It’s not even been three months since the last whistle was blown to conclude the 2018/19 season, but - as soccer fans across the world will agree - it definitely feels like longer. Thankfully though, the wait is nearly over. On Friday 9th August, the new season begins, and our weekends can once again be taken over by the beautiful game.
From the impact of this summer’s transfer market activity, to the introduction of VAR, there will be some big changes for the EPL clubs to contend with this year. But who will fare best?
Team by team preview
They may be spending decent money this summer but Arsenal are not targeting the right type of player. Wilfried Zaha was pursued before they turned to Nicolas Pepe, despite a clear need for reinforcements at centre-back, left-back, and central midfield. Aaron Ramsey has gone and not been replaced, Mesut Ozil remains despite not suiting Unai Emery’s style of football, and Laurent Koscielny has thrown a grenade into the dressing room. Holding onto a top-six place won’t be easy.
Back Arsenal to get under 70 points at 1.84 (2018/19 points tally: 70)
Comparisons between Villa’s £120 million spree on 11 players and Fulham’s spending last summer are mistaken. Conducting their business early to secure players who were on loan in 2018/19 and signing several long-term targets, Villa have shown an efficiency and adeptness in the market that will excite the Holte End. Signing Douglas Luiz is a major coup, and together with John McGinn and Jack Grealish that’s a £200 million, Champions League level midfield. If Villa can sign an experienced goalkeeper before the deadline they should comfortably survive the drop.
Back Aston Villa to get over 33.5 points at 1.42 (2018/19 points tally: n/a)
As usual, continuity is key for Bournemouth. Eddie Howe’s side have not made any significant signings this summer but, crucially, they haven’t lost anyone either. A strong first 11 including Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson will ensure a safe mid-table position, even if – in the long-term – Howe’s project is starting to slow down.
Back Bournemouth to get over 42.5 points at 1.80 (2018/19 points tally: 45)
Brighton and Hove Albion
An incredibly difficult one to predict, as Brighton’s season will depend on just how good Graham Potter proves to be. He was loved by Swansea City fans in 2018/19 despite the club’s poor league position, overcoming shambolic surroundings to cement his place as one of the brightest young managers in the game. But without big signings, and with top scorer Glenn Murray turning 36 in September, Potter’s gifts might not be enough.
Back Brighton to get under 38.5 points at 1.84 (2018/19 points tally: 36)
Last year’s flirtation with relegation owes much to the hangover suffered following a dizzying sixth place finish the season before and the fact Burnley were playing Europa League matches from early July. A full summer of training will refresh them, and yet Sean Dyche may still struggle to motivate the players. Where else is there left to go? Another relegation battle is likely, although there are at least three teams worse than Burnley this season.
Back Burnley to get over 38.5 points at 2.02 (2018/19 points tally: 40)
Frank Lampard is a good fit for Chelsea. He knows the club well enough to steady the ship during their transfer ban, and his trust in youth should mean Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi are key players alongside Christian Pulisic this season. Eden Hazard’s absence and the lack of a goal-scoring striker will take their toll, but with N’Golo Kante back at the base of midfield this squad is talented enough – and savvy enough – to stay in the hunt for the top four.
Back Chelsea to get over 68.5 points at 2.27 (2018/19 points tally: 72)
Back Chelsea to finish above Manchester United at 2.07
Nobody is really talking about Palace this summer, which is usually an ominous sign of things to come: Zaha is on his way out, Aaron Wan-Bisaka has already left, Michy Batshuayi has returned to Chelsea, and Roy Hodgson’s side are yet to sign a player of note. Palace will have lost 15 of last season’s 41 non-penalty league goals, with Zaha winning the majority of their 10 penalties scored in 2018/19. Lose their talisman, and Palace are in big trouble.
Back Crystal Palace to get under 45.5 points at 1.54 (2018/19 points tally: 49)
It is difficult to see a reason why Everton will improve on their efforts last season unless Marco Silva is able to bring in some big-name signings over the next week. Their pursuit of Zaha was brief, signifying a clumsy approach more generally. Wolves and Leicester City look better placed to make the next step, and although Moise Kean is a great signing, the loss of Idrissa Gueye will hit Everton hard.
Back Everton to get under 52.5 points at 2.00 (2018/19 points tally: 54)
Brendan Rodgers won 20 points from his 11 league matches in charge last season, one point short of a top-four finish in the form table over that period. With a full summer to implement his ideas, and with the hugely under-rated Ayoze Perez to support Jamie Vardy, Leicester have a squad arguably better than a couple of the traditional Big Six clubs. A superb spine and a manager at the top of his game gives Leicester a real chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Back Leicester to get over 52.5 points at 1.74 (2018/19 points tally: 52)
Back Leicester to finish above West Ham at 1.55
It is very unlikely Liverpool can get 97 points again; that remarkable, club-record total was partly down to luck, with their expected points generally calculated to be in the late 80s. Nevertheless Jurgen Klopp’s team will perform well - assuming expectations have not become unfairly high following their Champions League triumph. It might feel underwhelming, but a distant second-place finish is all they can hope for in this campaign.
Back Liverpool to get over 83.5 points at 1.48 (2018/19 points tally: 97)
Rodri is a very good signing and a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, the latest evidence of the superb strategy at Man City these days. The most extraordinary thing about last season was that Pep Guardiola’s side amassed 98 points – the second highest tally of all time – without their best player Kevin de Bruyne. He is back to his best, while Benjamin Mendy is fit, Phil Foden is more matured, and summer international football has not affected City. They’ll win the title at a canter.
Back Manchester City to get over 90.5 points at 1.72 (2018/19 points tally: 98)
Back Manchester City to win the league at 1.45
Catastrophe awaits Man Utd. Fans should prepare for an even worse season than under David Moyes. The squad is seriously lacking in quality and, without a director of football, their transfer policy remains an absolute mess, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s run of defeats towards the end of last season shattered the illusion that he has the tactical acumen to manage at this level. The Norwegian is unlikely to survive the season. Never mind top four, even matching Moyes’s seventh place finish could be beyond United.
Back Manchester United to get under 67.5 points at 2.27 (2018/19 points tally: 66)
The only club in a bigger crisis than Man Utd is Newcastle, who lost Rafael Benitez over the summer and replaced him with Steve Bruce. Perez is gone, too, leaving a thin squad that only survived last season because of Benitez’s expert management. Bruce’s dull football will drain any remaining energy from St. James Park. Relegation seems certain.
Back Newcastle to get under 43.5 points at 1.34 (2018/19 points tally: 45)
Last season’s Championship winners play an attractive style of football that should win them points against fellow bottom-half clubs, but the difference between Norwich being relegated with sub-30 points and surviving with 36-40 will probably come down to luck. They are very hard to analyse, not least because 11 new players have been signed this summer – Patrick Roberts being the pick of the bunch.
Back Norwich to get over 34.5 points at 1.73 (2018/19 points tally: n/a)
Back Norwich to finish above Sheffield United at 1.62
Sneaking into the promotion spots as Leeds collapsed, Sheffield United’s surprise promotion gives Chris Wilder the chance to prove his attractive football can work at the highest level. His players hugely overachieved, however, and there just isn’t enough quality in the squad to avoid the drop. Signings like Phi Jagielka and Ravel Morrison betray how hard they have found it to attract the right players – and how limited their scouting network is by modern Premier League standards.
Back Sheffield United to get under 33.5 points at 1.90 (2018/19 points tally: n/a)
Southampton came 15th in the Premier League last season based on results after Ralph Hasenhuttl’s appointment on December 5, winning 30 points from 24 matches. They should be even better with a full pre-season to absorb his complex tactical methods, meaning a comfortable league finish is on the horizon. Che Adams is a good signing, but a couple more new faces will be needed if Southampton are to push for the top ten.
Back Southampton to get over 41.5 points at 1.60 (2018/19 points tally: 39)
Finally Daniel Levy has opened his chequebook. Tanguy Ndombele will significantly strengthen Spurs’ weakest area of the pitch, but Mauricio Pochettino needs new full-backs and another central midfielder if Tottenham are to build on last season. They surely won’t challenge for the title, but with other Big Six clubs flailing their place in the top four is safe.
Back Tottenham to get over 74.5 points at 2.27 (2018/19 points tally: 71)
Back Tottenham to finish above Arsenal at 1.45
It is hard to get excited about Watford’s upcoming season, which, following a quiet summer, promises to be pretty nondescript. Javi Gracia’s consistent tactics and well-drilled defence mean a safe mid-table position is likely.
Back Watford to get over 43.5 points at 1.73 (2018/19 points tally: 50)
West Ham United
The biggest thing holding West Ham back last season was the lack of a goalscorer, so with Sebastien Haller up front Manuel Pellegrini’s team are in for a good campaign. There is a lot of quality in their attack, particularly with Manuel Lanzini back to full fitness, and consequently Hammers fans can look forward to pushing towards Europe.
Back West Ham United to get over 46.5 points at 1.50 (2018/19 points tally: 52)
Consolidation is Wolves’ plan for this season following the success of 2018/19. Making loan players permanent signings is all they have managed in the transfer market, but that does not mean they will fall from their seventh-place finish. Nuno Esperito Santo will grind out results at Molineaux as Man Utd and Arsenal stumble.
Back Wolves to get over 52.5 points at 2.52 (2018/19 points tally: 57)
Our predicted final table
|9||West Ham United|
|17||Brighton and Hove Albion|