas of the pitch, although in Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue they do possess one of the best midfield partnerships in the league.

Their gameplan is no secret, with Watford’s captain Troy Deeney openly admitting to kicking any player he can. Unsurprisingly the Hornets amassed more yellow cards than any other side last year (77) with Etienne Capoue (14) and Jose Holebas (12) the worst offenders in the division.

Watford are more than just a team of cloggers but not much more and I feel as though they have lost ground to their rivals.

 

13th – Crystal Palace

Manager: Roy Hodgson

There isn’t a side in the division whose fate rests on the shoulders of a single player more than Crystal Palac. Wilfried Zaha’s coy attempts to engineer a move away from Selhurst Park this summer have, thus far, been unsuccessful.

Put simply, if he remains at Palace they should stay up comfortably. If he leaves they are bang in trouble. With ten goals and ten assists last season, the Ivorian played a hand in nearly 40% of Palace’s 51 league goals and the oft-repeated statistics about the Eagles never winning without him are enough to give the Palace fans shudders at the thought of a move.

Palace haven’t tested the transfer waters so far, with the £50 million received for Aaron Wan-Bissaka still burning a hole in their pockets. Although Wan-Bissaka is yet to be replaced, Palace’s greatest need lies up front with their trio of strikers (Christian Benteke, Alexander Sorloth and Jordan Ayew) scoring a combined seven goals in 94 appearance for the club in the last two seasons.

The Eagles tend to start seasons slowly and have to play Everton, Man Utd, Tottenham, Wolves, Man City, Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool in their first 13 matches before things get easier, so the trend may continue. If it does, I predic that Roy Hodgson could be a contender for first manager to leave.

 

 

14th – Bournemouth

Manager: Eddie Howe

It was a funny season for the Cherries who achieved 20 of their 45 points in the opening ten games before drastically falling off the pace. Their form for the remainder of the season was one of a side fighting relegation, though thanks to their early points tally they never looked in trouble.

My suspicion is that, with limited resources, Eddie Howe has taken Bournemouth as far as he can and is now waiting for a bigger opportunity. However, with that opportunity not yet forthcoming he is confined to the dugout at the Vitality Stadium for another year.

Bournemouth have no real concerns going forward and will be glad to hang onto 15 goal man Callum Wilson in addition to Ryan Fraser and David Brooks. Fraser assisted seven of Brooks’ 15 league strikes, the most successful assist / goal partnership in the division.

However, the 70 goals that Bournemouth shipped was the third worst defensive record in the league, with only Huddersfield (76) and Fulham (81) leaking more. They have signed Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey from the lower divisions to try and plug the gaps, though whether they step up is yet to be seen. With that modest improvement they should survive.

 

15th – Aston Villa

Manager: Dean Smith

A club that were once frequent members of the top six now face a relegation battle, following their two year exile to the Championship. Still, things could be worse, they could be Leeds.

Villa are doing their best to ensure they don’t have to slum it again anytime soon by spending an estimated £115m. The heavy spending approach was one that didn’t work for Fulham but, while the Cottagers spent the money on glamour signings, Villa have been more shrewd.

They secured the popular but stampy Tyrone Mings from Bournemouth, the canny signing of Matt Targett from Southampton and Brentford’s talented central defender Ezri Konsa, all of whom will give Villa a firm base to build from. Their other big signing, the Brazilian Wesley, is an unknown quantity having come from the Belgian top flight but, at a cost of £22m, must have something about him.

Villa don’t seem as though they will ‘do a Fulham’ and there are worse sides in the league.

 

 

16th – Burnley

Manager: Sean Dyche

Burnley are starting their fourth season in the top flight as Sean Dyche continues to work a mini-miracle by keeping The Clarets afloat.

It didn’t always look that way and a 5-1 home mauling by Everton on Boxing Day left Burnley marooned in the relegation zone. However, a Christmas miracle occurred as Dyche’s men embarked on an eight match unbeaten streak, winning five. The run included an impressive draw at Old Trafford as well as a win over Spurs at Turf Moor.

With Burnley stockpiling England’s fringe goalkeepers, it was Tom Heaton replacing Joe Hart in goal that seemed to act as a catalyst for that winning run. With that in mind, it is mystifying that they have sold Heaton to a potential relegation rival, Aston Villa.

Sean Dyche has his men organised though and clearly feels that Nick Pope or Joe Hart are up to the task. Without the distraction of Europa League football, Burnley should grind their way to safety again.

 

17th – Norwich

Manager: Daniel Farke

We reach the business end of the table. Norwich will be hoping to become the sixth consecutive Championship winner to avoid an immediate return to the second tier and, although it could go right down to the wire, they’ve got a chance.

It’s fair to say that the Canaries blasted their way to the Championship title, scoring 93 goals at a rate of over two a game and six more than anyone else. Their attack was spearheaded by Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, who won the Golden Boot with 29 strikes. They will be relying on the 29-year-old to translate that form to the Premier League if they are to stand a chance of survival.

The manager, Daniel Farke, has been busy in the transfer market signing 12 players so far and, seemingly learning from Norwich’s previous spells in the Premier League, they have targeted young, talented players rather than expensive big names who will eat up the wage bill.

One cause for concern is a lack of defensive signings. Norwich conceded 57 goals last year, 16 more than Sheffield United in second place. However, if their attacking unit gels and Farke can keep them organised, they’ve can give it a real go.

 

18th – Brighton

Manager: Graham Potter

One side on a definite downward trajectory last season was Brighton. Like their south coast rivals Bournemouth, The Seagulls got most of their good work done in the first half of the season, winning 21 of their 36 points in the opening 15 matches.

They only won three of those remaining fixtures with their average points per game dropping from 1.4 in the first 15 to 0.7 thereafter.

In fact Brighton didn’t win once in their final nine matches, eventually escaping relegation by two points which was enough to cost Chris Hughton his job, with former Swansea head honcho Graham Potter replacing him.

It was a lack of firepower that held Brighton back, with their 35 goals the fourth lowest in the division. They are still relying on 35-year-old Glenn Murray as their primary attacking outlet, with the veteran notching 13 league goals last season. However, you have to question how many more miles are in those legs.

Defensively they weren’t great and things could become worse yet. Should Harry Maguire’s transfer to Manchester United materialise then the gossip suggests that The Foxes will target Lewis Dunk as his replacement. Should that happen you’d imagine Brighton will fall through the trap door.

 

19th – Newcastle

Manager: Steve Bruce

Where to begin? We’ll start with the positive spin. Newcastle have a brand new manager and have just broken their transfer record.

Now the negative version. That manager is Steve Bruce and there is widespread suspicion that the signing, Joelinton, is actually just a Sports Direct employee called Joe Linton who Mike Ashley has instructed to act Brazilian in order to appease the mutinous Geordies.

Miracle worker Rafa Benitez has finally washed his hands of the mess meaning that former Sunderland manager and lifelong Newcastle fan, Steve Bruce, is in. We reckon the pair deserve each other.

Newcastle finished 13th last season and have lost two of their main attacking threats, Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, so will be hoping that Joe Linton steps up. Otherwise they start their campaign with largely the same group, however the big question is whether Steve Bruce possesses the same tactical acumen as former La Liga, Champions League, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Europa League winning manager Benitez?

Unfortunately for the Geordie faithful, it looks to be auf wiedersehen, pet.

 

 

20th – Sheffield United

Manager: Chris Wilder

Sheffield United’s last spell in the Premier ended in controversy and a court case as their main relegation rivals, West Ham, stayed up courtesy of heroics from the third party-owned Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

The men from the Steel City have worked hard to get back to the big time but, unfortunately, their demise looks set to be far quicker and cleaner this time round.

Something of a flat track bully in the Championship, the Blades excelled at beating lower half sides. However, they’re in a shark tank now and will be the minnows in virtually every game they play.

Their transfer business has been conservative so far for a newly promoted side with 36-year-old former Blade Phil Jagielka added on a free transfer alongside Ravel Morrison who was once tipped for big things. Lys Mousset also arrives from Bournemouth and looks a good acquisition.

Unfortunately my suspicion is that they lack anywhere near the quality required to stay up. They were less equipped than Norwich to begin with and their business since coming up has been extremely modest compared to that of Villa. A swift return to the second tier awaits.

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