In a little over a week’s time, the English Premier League will become the first major European league to get up and running, and the drama that comes along with it will grip the watching world. Who’s strengthened the most over the summer? Who’s looking a little weaker than they did this time last year? Most importantly of all, who’s going to pick up the famous trophy when all is said and done next May?
The majority of people will say that the winners will be one of two candidates – Manchester City, or Liverpool. They were so far ahead of the rest of the pack last time around that it’s hard to imagine anyone else coming close. To believe that is to forget one crucial factor, though – this is the English Premier League, and anything can happen. You can no more predict who’s going to win in that you can predict that your next spin of the reels will produce a jackpot when playing mobile slots on casino sister sites. In the case of Leicester City, you’d have had more chance of landing a first-time jackpot playing mobile slots than the Foxes had of winning the championship if the bookies were to be believed at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season. That’s not an exaggeration either – at five thousand to one, the payout from a one-dollar bet on Leicester would have been a good as the top prize available in the majority of mobile slots. So should you just cut out the middleman and take a punt on Striker Goes Wild on a mobile slots website, or back one of the big teams to win?
We can help a little with that. We’ve taken a look at the prospects of the big Premier League sides on the eve of the new season, and here’s where we think they stand.
At the time of writing, Arsenal is still being linked with a late move for Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho. If they land the gifted forward, who hasn’t had the greatest of times in Spain, their prospects of making the top four might improve. At present, as far as we’re concerned, they might just miss out. Their most significant summer acquisition over the summer was Nicolas Pepe for £72m from Lille. Pepe is a player with obvious potential, but nobody knows how well he’ll adapt – or fail to adapt – to the rigors of English football. What they really needed was a new defender to replace the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, and they don’t have one. Arsenal’s forward line didn’t need improving – with Lacazette and Aubameyang, scoring goals wasn’t their issue last year. Keeping them out was where they fell down, and with no sign that they’ve addressed that issue, fourth is the best they can hope for.
Chelsea has a huge problem, and everybody knows it. Thanks to a transfer ban because of some questionable activity when signing players in the past, they haven’t been able to sign anybody in the summer. They’ve managed to find a small loophole in that inventively – because Mateo Kovacic was already on loan at the club with an option to make the deal permanent, they were able to do so. They also brought in Christian Pulisic before the ban took effect. Kovacic was already at the club last season, though, and didn’t set the world on fire. Pulisic is an unknown quantity. There’s nothing about either of them which suggests they’re an adequate replacement for the departed Eden Hazard – but then nobody could be. Returning club legend Frank Lampard will be given plenty of time to get things right, but they might have to accept missing out on Champions League football this time.
No team has ever scored more points and missed out on the Premier League title. That statistic wasn’t much comfort to Liverpool fans when their league campaign drew to a close, but the club’s sixth European Cup triumph a few weeks later healed the pain. This season, Liverpool desperately want to go one better and bring home the league title for the first time in nearly thirty years. There’s an issue with that, though – they haven’t strengthened. Aside from reserve keeper Adrian (a straight replacement for Mignolet) and 16-year-old Harvey Elliott, no new blood has arrived at Anfield. With the loss of Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno, the squad looks lighter than last year’s. They’ll factor at the top end of the table again, but may not pose as stern a test as they did a season ago. Second at a push.
On the one hand, the only significant player Manchester City have signed over the summer is Rodri. On the other hand, he was the only piece of the jigsaw they didn’t already have. City has been scouring the world for a quality holding midfielder to take on the mantle from the aging Fernandinho, and now they’ve found him. They didn’t need to improve anything else – their run of wins last season was unprecedented, and all of their key players are still there. On paper, there isn’t a club side in the world that should be able to beat Manchester City when Aguero, Sterling, and de Bruyne are all on form. Winning the Premier League this season should be the minimum they expect. This might be the season they also conquer Europe.
Last season was one to forget for Manchester United, whose domination of the English game is starting to become a distant memory. A Europa League and League Cup triumph under Jose Mourinho, and an FA Cup win under Louis van Gaal, doesn’t change the fact that United haven’t won the league (or looked likely to) since Sir Alex Ferguson required. In contrast to previous years at the club, this season United’s transfer activity has focused on younger, hungrier players. Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are gifted youngsters who can be molded into the type of player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees as the future of the club. Harry Maguire comes in with the weight of being the world’s most expensive defender around his neck, but it a class above both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and should form a solid defensive partnership with Victor Lindelof. If Mason Greenwood makes good on his potential, Alexis Sanchez rediscovers his form, and Paul Pogba decides he’s in the mood to play, they might surprise a few people. Third place isn’t out of the question.
Normally, when a club breaks its transfer record to bring in a new player over the summer, the fans are excited. That’s not the case at Spurs. Tanguy Ndombele may prove to be an excellent player, but reading between the lines, it’s not clear that manager Mauricio Pochettino wanted him at the club. Pochettino is a popular coach, but looks increasingly unhappy at the club. He told the press last week that he had no control over transfers, and that he should be called a coach as opposed to a manager because he doesn’t have the authority of a manager. They’re also carrying a few long-term injuries to key players like Dele Alli. They have the quality to make the top four, but if Pochettino’s heart isn’t in it and the players don’t perform, they may switch places with Arsenal or Chelsea.
With Chelsea and Arsenal looking vulnerable and a cloud seemingly forming over White Hart Lane, there could potentially be room for another side to come and make a surprise run for the upper echelons of the division. Wolves impressed many people last season, and will be looking to kick on this term. Everton, with Moise Kean scoring goals, might be a very different proposition. Leicester City has a very capable coach in Brendan Rogers. Pellegrini at West Ham looks quietly pleased with the squad he has at his disposal this term. Any of them could surprise us and take a top-four place – but surprises like that are exactly why we love football!