Will we see a shock at the top or will normality resume with the trophy going to the North West? Will Palace ever score a goal?
It’s been an exhilarating start to the 2017/18 campaign, with newly promoted sides playing with freedom and confidence and Crystal Palace being properly rubbish. The start of season predictions appear to have been thrown up in the air now but there are still elements that will have remained a constant, yes I am talking about the Manchester clubs being annoyingly good. This is my predictions for how the league table will look after the 38 game season comes to a close, will we see a shock at the top or will normality resume with the trophy going to the North West? Will Palace ever score a goal?
I called this at the start of the season and not much has been demonstrated to me to feel otherwise. Chris Hughton did a remarkable job winning the Championship last season and getting the Seagulls in the top flight for the first time in 34 years; but with all that being said they simply don’t have the quality to survive in the gritty moments of the season, I worry that they won’t be able to score the goals they need to put a real challenge up and it could result in a very disappointing end to what could have been a fairytale season. In fairness, I think Brighton fans still can’t quite believe they are here so they don’t care how it ends up, they’re just enjoying the ride.
19th: Crystal Palace
Well I mean this seems like the obvious choice given how the season has started for Palace. Seven games, seven losses, two managers and zero goals. Frank De Boer being sacked after four league games was pathetic in my opinion, but not as scandalous as the decision to employ footballing dinosaur Roy Hodgson as his successor. With all due respect to Roy, who is a very experienced manager, he is doomed and his reputation could get even lower than it already is after his England failure (if that is even humanly possible). I am sure things will improve for Crystal Palace because they have talented players, and once Benteke gets back fit and firing he has the ability to keep them up on his own, I just fear that they have been riding their luck for a while now and are being found out at long last.
I expected far better from Bournemouth but the problems they have are now starting to rear their ugly faces. Jack Wilshere was fairly impressive for them last season, but nobody realised how important he was to the midfield until this term, they’ve lacked creativity and are struggling to link midfield to attack. Jermain Defoe was a good signing that much will never change, but he is struggling to find the net and even though it is early days, you worry that the bubble may be about to burst for the Cherries, unless they can find themselves a creative midfielder and a more solid defence. Nathan Ake was a good signing but they still need more reinforcements because they’ve started the season leaking far too many goals.
David Wagner’s men started the season in dreamland with three back to back victories and clean sheets, sitting atop of the Premier League in their first season back in the big time for 45 years. They have recruited very well and it is safe to say they have shocked just about everyone with their exciting brand of football. Steve Mounie’s goals will be a huge help to them staying up as well as the support from the likes of Elias Kachunga, Tom Ince and Aaron Mooy, the latter of which is a shout for the player of the season so far. It will be a close run affair, and it is plainly obvious that they aren’t as good as most teams in this division in terms of personnel, but the spirit that Wagner has employed within this squad is exemplary and could provide the difference come crunch time.
Paul Clement did an absolutely incredible job of keeping the Swans up last season, taking over from the shambles left behind by professional bald fraud Bob Bradley. He has lost Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton so will always miss his firepower and creativity but the signings brought in by Clement have been very shrewd. The loan signings of Tammy Abraham and fan favourite Wilfried Bony guarantees goals over the course of the season and their midfield has some quality now with the likes of Tom Carroll, Roque Mesa and marquee signing Renato Sanches, on loan from Bayern Munich. Swansea should be fine but a run of bad results can knock any side and if the goals dry up they could be in trouble.
Newcastle’s joy in this division you feel will lie solely on whether or not Rafael Benitez can get his message across to his team, because there is no denying his credentials as a genuinely top class manager. He has a phenomenal CV but this is the first job of his career you feel where he hasn’t got it mostly his own way. Owner Mike Ashley is very tight with his transfer budget and that has halted the potential progress of the club for a number of years. There is a distinct lack of quality in terms of goalscoring in their side, with no one standout player looking like they will score 15-20 goals; but what they do have is a tactically savvy manager and a massive support background from St James’ Park. If Jonjo Shelvey can keep his cool and show his obvious talent, Newcastle will be absolutely fine.
Burnley’s away form last season was diabolical, only managing one win away from Turf Moor all season but they have hit the ground running this campaign. The seemingly impossible start of having to face Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton in their first four away games has seen them come out unbeaten, picking up two draws, a win at Everton and a famous victory at the home of Champions Chelsea on the opening day. Sean Dyche is experienced enough to steer them away from trouble, and even now that star man Michael Keane has departed to Everton, they have enough about them to stay up. Determination will be the key as well as goals from the likes of Sam Vokes, Nakhi Wells and Chris Wood.
They kept hold of Virgil Van Dijk, that is perhaps the best bit of business the Saints did this window and he is now making his steady return to the side, claiming he will give “100% for the club” which is a huge boost. New manager Mauricio Pellegrino has inherited a strong squad but they have struggled to get the ball rolling thus far with lacklusture performances being a bit of a norm for them. Mario Lemina was a marvellous capture from Juventus and if they can get Austin and Gabbiadini firing they could soar up the table. I do fear that Pellegrino might not be the right man for the job but only time will tell and I will be the first to admit that I have been wrong before.
12th: Stoke City
Mark Hughes is the Premier League’s second longest serving manager now after Arsene Wenger, he is entering his fifth season in charge of the Potters and in fairness he has done a decent job destroying the stigma surrounding Stoke’s tactics. No longer are the days of Rory Delap throw ins and Ricardo Fuller headers, instead they have glitz and European flair with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and loan signing Jese Rodriguez. A stellar bit of business for them has been bringing in recently made free agent Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, a man so great they gave him two double-barrelled names. Kevin Wimmer and Kurt Zouma are good signings for their defence but I fear that Hughes has taken Stoke as far as he can, a fresh face may be needed for them to progress.
11th: Leicester City
The days of title victories, Claudio Ranieri saying dilly-ding dilly-dong and N’golo Kante bossing the Leicester midfield are a thing of the past, they appear to have settled themselves as a mid table side under Craig Shakespeare as he takes things back to basics. Jamie Vardy is profiting from being the talisman of the side while Riyad Mahrez continues to be a Leicester player, not matter how much he protests. Kelechi Iheanacho is a stellar signing who will add goals-a-plenty once he fully settles into life at the Kingpower and Harry Maguire has slotted in nicely to the Foxes’ defence, they are far better than they were last season but they will have a fight on their hands to get in the top half.
10th: West Ham
Slaven Bilic has come under immense pressure in recent times, particularly after the start to the season his side had; but they’ve started to pick up results and look better for it. Their summer business looked very flashy and can still prove to be the success we thought it would be straight away, simply because there is no denying the talent that the likes of Marco Arnautovic, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart have. Not to mention the fact that Javier Hernandez will score for fun when given the service, which I feel he will get from the likes of Arnautovic, Antonio, Ayew and Lanzini. I back Bilic to get it right but if he doesn’t there are a whole host of managers who could succeed with this team, I can see a top half finish for West Ham but their fans will have expected more after the window shut.
2nd: Manchester United
Jose Mourinho had a difficult start to his tenure at Old Trafford, with big money man Paul Pogba struggling for form and a very shaky defence making the once dominant force in England look rather ordinary at times. After tweaking a few things and giving his players time to gel, they then went on to have a successful season; despite finishinf in sixth place they managed to win the EFL Cup and qualify for this campaign’s Champions League thanks to Europa League glory against Ajax. This window they have been very effective, announcing the signings of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea, Victor Lindelof from Benfica and Romelu Lukaku from Everton. Mourinho has solidified key areas and made his side a force once again. They have started the season on a rampage with Lukaku scoring for fun and Matic and Pogba being a wonderful pairing in midfield. It is a straight shoot-out for the title and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for expecting United to win it because it’ll be very tight between them and City, especially given Jose’s experience in title races. I think they will just come up short but the steps have been made for United to return to the force of old.
1st: Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has come under scrutiny by every football fan apart from City fans since he arrived last season, almost expecting to stroll into the job and steamroller the division because of his remarkable reputation. That wasn’t the case as they laboured to a 3rd place finish last season simply because Chelsea were too good and there was obvious flaws in this City side, flaws he has rarely had to encounter in previous jobs. This summer came around and he addressed them immediately, spending nearly £150m just on full backs in the form of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo. he also got Bernardo Silva from the Monaco fire sale and to put it into perspective as to how good City are going forward, he can’t get into the team. When your team has David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus you feel untouchable; and City pretty much are at the minute. Ederson has ensured that they won’t leak many goals and they look like the real deal. In my mind it is hard to bet against them and I have been saying that all summer long.
So they are my thoughts, but what are yours? Let me know if you would change anything about this list, maybe I have been harsh on your favourite team or got the title winners wrong?