The 2017/18 Premier League season begins its 26th installation this evening with seasoned campaigners Arsenal hosting Leicester at the Emirates and a full line up of fixtures over the weekend. Chelsea are the defending Champions and Newcastle are back in the top flight, the summer has witnessed a record total transfer fee spent as teams have splashed big to improve their squads. The Manchester teams are the biggest spenders as both mangers will be under immense pressure to do better in the league in their second season, Tottenham have succeeded in keeping the bulk of their squad, whilst Everton have also made some decent additions to their team as they seek to break into the ever competitive top four position, for promoted teams like Brighton and Huddersfield, the season will present a stern test, but one thing is guaranteed, it promises to be an exciting season, here is what we at HalfTimeNG are predicting ahead of the new season;
TOP SIX PREDICTIONS:
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola endured his first career season without a trophy in his first year at the helm of the Citizens and no sooner had the season ended that the gaffer took steps to rectify the situation. He shipped out his aging fullbacks and began to rebuild the squad, spending big in bringing the likes of Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and Bernardo Silva to the squad to form a perfect mix with seasoned players like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bryne and Raheem Sterling. The season looks like a make or mar one for Pep and a lot will be hinged on the fitness of Captain Vincent Kompany, the experience of Yaya Toure and the fire power of Gabriel Jesus. They finished 3rd last season but are my pick to edge the title this time around.
Prediction: 1st Position
Manchester United: United enjoyed a good pre-season but following the Super Cup defeat in the hands of Real Madrid, a lot of fans expectations came crashing going into the season, for Manager Jose Mourinho, he has always done well in his second season at his previous clubs and even though in his first season at United, he managed a couple of trophies, United were not competitive in the league and that is one area where he seeks an improvement. Jose has recruited the likes of Nemanja Matic and Lukaku from rival Premier League sides whilst bringing in Victor Lindelof from Benfica and even though the team still looks a couple of players short to compete with the elites of European football, he has more than enough talent in his squad to aim for the Premier League title. With Rooney gone and Zlatan Ibrahimovic out, a lot will be expected from the likes of Paul Pogba to lead the team, and with Lukaku opening his account on Tuesday night against Madrid, the Red devils will be hoping that the big man can replicate his Everton numbers on the bigger stage.
My Prediction: 2nd Position
Chelsea: The Blues are the defending Champions of the league, imploring a 3-4-3 system where they took out opposition with flair, precision and brutal force with the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard leading the lines. Chelsea host Burnley in the first game of the season on Saturday afternoon but the two players who were crucial to their title winning season will be missing, Eden Hazard is still out injured whilst Diego Costa is on his way out of the team, they have also lost influential captain John Terry and midfielder Nemanja Matic with the likes of Bagayoko, Morata and Rudigier signed as replacements. If the comments of Antonio Conte over the past few weeks are to be believed, then all may not be well at the camp of the champions as he hopes to add more bodies to the squad. Chelsea have been Champions twice over the past three seasons, so they pack the experience for a 38 game run but it is becoming tougher to defend the Premier League and with Champions League football back on the table, they may just be stretched beyond limits this season.
My Prediction: 3rd Position
Arsenal: Arsenal missed out on the top four for the first time under Arsene Wenger and making a return to the Champions League will be his priority this season, Wenger’s future received a boost after the FA cup win over Chelsea and they have done a double over their London rivals with the Community Shield victory, though fans are demanding that they win the Europa League, being competitive in the league is also a must for them. Alexandre Lacazette and Kolasinac already look like decent signings and with the likelihood of keeping Alexis Sanchez for at least one more season, the gunners should be able to return to the top four this season.
Prediction: 4th Position
Liverpool: For most of last season especially with Sadio Mane in top form, Liverpool looked like the team to beat, but the second half of the season saw them fall off especially with Mane’s departure for the African Cup of Nations. Luckily that distraction won’t feature this time around and the likes of Mohammed Salah, Dominic Solanke and Robertson have been added to the team, but they are yet to solve their defensive woes as the failed pursuit of Virgil Van Dijk continues whilst they battle to keep star player Philip Coutinho. Jurgen Klopp’s men pack a lot of pace going forward but his failure to address key positions might come back to haunt him this season.
Prediction: 5th Position
Tottenham Hotspurs: Off the back of a fairly successful season which saw them finish 2nd and star forward Harry Kane retaining his golden boot, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were the only one to give Chelsea some form of fight for the title and the team boasts of some of the best talents in the land. This season however will see them playing at the Wembley stadium as their traditional home, the White Hart Lane undergoes construction, they struggled to settle at the Wembley last season in their European games and have failed to add to their ranks with the rumored outburst of defender Danny Rose showing that trouble may be brewing in their camp. They may have finished in the top four over the last two seasons but with the stakes getting higher, I doubt they will maintain the momentum this season.
Prediction: 6th Position
Brighton & Hove Albion: Chris Hughton is one manager that is proving his worth in English football, having worked at Newcastle and Norwich, he propelled the team to their first ever Premier League campaign as they finished 2nd behind Newcastle United in the Championship. The Seagulls have captured the likes of Matthew Ryan, Pascal Gross and Mark Suttner but the squad looks like one that will struggle in the Premier League and they have not been helped with an opening fixture against Manchester City where a thumping may just be the sign of things to come.
Prediction: 18th Position
Burnley: Sean Dyche’s men struggled for a majority of last season, managing to steer off relegation due to an impressive home form at the Turf Moor, and even though they may rely on that again this time, it might not just be enough to see them across the line. The Clarets have lost star defender Michael Keane to Everton and their additions have not exactly been inspiring, they are expected to pull some impressive results in patches but with their poor away form looking like that of an Nigerian Professional Football League team, this may be the season when they make a return to the Championship.
Prediction: 19th Position
Huddersfield: David Wagner’s team finished 5th in the Championship last season and only gained promotion via the Play-offs and even though they will not be pushovers, the Terriers look like a team lacking in quality despite record signing Steve Mounie joining from Montpellier and may just be destined for relegation.
Prediction: 20th Position
SELECTED TEAMS TO WATCH:
Everton: Ronald Koeman has done decent business in the transfer window capturing Jordan Pickford from relegated Sunderland to solve the inconsistencies in his goalkeeping position; the likes of Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez have also been brought in with old boy Wayne Rooney returning from Manchester United. Romelu Lukaku’s departure is a big loss and Ross Barkley seems destined for the exit door, there is a sign of ambition from the Toffees as they seek to push for a top four place and it will be interesting to see how they improve on their 7th position from last season.
Prediction: 7th Position
Southampton: Mauricio Pellegrino takes over from Claude Puel as the Saints manager, despite making the League Cup final last season, the team was a shadow of the entertaining side that they were in the past seasons. The former Alaves Manager has a battle at hand even before the first ball is kicked as the uncertainty continues over Virgil Van Dijk, but they may have signed a replacement already in Jan Bednarek. The Saints have always paraded a bunch of talented players and will be hoping for more consistency from the likes of Nathan Redmond, Manolo Gabbiadini and new signing Mario Lemina.
Prediction: 8th Position
West Ham: At some point last season, Slaven Bilic looked set to be sacked as his team suffered shocking defeats and he will be keen to answer his critics this time around. The team has struggled with goals with defender Antonio converted into a forward but have signed former Manchester United striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez to address that whilst he hopes the likes of Andre Ayew stays fit this season, other additions include Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Marko Arnautovic. West Ham may not be in the run for the title but will take scalps of the top teams; a better performance is expected from the lads.
Prediction: 9th Position
Leicester City: ‘Accidental’ 2015/2016 Champions almost had their fairytale winning season go extinct following last season’s poor defense of their title till they replaced Claudio Ranieri with new gaffer Craig Shakespeare who brought a new spirit to the team and saw them off relegation woes.
Craig Shakespeare has been rewarded for his efforts with a new contract and has signed Kelechi Iheanacho from City, Harry Maguire and Vicente Iborra to bolster the squad, though rumors surround the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater’s future, the duo remain with the Foxes and Jamie Vardy will be relied upon again for goals this season.
Prediction: 10th Position