With the 2016/17 Premier League on the horizon, Lee Davy shares his views on the winners, Champions League qualifiers, and the three teams that will fall into the Championship.
The 2015/16 Premier League was a once in a lifetime season. Leicester City, the 5,000-1 shots, took the prize turning Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante, and Riyad Mahrez into stars of world football quicker than lightning can strike.
Unfortunately, for Claudio Ranieri’s men, lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Ok, let’s change that to ‘not often’.
So, if not Leicester, who will win the league?
The Premier League Winners
Only three teams have the tools to win it, and a coin toss between Manchester United and Chelsea will decide it.
Antonio Conte’s side has goals all over the park. Diego Costa returned to something like his old form under Guus Hiddink, and Eden Hazard showed glimpses of brilliance during the European Championships. Let’s not forget; this little magician was a world beater two seasons ago. If Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante click in the middle of the park, and John Terry and co can get back to their solid looking best, I believe the Blues Premier League winning mentality will return to hand Conte the title in his first season.
Manchester United will run them close, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won it. They have the world’s greatest goalkeeper in David De Gea, Luke Shaw is like a new signing at left back, and Eric Bailly looks an accomplished player in every sense of the word, adding to a defence that was the meaning in the Premier League last time out.
Scoring goals will be the Achilles Heel for United, and that’s why I believe they will miss out this season. Centre midfield has been a problem for United since Paul Scholes and Roy Keane headed to the pundit’s box. Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Morgan Schneiderlin don’t know how to pass the ball forward. The world record signing of Paul Pogba will make an impact in this area, but he will need time to adjust to getting kicked all over the park.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be preferred to Marcus Rashford because Jose Mourinho has no love for youth, and that will be a disaster for United. I don’t believe the Swede has the legs for Premier League football. Behind him, Wayne Rooney looks lost. The once firebrand striker has turned tame since dropping back into a more creative position, but who can blame him with the other four midfielders always searching for David De Gea.
Over in the other half of the city, Pep Guardiola is arguably the greatest manager in modern times. Although, there are some that believe David Moyes would have won the lot had you put him in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in those respective tin pot leagues.
Guardiola has had it easy until he joined a league where Hull at home can be a tough game. Losing games will be an unfamiliar feeling for the Spaniard. He has won 20 trophies in his past six seasons.
Manchester City won the Capital Cup and made the semi-finals of the Champions League at a canter last season. But they were abject in their pursuit of the Premier League crown. If City can keep Sergio Aguero fit, then he will be the man to find the goals. He is world class and the favourite to win the Golden Boot at +350.
In contrast to neighbouring United, City struggled last season due to calamitous defending and an ageing midfield. They will be hoping Ilkay Gundogan can provide some energy in the middle of the park, and John Stones can add some security to the back. Guardiola has also signed a gazillion wingers and tiny little forwards – I honestly don’t know where he is going to play them all?
Back to the heart of the defence and this is the key area for me. John Stones is a baby. He is error prone and is still learning his craft. The former Evertonian needs a wise old man at his shoulder. Had he gone to Chelsea then John Terry would have been the perfect foil for him. At City, that man has to be Vincent Kompany.
The Belgian star was plagued with muscle injuries last season. If Kompany can keep fit, and create a bond with Stones then, City could win the league. If Kompany struggles and those other jokers have to play alongside the former Everton man, then I don’t think they have a chance. They will score plenty of goals, but they will also concede many. I also have concerns about the man between the sticks. I thought Joe Hart was dreadful during the summer. Like Stones, he makes too many mistakes.
The Champions League Places
Arsenal finished second last season but impressed few. Once again, Arsene Wenger has kept his powder dry in the transfer market signing only Granit Xhaka from the German team with the stupidly long name.
Everyone knows they need a striker.
And they never seem to land one.
They will cause teams problems: Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Aaron Ramsey always sparkle, and I think Alex Iwobi can be something special, but Olivier Giroud is not going to get you the 20-goals you need to win the title. I don’t even think they will qualify for the Champions League.
Spurs blew it last season, but the experience gained will place them in good stead. The one question mark this year remains the form of Harry Kane. He has strung together two back-to-back seasons of sublimity, but he looked tired and jaded throughout the summer. Spurs fans will be hoping his confidence is still intact. If it is, they will have another excellent season with Victor Wanyama providing some steel in midfield, although I would have liked them to have signed more of a leader.
Liverpool has bought well with Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum joining in the summer. I thought the pair were excellent last season, but they aren’t Premier League winning catalysts. Jurgen Klopp’s side won’t make it into the top four, but they will take points off the leading contenders.
West Ham is coming off the back of their best-ever Premier League season. Unfortunately, Slaven Bilic has not strengthened like I thought he would. It’s good to see that Dimitri Payet remains in the squad for now. He has become world class, and he won’t stay at West Ham for long. If he leaves, West Ham will struggle this season. If he stays, they can push for a top-four place.
And that leaves little the Hollywood Stars, Leicester.
The loss of Kante to Chelsea will be a blow, but they have done well to keep hold of the rest of the squad. I think that shows the strength and unity of Ranieri’s men, something that was paramount to their success last season.
Against United, Leicester looked like Leicester do. They conceded possession without much of a fuss but attacked like whippets on the break. I thought the new signing Ahmed Musa looked good against Barcelona and United, and I expect Demarai Gray to have a big season.
I don’t think Leicester will retain their title, but they won’t give it up easily. I assume the belief that was created during that once in a lifetime season will strengthen the players. They will be difficult to beat, and will be pushing for a top four spot.
So it’s Chelsea for the title, with Man Utd, Man City, and Spurs making up the top four for, with Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and Leicester missing out.
Premier League Winning Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Man City +250
Man Utd +300
Chelsea + 550
West Ham +6600
If you fancy doing ‘a Leicester’ then Bournemouth, Burnley, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Watford are all +100,000.
The Battle For Relegation
It’s not only difficult to pick out a winner, but it’s also equally difficult to pick out the losers. I can’t remember a Premier League lineup containing so many mediocre teams.
Hull, Burnley, and Middlesbrough could all quickly head straight back down from whence they came. None of them has signed anyone of note, and Hull is still without a manager, which must make them one of the worst prepared teams in Premier League history.
I hate watching West Brom playing under Tony Pulis, and I don’t believe they have a long term relationship with the Premier League while he is in charge. Watford deserves to go down after sacking Quique Sanchez Flores. Sunderland is always struggling, Swansea has lost their main centre-half, their main centre forward, and have a guy in charge who hardly speaks any English. And don’t get me started on the end of season form of Crystal Palace and Bournemouth who should be thankful the Premier League ended when it did.
In the end, I believe Hull, Middlesbrough and West Brom will go down. I think the fact that Sean Dyche has been here before will be good enough or Burnley to gather enough points, and West Brom’s dreary style of football will eventually send them into a division where they belong.
Premier League Relegation Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Hull City -165
Crystal Palace +300
So those or my views.
What about yours?
Who will win the league?
Who will qualify for the Champions League?
Who will go down?