The 2018/19 Premier League season looks set to be one full of intrigue and, of course, the usual drama.
The big question is whether anyone can stop Manchester City from marching to another title. Liverpool have strengthened hugely while Chelsea and Arsenal are beginning fresh chapters under new head coaches.
José Mourinho is in one of his dark moods and that could affect Manchester United, while how will Tottenham Hotspur fare after becoming the first Premier League club in history to not bring in a player in the transfer window since its inception in 2003.
It’s not just about the top of the table, however. The newly promoted sides, especailly Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers have made big moves in the transfer market while the likes of Everton and Leicester City could be ready to channel for Europe after indifferent form last season.
And ahead of the new campaign kicking off, we asked our team here at Football Whispers to put their necks on the line and make several predictions ahead of the new campaign.
Who do you agree with? We’ve included their Twitter handles so you can let them know. Alternatively message us at @FB_Whispers if you don’t want to be so harsh personally!
Adam Newson – @AdamNewson
While I can’t see them winning the title by 19 points, I don’t think Manchester City will have too much trouble retaining their title. While they have only made one major signing in Riyad Mahrez, their squad is still very strong and the continuing development of Phil Foden gives Pep Guardiola another option.
It’s impossible not to be impressed by Liverpool’s summer business. Jürgen Klopp has in the past been stubborn to address obvious problems but has been ruthless this summer by bringing in Alisson from Roma to replace Loris Karius The additions of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri make them even stronger and I can see them being City’s biggest challengers.
Picking the remaining two is tricky. José Mourinho’s negativity could create big problems at Manchester United, Tottenham didn’t spend in the summer but still have one of the strongest starting XIs in the division, and Chelsea and Arsenal are beginning new chapters under head coaches with very different ideas to the men they replaced.
So for the latter reason, I’ll go with Spurs and United to round off the Champions League places.
Of the newly promoted teams, Cardiff City’s squad was the least equipped to tackle the Premier League and they’ve not significantly strengthened. There’s also the Warnock principle in that he’s an excellent manager in the Championship but lacks the tactical nous required in the Premier League.
Huddersfield Town, too, as much as it pains me to say as I like David Wagner, look a little short of the quality needed to stay up once again. They’ll need the Pasty Pirlo to be at his best once again.
The final spot is really hard to call. Solely because I’m somewhat skeptical that Rafael Benítez see out the season, I’ll go with Newcastle United. Although I hope I’m wrong as their fans don’t deserve another relegation.
So I was going to cheat a little and say two: Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, given their transfer business I’m not sure either staying up, or even mounting a push for a top half finish, would come as that much as a surprise.
So I’m going to go with Crystal Palace. They finished eleventh last season despite giving sides a seven-game headstart and have managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha this summer. If they can fix Christian Benteke then they could have a very good season.
This may be a little harsh as last season was an incredible overperformance but I’m going to have to go with Burnley. There’s no chance of the Clarets finishing seventh again this term, which I’m sure even their most ardent fans will realise. A good Europa League run and survival would be another good season for the club.
Sergio Agüero. Keep him fit, give him 30 games and in this Manchester City team there’s no reason he can’t break the 30-goal barrier comfortably. He looked razor sharp in the Community Shield too. Honourable mention to Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang who is likely to have a goal-laden season.
Signing to watch
There’s been several excellent additions to the Premier League this summer; Lucas Torreira, Jorginho, Fred, Jean Michaël Seri, and many others. But the player I’m looking forward to most is Naby Keïta.
I’ll admit to not having watched him as extensively as other members of the FW staff but from what I have seen he’s a force of nature. A midfielder destroyer and a creative No.10 all wrapped into one perfect package.
Callum Hudson-Odoi. Quite simply if he doesn’t make it at Chelsea then no kid from their academy stands a chance. He still has much of his game to develop but the raw potential is there. Pace, power, technique, an eye for goal…manage him correctly and the Blues have a star on their hands.
Sam McGuire – @SamMcGuire90
Liverpool. After the signings they’ve made It’s hard to not take them as serious contenders. The Reds have addressed clear weaknesses and now have a reliable shot-stopper between the sticks in Alisson and players who can pick locks in the form of Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Many will tip Manchester City to retain their crown but i get the impression Pep has his eyes on the Champions League and that may take centre stage for them this season. Klopp and his team can take advantage of this.
Though Spurs have failed to strengthen they still have the team who made the top four last season. They have a manager who knows the players at his disposal and a squad who know that the manager wants. There’s a continuity there like nowhere else in the league and this will work in their favour. They’ll join Liverpool and City in the top three.
Unai Emery will fancy his chances with Arsenal but there are still question marks over a defensive unit made up of Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi. Likewise, United failed to bolster their defensive options and will be heavily reliant on David de Gea between the sticks as well as needing Jose Mourinho keep it together long enough to not sabotage his own team.
Chelsea are the wildcard with Maurizio Sarri at the helm. If it all clicks then they’ll be the fourth team to qualify for the Champions League but it hinges on Kepa adapting to life quickly and Alvaro Morata remembering he’s a goalscorer.
Huddersfield, Cardiff City and Watford. The former two just don’t have Premier League squads and they’ll find goals hard to come by. The lack of a reliable scorer is why Watford make up this bottom three.
They lost Richarlison and only added a bit of an unknown in Adalberto Penaranda, who returned from loan with Malaga. Goals keep you in the top flight, and I just can’t see Watford scoring enough of them.
Fulham. They’ve signed 11 players in total which may mean it takes a while for them to gel but they’re notoriously slow starters anyway.
They’ve signed players to make them difficult to beat. In Jean Michael Seri and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa they’ve signed two midfielders capable of smothering most opponents and both are the perfect foil for the more creative Tom Cairney. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Luciano Vietto are both threats and Andre Schurrle has a big goal in him.
The biggest positive, however, was keeping Ryan Sessegnon at the club. A top-half finish should be on the cards for Slavisa Jokanovic’s men.
Burnley. I think their 2017/18 season would be repeatable, with Sean Dyche seemingly coming up with a way to break all statistical models due to his defence only allowing shots from certain areas, if they had their best team available for the most part. It’s the signing of Joe Hart which could have the biggest impact and could be why they struggle until Nick Pope or Tom Heaton return to full fitness.
It will be a three-way battle between Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Liverpool No.11 plays in a system which creates plenty of opportunities for him, so I can see him pipping his rivals to the much coveted golden boot.
Signing to watch
Naby Keita. The Premier League hasn’t seen anything like him before. He’s a mix of Philippe Coutinho and N’Golo Kante so just sit back and enjoy the show.
He’s been around for a year or so now but I think this could be Phil Foden’s breakout season. He impressed during the community shield and after City failed to sign a midfielder this summer he might get more opportunities in the starting XI. He could be Pep’s greatest project.
Ryan Baldi – @RyanBaldiFW
Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City redefined what it means to be a dominant champion in the Premier League last season, setting records for goals scored, points and the points gap to second-placed Manchester United. Others – namely Liverpool – have strengthened impressively, while City have merely tweaked their options this summer, and I expect a closer challenge to their title this time around. Ultimately, though, City are too good and too far ahead of the rest.
Behind City, I anticipate Liverpool leading the chasing pack. Klopp’s side showed last season, in both the Premier League and the Champions League, they can beat the champions, but they lacked the consistency to truly push for that elusive league title.
However, with the savvy additions they have made, the Reds have the strength in depth to deliver a more consistent level of performance while challenging on multiple fronts, and their starting XI has been significantly upgraded. I see them getting closer to City than United managed to last term.
As for United, despite Mourinho’s gripes – many of which valid, some typically self-serving – the 20-time champions possess a talent-rich squad. Now Alexis Sánchez has had half a season to settle in, it’s time for the Chilean to deliver. If he does so, and if Paul Pogba maintains his World Cup-winning form, United have enough to be comfortably top four, even if all is not rosy at Old Trafford.
And despite no new arrivals at the White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur have quality and cohesion in abundance. They should see off Arsenal and Chelsea to secure a Champions League place.
Two of the three promoted sides have spent big and spent well this summer. The other is Cardiff City. The Bluebirds face an uphill battle to stay off the very foot of the table, let alone stave off relegation.
Huddersfield Town did remarkably well to stay in the league last season, but most of their rivals have invested heavily to boost their prospects. Huddersfield and Southampton are my picks to join Cardiff in the drop zone.
Wolverhampton Wanderers. After their deadline day capture of Leander Dendoncker – a target for Manchester United not so long ago – in addition to the stellar acquisitions of João Moutinho, Rui Patricio and others, I can’t remember a newly promoted side with a ceiling as high Wolves’. And their purchase of Adama Traore is one of my favourite signings of the summer, too – so much fun.
Jose Mourinho. Despite predicting a relatively comfortable top-four finish for United, I don’t see an amicable resolution to the discontent that seems to be growing at the club between Mourinho and the powers that be. All the hallmarks of a Mourinho meltdown are in place. I have a hunch Zinedine Zidane will be leading the Red Devils out at the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
Harry Kane. Fresh off of claiming the Golden Boot at the World Cup, I expect Kane, the most driven goal-getter in the division, to reclaim his spot as the Premier League’s top marksman from Mohamed Salah this season.
Signing to watch
Naby Keïta. Keïta’s arrival at Liverpool has gone somewhat under the radar due to the fact the Reds agreed a deal for his purchase with RB Leipzig almost a year ago, and others such as Alisson and Fabinho are the shiny new things of Anfield. But make no mistake: Keïta is Liverpool new star.
Callum Hudson-Odoi. This might be a season or two too soon for Hudson-Odoi, who is still only 17 and faces competition from the likes of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro. But the teenager is the most gifted of England’s emerging crop of apparent superstars-in-the-making. Phil Foden and Ryan Sessegnon are also set for breakout Premier League campaigns.
Mark Thompson – @EveryTeam_Mark
Manchester City, probably. Their quality from last season; the fact that most other teams are either transitioning (Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool to an extent) or haven’t improved (United, Tottenham); the depth they have in several areas; and the fact their manager doesn’t have a track record of melt-downs like some make them favourites again.
The only way I can really see them not winning is if everything goes right for one of the challengers, and City’s press and counter-press break down, prompting a run of bad form and crisis of confidence for Guardiola in his system.
Not easy. City aside Liverpool are probably the only good bet to finish in the top four as United would, in all likelihood, not have finished second without David de Gea last season.
Spurs’ squad is thin. Chelsea were off the pace last year and are embarking on a radical change this year. And Arsenal were even further off the pace, and no-one’s really sure how much of a boost gaining Emery/losing Wenger gives them.
So, then, that’s. City, Liverpool, whichever two of the other four get the most good fortune, on balance.
Hasn’t everyone gone for Cardiff? There’ll probably be a clump again of teams around there: Huddersfield, Brighton, Watford, maybe Bournemouth, one of the ‘good teams’ who just has a bad year.
Much as people are fond of Huddersfield and Brighton, they’ll both be there or thereabouts, probably. And both play in blue and white stripes. I get them confused.
Southampton? Is there a team capable of being a surprise package? Everyone’s hyping Fulham and Wolves; Southampton or West Ham returning to the top half wouldn’t be a surprise; Leicester and Burnley have set new standards for surprises…
So the biggest surprise might be if United light fires and take the league by storm (or Arsenal).
Fulham. I’ll go for it. They’ve been raised so high, and yes they have André Schürrle and Jean Michaël Seri, but spending £100million in the summer window sets expectations at a certain level.
Álvaro Morata. The lad needs someone to believe in him.
Signing to watch
Richarlison. The winger had an amazing start to the season before Marco Silva left Watford, but still underperformed his expected goals by about half (5 goals, 10.65 expected goals).
Whichever version of him Everton get, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on.
Ryan Sessegnon. Even if Fulham underperform, the only way he can have a bad season is to be benched and never play. And that doesn’t seem likely.
Matt Gault – @MattGault11
Manchester City. And, once again, by a considerable distance. While Liverpool have undoubtedly strengthened, it’s difficult to envisage anyone challenging Pep Guardiola’s side’s supremacy.
For the Premier League’s sake, I hope I’m spectacularly wide of the mark with this prediction. There is nothing quite like the gripping intensity of a closely-fought title race.
The last truly memorable one came when Liverpool ran City down to the wire in the 2013/14 campaign.
If Jurgen Klopp’s Reds can go one better than that Luis Suarez-inspired team under Brendan Rodgers, it would have to go down as one of the greatest achievements in the modern era.
So, City and Liverpool obviously. Manchester United, for all of Jose Mourinho’s withering assessments and grim prognostications, still have a strong squad, more than enough to comfortably secure Champions League football. Failure to do so would be a catastrophe.
Rounding out the top four has been made trickier by Tottenham failing to secure a single signing during the summer. Operating on the assumption that Spurs will inevitably become stretched, a return to the top four for Chelsea looks the safest bet.
I’m intrigued by Unai Emery’s nascent project at Arsenal. I don’t think they will finish in the top four though.
Cardiff City, purely because their football is difficult to digest so I want them gone. I expect Southampton to find themselves sucked into another relegation dogfight, only to fail to escape this time around. Huddersfield look like strong contenders for the drop too.
Considering the noise they made in the transfer window, it’s debatable whether or not Fulham can still qualify as a surprise package. Technicalities aside, the Cottagers are extraordinarily well-equipped and have enough firepower to greatly exceed the expectations normally bestowed on promoted teams.
Last season, Newcastle United did brilliantly to finish 10th following promotion. Fulham have enough about them to finish even higher.
Newcastle. The mood around the club once again seems gloomy and I expect tensions between Rafa Benitez and the hierarchy to escalate if results go the wrong way.
Harry Kane. Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku will provide stern competition but expect the World Cup Golden Boot winner to finish as the Premier League’s leading marksman for a third time.
Signing to watch
Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian isn’t the most consistent player but he has the ability to become the kind of exciting fan favourite West Ham have sorely lacked since Dimitri Payet returned to Marseille.
Ryan Sessegnon, who combines sound technical skills and athleticism with an old head on young shoulders, rightly stayed at Fulham after helping them up and has all the tools to make a serious impression in the top-flight. Sessegnon has over 80 Fulham appearances to his name. It’s ridiculous to think he has just turned 18.