2018/19 Premier League Season Preview

Arsenal

In – Stephan Lichtsteiner (Free), Bernd Leno (Undisclosed), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Undisclosed), Lucas Torreira (Undisclosed), Matteo Guendouzi (Undisclosed)

Out – Per Mertesacker (Retired), Santi Cazorla (Released), Jack Wilshere (Released), Chuba Akpom (Undisclosed)

Position last season: 6th

This season will be a very interesting one for the Gunners. For the first time in 21 years, Arsenal is going into a new season with a new manager. Club icon Arsene Wenger finally handed over the reins last season, with Spaniard Unai Emery taking over the helm. It is just too difficult to tell how they will go this season. Will they play a brand new style of football? Will they return to the top four and finally finish on top of the table? Will their results be consistent over the course of the year? We eagerly await.

New Arsenal coach Unai Emery

Arsenal have made some very solid signings and it looks as though its reputation of hardly signing anyone has been nullified. Bernd Leno provides fantastic competition for current goalkeeper Petr Cech. Stephan Lichtsteiner may look to be a bargain signing. The addition of Sokratis Papastathopoulos strengthens their defence. An exciting season ahead for Gunners fans.

Prediction: 1st-4th

Tim Sperliotis

Bournemouth

In – David Brooks (Undisclosed), Diego Rico (Undisclosed), Jefferson Lerma (Undisclosed)

Out – Benik Afobe (A$17 million), Max Gradel (Undisclosed), Adam Federici (Undisclosed)

Position last season: 12th

After a decent last season, Bournemouth will be looking to back up their previous mid table finish. So far, only three players have been signed, however Eddie Howe is a great manager and has the ability to bring the best out of his side. The Cherries face Cardiff, West Ham and Everton in their first three Premier League matches and could possibly win all three. Bournemouth did beat French side Marseille 5-2 in a pre-season friendly, which would no doubt give them plenty of confidence against the big boys.

Prediction: 9th-12th

Tim Sperliotis

Brighton 

Ins: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Leon Balogun (Mainz), Florin Andone (Deportivo La Coruna), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes (RB Leipzig), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns), Anders Dreyer (Esbjerg)

Outs: Uwe Huenemeier (SC Paderborn), Rohan Ince (released), Jamie Murphy (Rangers), Steve Sidewell (released), Tim Krul (released), Sam Maldock (Reading)

Last season: 15th

A busy off-season has meant plenty of arrivals at Brighton but whether the signings have actually improved Chris Houghton’s squad is a major question which has been raised in the lead up to the season.

One man they will be hoping to perform at a consistent level once again is Pascal Gross who was quite the free transfer last season, arguably Brighton’s most influential player and a major reason as to why they retained their Premier League status.

In between the posts, Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan often didn’t get the plaudits he deserved in a team, which sometimes struggled.

An interesting season awaits, where relegation is a real possibility.

Prediction: 15th – 20th

Brayden May

Burnley

In –  Ben Gibson (A$26 million), Joe Hart (undisclosed), Matej Vydra (Undisclosed)

Out – Scott Arfield (Released), Chris Long (Released)

Position last season: 7th

Burnley had a successful 2017/18 season, challenging Arsenal and Chelsea and only falling short of the top four at the end of the season. The Clarets will be full of confidence under manager Sean Dyche and will aim to once again challenge for the top four. England goalkeeper Joe Hart is a massive signing for them, who could strengthen their defence and allow them to win more matches.

Adding to their usual fixtures, this season see’s Burnley in the Europa League. So far they have defeated Scottish side Aberdeen in the second round of qualifying and will take on Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir in the third round. Reaching the group stage would be monumental for them, however would also increase their schedule and possibly hinder their chances at improving on last season.

Prediction: 6th – 13th

Tim Sperliotis

Cardiff

Ins: Bobby Reid (Bristol City), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End), Josh Murphy (Norwich), Alex Smithies (QPR)

Notable outs: Nil

Last season: 2nd in Championship (automatic promotion)

It was a momentous achievement by Cardiff to gain automatic promotion to the Premier League last season. The Bluebirds stunned their highly fancied counterparts to secure a second place finish, even if they did have to rely on Fulham losing to Birmingham on the final day to secure promotion.

Manager Neil Warnock has already suggested his side will struggle to stay in the Premier League and will need to hit the ground running if they are going to avoid relegation.

Cardiff have three winnable games to start the season, taking on Bournemouth, Newcastle and Huddersfield.

New signing Bobby Reid will be relied on in the attacking third, but their squad lacks star quality and will need a miracle to survive the drop.

Prediction: 17th – 20th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Chelsea

In: Jorginho (A$86 million), Rob Green (Free), Kepa (A$125 million), Mateo Kovacic (Loan)

Out: Lewis Baker (loan), Trevoh Chalobah (loan), Reece James (loan), Dujon Sterling (loan), Nathan Baxter (loan), Jordan Houghton (free), Kenedy (loan), Jamal Blackman (loan), Mitcheel Beeney (free), Ruben Sammutt (loan), Harvey St Clair (free) Cole DaSilva (released), Matej Delac (free), Eduardo (loan), Renedi Masampu (released), Wallace (released), Tushuan Tyrese Walters (released), Isaac Christie-Davies (free), Jake Clarke-Salter (loan), Joao Rodriguez (loan), Todd Kane (loan), Mason Mount (loan), Boga (undisclosed), Charlie Colkett (loan), Mario Pasalic (loan), Jacol Maddox (loan), Fikayo Tomori (loan), Matt Miazga (loan), Nathan (loan), Victorien Angban (loan), Kasey Palmer (loan), Kyle Scott (loan)

Position last season: 5th

Chelsea head into the 2018-19 season with a new manager and an entirely new approach, after Antonio Conte’s nasty exit of the club. It has paved the way for another Italian to take charge with Maurizio Sarri taking over the reins for the Londerers, but will have limited time to implement his style.

One thing we can expect from Sarri this season, is his own blueprint with many tipping him to remove the back three, which Conte favoured. Instead it is likely that Sarri will play a 4-3-3 formation currently known as “Sarri ball” which will bring the excitement back to the London club.

New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri

The 4-3-3 formation will mean there will be more emphasis on attack this season, and it saw him and Napoli become one of the most feared teams in Europe last season. One thing that Sarri does not have though, is time on his hands to implement this type of style, he has had the most of pre-season but even then it was limited due to the fact that most of the players that are normally in the starting XI were on holiday because of the World Cup.

Another problem Sarri needs to fix before the transfer window shuts is to sign an elusive and proven striker having missed out on his number one target Gonzalo Higuain. It has became apparent for a number of seasons that Chelsea needs a proven goalscorer, Alvaro Morata was seen to be the answer but after a blistering start his form began to drop. If Chelsea can get a new striker or if all else fails Sarri can get Morata to reach his potential then we could see the Blues back in the top 4.

Prediction: 3rd

Fraser Stewart

Crystal Palace

In: Vicente Guaita (Free), Cheikhou Kouyate (A$16.5 million), Max Meyer (Free)

Out: Yohan Cabaye (Free), Damien Delaney (released), Lee Chung-yong (released)

Position last season: 11th

It is almost a shock that we are even previewing Crystal Palace for another Premier League season.

10 months ago Palace were anchored to the bottom of the table with zero wins and zero goals after seven games in what was a disastrous run for former manager Frank de Boer. But somehow under Roy Hodgson, Palace were able to gather some momentum and ultimately finished in 11th spot; an amazing achievement considering the horror start.

Not much has occurred in the off-season at Selhurst but still enough to give Palace fans optimism for the upcoming season. Cheikhou Kouyate should prove to be a solid signing and after his four years at West Ham and will provide plenty of experience in central midfield. 22-year-old Max Meyer has been the most talked about inclusion for Crystal Palace however. The German international has impressed in his time at Schalke and has the ability to play both an attacking and defensive role across midfield and it will only benefit the squad.

If Palace can hold on to Wilfred Zaha by the time the transfer deadline day rolls around, the battle to survive in the Premier League will be the least of their concerns. Zaha plays a critical role, producing pace and flair and it was clearly absent in games he didn’t play last season. He may be the key to bringing Palace back to the heights they reached when they made the 2016 FA Cup final.

However, a start similar to last season will no doubt put Crystal Palace behind the eight ball again and with the promoted sides likely exceeding expectations this season, Palace have to start getting consistent on order to not fall off the pace as the luck they received by surviving last season may not be possible this time around.

Prediction: 10th-15th

Nicholas Sacco

Everton

In: Richarlison (Watford), Lucas Digne (Barcelona), Yerry Mina (Barcelona), Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Out: Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Wayne Rooney (DC United – free), Joel Robles (Real Betis – free), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray – loan), Ashley Williams (Stoke City – loan), Davy Klaassen (Werder Bremen)

Last season: 8th

Everton will be hoping for a much more settled season, after a tumultuous 2017/18. The Toffees spent over A$100 million last season, but where nearing relegation in October.

Marco Silva has finally taken the reigns and has gone about rebuilding the squad. The Toffees have added world class quality in the form of  Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes, who have all come from Barcelona. Bernard is also a talented player that will be eager to impress in the biggest league in the world.

The interesting signing is Richarlison. The Brazilian impressed in the opening stages of last season with Watford, but struggled when Silva departed the club. The A$87 million the Toffees spent him is a hefty fee for someone with minimal experience in the Premier League, but could be a bargain if he lives up to expectations.

Everton will need to be more lethal up front this year if they are going to target a top seven finish. The Toffees recorded the second fewest shots on goal last season and struggled to find a striker to replace Romelu Lukaku.

If they can find a way to score, then they will have every chance of a European berth.

Prediction: 7th – 10th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Fulham

In: Jean Michael Seri (A$47.45 million), Aleksandar Mitrovic (A$31.95 million), Alfie Mawson (A$26.66 million), Fabri (A$9.45 million), Maxime Le Marchand (A$6.33 million), Andre Schurrle (Loan)

Out: David Button (A$7.12 million), George Williams (Free), Ryan Fredericks (Free)

Position last season: Championship Playoff Final winners 

Newly promoted sides rarely receive as much plaudits as Fulham and Wolves. The Cottagers are aiming high on their return to the top tier. Owner Shahid Khan has already said his team aim to “win’ and this could be a blessing for Premier League fans. Fulham lit up the Championship last year by playing possession based football. It is wrong to think they will be able to have as much possession as they did in the Championship last year, but under the guidance of Slavisa Jokanovic, the Lillywhites won’t fear any team.

Ryan Sessegnon is the name on everyone’s lips. The 18-year-old scored 16 goals last season and was named the Championship Player of the Year. Big clubs were circling for his signature, but the winger showed his maturity by staying at Fulham, knowing it was his best option of playing every week.

Will Ryan Sessegnon take the Premier League by storm?

Captain Tom Cairney is another player who could excel in the top league. The 27-year-old has finally found consistency in his game and is the Lillywhites creative force from the middle of the park.  

Aleksandar Mitrovic netted 12 goals in the second half of last season and his signing is a big boost for the Cottagers. Alfie Mawson was heavily linked to West Ham in January and his signing is a show of intent. Jean Michael Seri was linked to Barcelona and Chelsea, while Andre Schurrle is a World Cup winner and both are great recruits.

Fulham should easily avoid relegation and are good enough to finish in the top 10.

Prediction: 10th – 13th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Huddersfield

In: Ben Hamer (Leicester City – free), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Terence Kongolo (AS Monaco), Juninho Bacuna (FC Groningen), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Florent Hadergjonaj (Ingolstadt), Jonas Lossl (Mainz – permanent deal), Adama Diakhaby (AS Monaco)

Out: Tom Ince (Stoke City), Dean Whitehead (retired), Rob Green (released)

Position last season: 16th

Once again the Terriers have added quality throughout their squad, which should help boost their survival hopes.

Not many gave them hope of survival last season but they defied the odds to remain in England’s top-flight but doing it again is certainly going to be a difficult task. If they are able to remain in the Premier League beyond of the season they should be applauded for their actions.

The likes of Aaron Mooy are set to play a key role in helping the club keep that status. While they have made signings, manager David Wagner needs improvement from players who have Premier League experience from last season’s campaign.

While they have made smart savings, it remains to be seen whether they are in a better position than last season.

Prediction: 17th –20th

Brayden May

Leicester

In: James Maddison (Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Rachid Ghezzal (AS Monaco), Caglar Soyuncu (Freiburg),

Outs: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Ahmed Musa (Al-Nassr), Robert Huth (released)

Last season: 9th

Leicester’s miracle 2015/16 season seems like a lifetime ago. Riyad Mahrez departs the club, after trying to leave in January. The Foxes have set about finding a replacement for the Algerian. James Maddison is one of the most exciting young English prospects and will benefit developing at the Foxes. Johnny Evans will form a solid partnership with Harry Maguire and Ricardo Pereira is an upgrade on Danny Simpson.

A mid-table finish should be Leicester’s aim.

Prediction: 7th – 10th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Liverpool 

Ins: Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Fabinho (AS Monaco), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Allisson (AS Roma), Issac Christie-Davies (Chelsea – free)

Outs: Emre Can (Juventus – free), Jon Flanagan (Rangers – free), Danny Ward (Leicester), Ben Woodburn (Sheffield United – loan)

Last season: 4th

It has been well publicised just how well the Reds have done and this transfer window and the praise they have received is well deserved.

Across the pitch, the Reds have several strengths which should see them right in the title race until the end of the season. Last season they enjoyed a dream run to the Champions League final, which ended in heartbreak but needing to find consistency in the league remains their biggest challenge.

Could Allison be the man to take Liverpool to the promise land?

The question remains to be seen as to whether Mo Salah will hit the heights of last season, even if he is slightly below those levels we have seen how devastating he can be.

Jurgen Klopp has the tactics which make the Reds one of the most exciting teams in the league and if we see the best of Liverpool throughout the campaign there may well be silverware at the end of it.

Prediction: 1st – 3rd

Brayden May

Manchester City

In: Riyad Mahrez (A$104.6 million), Claudio Gomes (Free), Phillippe Sandler (undiscolsed)

Out: Joe Hart (A$1 million), Yaya Toure (released)

Position last season: 1st

It only took Pep Guardiola two seasons to make Manchester City champions and it is pretty difficult to consider any other scenario than them going back to back in 2018/2019.

Everything went City’s way last season with Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne continuing to be dominant in a record breaking 100 point season for City; while the emergence of Leroy Sane saw him deservingly win the PFA Young Player of the Year award. You would think it is difficult to top such an amazing season but crazier things have happened.

Pep has already made a fast start in the off season, giving plenty of minutes into the clubs young stars during friendly matches while most of the squad were playing in the World Cup. Phil Foden was the standout and will definitely be a player to watch throughout the season.

The signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester has also produced much excitement around Manchester in the off-season. He played a pivotal role in the Foxes unbelievable route to winning the league in 2015/16 and it is almost impossible to forget his PFA Player of the Year award from the same season. Both his goal-scoring and his precise passing suit the Manchester City squad well and you will think the Algerian will form some great partnerships in midfield with the likes of De Bruyne and David Silva.

Riyad Mahrez will add another dimension to City.

It was difficult to find any problems that City would need to fix prior to the season opener against Arsenal, although they wouldn’t mind putting teams away earlier rather than panicking to score late; particular games against Huddersfield and West Ham come to mind. But honestly, it would be difficult to improve a red hot team that is Manchester City

Unless they suffer a few shock losses throughout the season, there is no reason why City shouldn’t go back to back.

Prediction: 1st – 2nd

Nicholas Sacco

Manchester United

In: Fred (A$93.31 million), Diogo Dalot (A$34.80 million), Lee Grant (A$2.69 million)

Out: Daley Blind (A$25.31 million), Sam Johnstone (A$6.62 million) Michael Carrick (Retired)

Position last season: 2nd

Following a trophyless 2017/18 season, Manchester United fans expected the Red Devils to add to their squad to challenge for silverware. However United’s off-season has been headlined by a lack of investment, poor results and questionable management from Jose Mourinho. United have made only two headline signings, purchasing Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and the teenage full back, Diego Dalot. Both signings fill gaps in the United lineup, but will do little to reduce the gap between United and the title winning Manchester City.

The Red Devils pre-season has left little to be desired, winning two of their six friendlies and suffering a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. United have fielded an under-strength side because most of their players were at the World Cup, but the defensive performance of the team is a worry. United conceded eight goals in six outings, which is alarming considering Mourinho’s teams are built around defence.

Jose Mourinho has been at his grumpy best during pre-season.

Mourinho’s most successful teams have always had a settled back four. However at United it is difficult to work out which is the best defensive partnership. Fullbacks Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are over 30, while centre-backs Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelorf are susceptible to making errors.

United’s midfield trio is set to be Nemanja Matic, Fred and Paul Pogba, which on-paper is one of the most lethal in the league. Pogba is coming off a successful World Cup with France and will  be hoping to translate his national form into consistent performances at club land.

Then there’s the attack. Romelu Lukaku netted 27 goals for United last year and will be the starting striker. Alexis Sanchez struggled in his first six months at United, but has shown promising signs in pre-season and will begin on the left wing. The issue will be who starts on the right wing? Marcus Rashford is the likely option but he is not suited on the right side and struggled when played in that position last year. Anthony Martial is another who could play on the right, but has already signalled his intentions to leave the club and was fined A$360,000 for leaving the pre-season tour to be with his pregnant wife. Juan Mata is the final option on the right but as we have seen over the years, he is better suited playing through the middle.

Mourinho has looked a deflated man in pre-season and of course we know about the ‘third year blues’ he has had at his previous clubs. Mourinho said when he first became manager of United that the Red Devils should be challenging for the title every season, which is why it was unusual for him to refuse to comment on United’s title chances.

Most of the betting companies have him third favourite to be sacked. Knowing Mourinho, this negativity could be a ploy to lower the hype around his team. But the issues around the Red Devils say otherwise and United will be lucky to make the top four and Mourinho will be lucky to be manager come seasons end.

Prediction: 4th – 7th

Christopher Chrysostomou 

Newcastle

In: Yoshinori Muto (A$16.92 million), Martin Dubravka (A$6.33 million), Fabian Schar (A$6.33 million), Sung-yong Ki (Free)

Out: Aleksandar Mitrovic (A$31.95 million), Mikel Merino (A$18.98 million) Chencel Mbemba (A$12.65 million), Matz Sels (6.33 million)

Position last season: 10th

The 2018/19 season could have been the season Newcastle United returned to European football, but because of the stinginess of owner Mike Ashley, the Magpies will be fighting for survival.

Manager Rafa Benitez had to use all his experience last year to get the best out of his side that lacked the talent of the teams around them. Benitez guided the Magpies to 10th, which is an exceptional feat given his starting lineup was almost identical to the one that got promoted from the Championship.

Some smart purchases in the transfer market will bolster the squad, especially the signing of Sung-young Ki, who they signed on a free transfer from Swansea. But in a era where Everton spent A$62 million on Richarlson, Newcastle have not broken their transfer record since 2005, when they spent A$30 million on Michael Owen.

Benitez comes out of contract at the end of the season and is willing to stay if he is given the funds to improve the side. Mike Ashley however won’t give Benitez funds until he re-signs with the club. The standstill could see Benitez leave before seasons end, which will be a blow to the fans, who adore him.

If Benitez stays, Newcastle should avoid relegation, but if he leaves, the drop will be inevitable.

Prediction: 15th – 18th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Southampton

In – Stuart Armstrong (Undisclosed), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Undisclosed), Jannik Vestergaard (Undisclosed)

Out – Dusan Tadic (Undisclosed), Jordy Classie (Loan)

Position Last Year: 17th

The Saints barely survived relegation to stay in the Premier League last season. It was a disappointing season, which saw them winless in December and January. They sacked their manager Mauricio Pellegrino in March too. His replacement Mark Hughes will look to improve Southampton’s fortunes this season. Their first three Premier League matches are against Burnley, Everton and Leicester City, however going by last season’s results, it may be another long season. A 3-2 win over Spanish side Celta Vigo in a pre-season friendly could give them some necessary confidence. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can put last season to bed and finish in the top half of the table.

Prediction: 13th– 20th

Tim Sperliotis

Tottenham

In: Nil

Out: Nil

Position Last Season: 3rd

It’s silverware or bust for Tottenham if they want to make a stand in the Premier League this season.

If it wasn’t for a dominant City, Tottenham were every chance of being a serious title challenger last season while also qualifying in the Round of 16 in the Champions League before being knocked out by Juventus. With Harry Kane and Dele Alli in career best form, the Spurs comfortably secured 3rd place and got themselves another run to go deep in the Champions league next tournament.

It seems to be that once again the club has steered clear of making any big signings, in fact any signings at all, during the transfer window. Mauricio Pochettino was vocal about the club having to be bold coming into this season but with nothing to show the pressure can already start to be unleashed before a ball has been kicked.

Pochettino will still be able to select from a very impressive squad of players as despite many of these players coming off a World Cup there has been little evidence to suggest any significant drop of form coming into the 2018/2019 season.

A midfield containing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura will continue to enlighten Spurs fans with exciting and mesmerising attacking play while Kieren Trippier and Jan Vertonghen controlling the defensive structures should continue to command the back four. But there is one man who has continued to play a key role in Tottenham’s quest for silverware and after coming off a Golden Boot in the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane will be hard to stop and another outstanding season from him could lift the Spurs into the title challengers category.

One thing that everyone will be looking forward to will be the Spurs’ new stadium, set to be unleashed in the fifth league fixture when they face Liverpool on September 15. This change from playing all their home games at Wembley last season could possibly recreate a ‘home ground advantage’ for the Spurs and if something along those lines could be generated quickly then it will put the rest of the top 6 on notice.

To be put simply it is long overdue for Tottenham to win any kind of trophy. A bunch of second and third placed finishings along with many unsuccessful league cup journeys will not be in enough for Tottenham to remain out of the spotlight. With no signings to date and now in his fifth season at the Spurs, Pochettino will begin to feel the impatient environment of fans if things do not go his way this season, but expect a top 4 finish to be a guarantee.

Prediction: 1st – 4th

Nicholas Sacco

Watford 

In: Gerard Deulofeu (A$22.6 million), Ben Foster (A$4.3 million), Adam Masina (A$20 million), Marc Navarro (A$17.4 million)

Out: Costel Pantilimon (undisclosed), Mauro Zarate (undisclosed), Richarlison (A$69.7 million), Nordin Amrabat (undisclosed)

Position last season: 14th

After an impressive first two months of the season with now Everton manager Marco Silva where they lost only one of their first eight games, a bad run of form saw the Hornets slide down bad enough to cost Silva his job and while a slight improvement followed, there wasn’t much joy for Watford fans after finishing with just 11 wins for the season.

The signing of Gerard Deulofeu has been an important capture for Watford. The former Barcelona man can provide an exciting attacking presence for the Hornets and also has Premier League experience which will fasten his settlement back into Watford colours.

Their defence stocks will need to improve after conceding 64 goals last season (the third most in the league in 2017/2018) but with the signings of keeper Ben Foster and left back Adam Masina, it should ease the pressure in that area of the pitch.

Another strong positive is the contract signing of Abdoulaye Doucoure. After signing on for an extra five years, the Hornets will hope to use him as the key when transitioning from defence to attack while the return of Nathaniel Chalobah and the steady improvement of Will Hughes will also benefit Watford.

But there are many problems for Javi Garcia to quickly solve for the season opener, especially in the attacking half. The strike force of Troy Deeney, Andre Grey and Stefano Okaka feel limited in their style of play and haven’t been able to consistently score while the departure of Mauro Karate is a dent to their already concerning problem. The scoring front will be a major factor in Watford’s final position this season and whether Deulofeu can lead that charge will be the question of many Watford fans this season.

Unfortunately for Watford it will likely be a scrappy relegation fight for majority of the season. With the promoted sides of both this season and last season expected to stay competitive in the top flight this season, unless they can replicate last seasons fast start, then it will be difficult to see the Hornets escape relegation.

Prediction: 15th – 20th

Nicholas Sacco

West Ham

In: Felipe Anderson (A$60.10 million), Issa Diop (A$34.54 million), Andriy Yarmolenko (A$31.63 million), Lukasz Fabianksi (A$12.65 million), Fabian Balbuena (A$6.33 million), Jack Wilshere (Free), Ryan Fredericks (Free)

Out: Cheikhou Kouyate (A$16.92 million), James Collins (Released) Patrice Evra (Released)

Position last season: 13th

The owners have listened to the fans and have spent money on rebuilding an aging West Ham. After unveiling Manuel Pellegrini as David Moyes’ replacement, the West Ham owners went about revitalising a West Ham squad that finished 13th last year.

Jack Wilshere’s signature is a cue because at 26, he still has plenty of years left in him. Felipe Anderson was once on the radar of Manchester United and could be anything if he is confident.

New West Ham signings Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson.

The Hammers could secure European football next year, but could also fight relegation. They now have the talent to compete against the big teams, but there is a reason they were able to secure the players they purchased. Wilshere, Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko are not on the big clubs radars because they have not lived up to expectations.

We have seen teams prior recruit big names and stumble. Could West Ham do the same?

History has shown it is difficult to predict where they will finish.

Prediction: 6th – 20th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Wolves

Ins: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Benik Afobe (Bournemouth – loaned to Stoke), Wily Boly (FC Porto – permanent deal), Raul Jimenez (Benfica – loan), Diogo Jota (Atletico Madrid – permanent deal), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Jonny Castro (Atletico Madrid – loan), Adama Traore

Outs: Ben Marshall (Norwich City), Barry Douglas (Leeds United)

Position last season: Championship winners

Wolverhampton have enjoyed more than a successful off-season making several major signings which have significantly improved their squad.

Could Ruben Neves fire Wolves to a top six finish?

Just by the names listed, you can already see that the newly promoted side have improved their squad, and they should be able to challenge for the top half of the table.

Wolves certainly will be exciting to watch this season and if they hit top gear they could beat anyone on their day.

Could there be a new big boy in English football?

Prediction: 7th – 11th

This article was written by Brayden May, Christopher Chrysostomou, Fraser Stewart, Nicholas Sacco and Tim Sperliotis. You can listen to the boys weekly by subscribing to the English Football Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud

The week that was (Premier League Matchweek 29)

News

MEN uses tragedy as click bait

The football world was in mourning this weekend after Fiorentina captain Davide Astori sadly passed away aged 31. Heartfelt messages from colleges were published on social media for the Italian international, including one from Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon.

The Manchester Evening News however decided to use Astori’s death as click bait. Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian was a former teammate of Astori and the paper used the headline ‘Matteo Darmian woke up to some terrible news’.

The paper received backlash on social media for their actions.

https://twitter.com/BillyBeanpole84/status/970381170792943617

Henry says ‘yes’ to managing Arsenal

Thierry Henry admitted he would be willing to manage Arsenal if the club asked him to.

However, the Frenchman continued to support Arsene Wenger in the role but said he had never shied away from a challenge and if the club and Wenger wanted him to coach, he would be willing to step up to the task.

“Listen, I’m a competitor, you don’t back down from a challenge,” Henry told Sky Sports.

“We are hypothetically speaking before people jump ahead of everything, [but] I have never backed down from a challenge since I was young.”

Pipe bomb from Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte branded Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville ‘stupid’ after they described Chelsea’s display against Manchester City as ‘anti-football’.

Informed of the comments, Conte said: “The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics. I think you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way. You have to accept every criticism but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.

Maybe if Conte’s side showed as much fight as their manager they would be challenging for the title instead of trying to secure a spot in the top four.

Results

Burnley 2-1 Everton

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle

Leicester 1-1 Bournemouth

Southampton 0-0 Stoke

Swansea 4-1 West Ham

Tottenham 2-0 Huddersfield

Watford 1-0 West Brom

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea

Brighton 2-1 Arsenal

Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United 

Sir Alex Ferguson Award

 The Sir Alex Ferguson of the week is awarded to the best-performed team of the week.

 Swansea

Swansea moved out of the relegation zone following their big win over West Ham. The Swans looked relegation bound at the end of 2017, but the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal has changed the fortunes of the Welsh club.

The Swans have won four of their eight games in 2018 to ignite the hopes of an unlikely relegation survival.

The victory over West Ham saw Swansea jump up to 13th on the table, three points above 17th place Crystal Palace.

Jordan Ayew, Andy King, Ki Sung-yueng and Mike van der Hoorn all found the back of the net in the victory. Van der Hoorn’s goal was his first for the club.

Continued performances like this will see the Swans avoid relegation and could see Carvalhal named manager of the season.

Bebe of the week

Bebe is widely considered Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst ever signing. The Bebe award is given to the most disappointing team from the week.

Arsenal

The last time I wrote one of these articles, Arsenal had just beaten Everton and were my Sir Alex Ferguson of the week. Four consecutive defeats in all competitions have changed the entire dynamic of the club and the ‘Wenger Out’ movement has reached a level never seen before.

The Gunner’s latest defeat to Brighton leaves them in sixth position, 13 points behind fourth place Tottenham.

Arsenal’s only chance of qualifying for next years Champions League is by winning the Europa League, which will not be an easy feat. The Gunners will face AC Milan in the round of 16, which will not be an easy task given Milan have not lost a game in 2018.

Some Arsenal fans, such as Troopz from Arsenal Fan TV believe the club will sack Wenger if they are knocked out by Milan in the Europa League.

As Troopz said in his recent video on Arsenal Fan TV, “Every story has an ending and for Wenger his story ended five years ago.”

Player of the Week

Son Heung-Min

Son is pushing his claim to be regarded Tottenham’s second best players behind Harry Kane.

The South Korean netted both goals in the Spurs 2-0 victory over Huddersfield on the weekend. Both goals showed off Son’s array of abilities, with the first being a fine shot with this left food and the second being a header from distance.

https://twitter.com/officialuwem/status/969959377766637568

Son has now scored 16 goals in all competitions this season, making him the Spurs second highest scorer, behind Kane.

Sportdot goal of the week

Riyad Mahrez

A 96 minute equaliser from a free kick is the perfect way to get back into the fans good books. Mahrez’s sublime curling free kick was his first goal for Leicester since the closure of the January transfer window.

Mahrez’s was said to have sooked it up after his transfer to Manchester City was blocked. But by his celebration after the goal against Bournemouth, it appears he is happy to be at the club for the remainder of the season.

Retro clip

Premier League launch advert 1992

This is Sky Sports launch advert for the Premier League. Check out the bad haircuts and try naming some of the players.

 

Fairy tales to flops – How 2016’s underdogs are 2017’s underachievers

298 days after winning the Premier League title for the first time in their 133 year history, Leicester City have done the unthinkable and sacked manager Claudio Ranieri.

The man who brought sport it’s most fairy tale moment and will no doubt have a statue resurrected in his honour in the city of Leicester was sacked in the cruellest of fashions.

Leicester sit 18th in the EPL and look like a team void of confidence but with Champions League football still to play, the question remains; Why was Ranieri sacked now?

Manchester United persisted with David Moyes until they were eliminated from the Champions League and by then they were sitting a lowly seventh in the Premier League.

Leicester were never going to win the Premier League this season and the owners were not deluded enough to believe they had a chance of backing up last years feats.

Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddanaprabha’s only expectation for the club this season was to avoid relegation, while focussing on having successful Champions League campaign.

It’s safe to say the club have done there best to not deliver on this expectation and for this reason Ranieri has been sacked.

But Leicester isn’t alone in failing to deliver a season after achieving unexpected success.

2016 will be remembered as the year of the fairy tale story in sport.

Teams like Leicester and the Chicago Cubs broke droughts that span over 100 years, while others like Adelaide United and the Sydney Thunder won their first championships.

But as already been evident in 2017, these unlikely winners have failed to deliver in their title defence and have returned to positions they have routinely held.

Leicester have always been a ‘yoyo’ club, constantly moving between divisions and never really established as a Premier League side, having only been in the Premier League for 11 of the competitions 25 yeas.

It’s highly unlikely Leicester will ever win the title again but it is plausible that they will be relegated in the year’s to come.

For a man that brought so much joy to a small team, the Foxes owners were swift to axe the history maker.

2016 saw two teams in Australian sport break their ducks and win their first titles.

Adelaide United were crowned A-League champions for the first time following a 3-1 victory over Western Sydney in the final.

A-League Grand Final - Adelaide v Western Sydney

Courtesy: A-League

In the post season the Reds lost key players including Bruce Djite, Jimmy Jeggo and Stefan Mauk and have struggled in their title defence, winning only three of their first 21 games and sitting bottom of the table.

Another team who created history last year was the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash league.

The Thunder have always been the seller dwellers and had finished last in three of the opening four seasons of the competition.

But under the captaincy of Mike Hussey, the Thunder claimed their first title in the fifth year of the competition, only to again finish last in 2016-17.

The form drop of these teams is a warning to the Western Bulldogs, Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Both the Bulldogs and the Cubs have yet to start their title defence but the Cavaliers have proven it is difficult to achieve.

Apart from a catastrophic form slump the Cavaliers will win the Eastern conference and feature in the NBA playoff finals series.

But Cleveland’s form is not as good as last season and pressure has shown, evident when LeBron James ranted about needing a playmaker.

LeBron James

Clevelands LeBron James

Few of the underdogs from last season may have success this year but for most, 2017 will be the year the underdog returns to their rightful place in the pecking order.

Leicester’s dream becomes a reality

Leicester has done it.

Leicester’s dream of winning the Premier League title has become a reality as Tottenham’s 2-2 draw to Chelsea mathematically rules them out of the championship race.

Foxes fans can rejoice. Players can rejoice. Manager Claudio Ranieri can rejoice.

Let the party begin.

The Leicester fairy tale is a truly inspiring one. Last season, the Foxes won seven of their final nine games to avoid relegation and in doing so became the third Premier League team ever avoid relegation after being bottom at Christmas.

Prior to the start of this season, the Foxes sacked coach Nigel Pearson due to the behaviour of his son and appointed Claudio Ranieri as his successor.

Many pundits criticised the coaching decision, with the highly regarded Gary Linekar calling it an “uninspired decision.”

Ranieri had recently been sacked by the Greek national side following a defeat to the lowly Faroe Islands.

At the start of the season the Foxes were odds on favourites to be relegated and even one of our writers at Sportdot believed they had no chance of remaining in the Premier League.

But what transpired this season is straight out of a Hollywood film.

Leicester didn’t win the title with any ground breaking tactical prowess, they simply stuck to the tried and tested.

While the big clubs over possess the ball and play 4.3.3 or 4.2.3.1 formations, trying to replicate the Barcelona style of play, Leicester turned back the clock, relying on a counter-attacking 4.4.2 formation, a style straight out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1990’s playbook.

It will be interesting to see if the Foxes success has an impact on football around the world. As revenue continues to grow in the Premier League, with the new broadcast deal, the power clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United) will continue to spend enormous amounts of cash on players.

However it is the smaller clubs who will look to Leicester for guidance on how to build a successful side. In the past, English football has seen small clubs try to compete with the big boys and falter to the lower divisions of football.

Leeds United and Portsmouth are perfect examples of clubs who had spent larges sums of money and now are paying the price.

Leeds’s relegation from the Premier League came in 2003-04, due to the clubs financial woes following overspending on players. Since then they have not returned to the division.

Portsmouth filed for administration in 2009 and over the next four years were relegated to the fourth division in England.

Leicester has shown this year that a player’s price tag does not necessarily determine the quality of the player. Riyad Mahrez cost the Foxes £400,000, the equivalent of two weeks wages for Wayne Rooney. Mahrez was voted the Premier Leagues player of the season, while Rooney has been criticised for his form.

Mid-tier teams like Everton and Newcastle may look to Leicester for guidance on how to build a team. Both sides have large fan bases but have never been able to compete financially with the power clubs.

Chemistry between players can be just as important as their quality and these sides may now look for players who can complete a task admirably and have positive influence in the change rooms.

The Leicester fairy tale will go down in folklore as one of sports greatest upsets. The Foxes victory is up there with Greece winning the 2004 Euros and Australia claiming the 1983 America’s Cup.

It may take years to determine how the Foxes have changed the football landscape. It is not certain if their will ever be an upset like this again.

But what is definite, the Leicester story will be told to future generations and their fans will long remember the day they were the kings of England.