The English Barclays premier league is back for its 26th season. The euphoria, drama, and intensity are all but a fragment of what makes the BPL the most watched league in the world. Last minute dramas, mind-blowing commentary from Jim Beglin and Peter Drury add to the beauty that is the English game.
Football fans all over the world have been waiting earnestly for the commencement of this season, because it promises to be a bang. Ladies hold onto your men; Saturdays aren’t yours truly anymore.
The start of last season promised so much due to the influx of top class managers at various clubs, but this season is unique: top-class players have strengthened various teams with most of those expected to have gotten a full grasp of their managers’ football philosophy.
While all 20 clubs will be on an equal footing when the season starts, it will soon become clear that there are only a handful of true contenders for the title. Now these are my predicted top six teams for the new season:
Pep Guardiola is a proven title winner in Spain and Germany. But in England he hasn’t delivered a title—yet. Only Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have wrestled a league title from a Guardiola side. You can’t help but sense that this is Guardiola’s season. After one trophyless season, it is apparent that Guardiola now knows the lay of the land and that’s all he needs to deliver a league title. City have strengthened in key areas this season, especially at the back. The influx of Kyle Walker, Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Bernado silva help to solidify a City team with arguably the most fearsome attack in England. If they are able to keep all their players fit and get reasonable points against lower teams, I doubt if anyone can stop them. But, of course, it won’t be an easy ride.
I write this with caution as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Cobham training ground: squad instability and the coach’s recent body language hasn’t helped matters. Nevertheless, this is a team that pulled of remarkable recovery last season, all due to the genius of Antonio Conte. The 3-4-3, which virtually every team adopts now, is the reason Chelsea are defending champions. However, the departure of players in key areas might come to hurt them this season. Diego Costa might be a want-away at Chelsea, but take it or leave it Costa was a key reason Chelsea were crowned last time out and replacing him won’t be an easy task. It will be interesting to see how Alvaro Morata slots in, but I sense that he might struggle initially. Trust Morata to be a success once he comes to term with the premier league’s ins and outs. The loss of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United hasn’t helped matters either. Matic might be considered a slow player, but this is a proven premier league performer who has been at the heart of two title winning teams. Bakayoko is a powerhouse, but don’t expect him to perform magic all too soon. One suspects that once this Chelsea team gels, they will be unstoppable, but with players injured and squad depth really lacking for now, it will take at least October for the Blues to get their act together.
Jose Mourinho has won a league title in his second season at every club he’s coached and expects United to challenge strongly for the title this term. While United boasted one of the best defenses last season, they lacked ruthlessness in front of goal, especially against lower opposition. The signing of Romelu Lukaku is bound to solve that problem. The acquisition of Nemanja Matic is a big statement and Paul Pogba should benefit from that partnership given he keeps his head down and keeps things simple. He has been accused lately of doing too much and showboating. Mentality will come a long way in determining this year’s champion and it will be interesting to see if Mourinho can instill such into the squad. Mourinho is a winner and I wouldn’t be surprised if Man. United go a step or two higher on the table.
There’s media chatter that Liverpool could have been champions last season if not for injuries and a little inconsistency. But that is a story every top club can relate to. In truth, Liverpool looked frightening last season and could have had a big shot at the title, but inconsistent teams don’t win titles. Injuries with key players didn’t help their cause, but champions will be champions all the same. An attack consisting of Coutinho, Mane, Salah, Firminho and Sturridge, not forgetting new boy Solanke is terrifying. It will be interesting to see if Jurgen Klopp can get his team to remain level headed as the season wears on. They lost crucial points to lower opposition last season whereas they were top class against the top six. Liverpool has not really shored up their defence this season and I fear that may come to hunt them. Save for the acquisition of left back Robertson from Hull, the defence is pretty much the same as last time out. The acquisition Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton will be a huge statement. If Philippe Coutinho stays for at least another season, expect Liverpool to be a tough nut to crack.
The FA cup win against champions Chelsea late last season somewhat mitigated the disappointment of missing out of a champions league place, but expect Arsenal to be a strong side nonetheless. Arsene Wenger has a knack for finishing in the top four, except things didn’t go as planned last season. Uncertainty surrounds the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. The fact that both players seem to be around for at least one more season is a huge boost. Arsene Wenger himself had an uncertain future until he penned a new two-year contract. The acquisition of Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac are decent and both players are expected to play a key role this season. Lacazette is a proven goal scorer and if he and Sanchez can get along well, expect Arsenal to be really formidable this season. The question of course is the winning mentality, as has been the case in recent years. Should Wenger succeed in instilling a ‘winning mentality,’ then Arsenal might even surpass expectations this season.
In the last two seasons, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were denied the league title by Leicester and Chelsea and they will be eager to make a statement this time around. Unlike their fierce rivals, there has been little or no activity at the North London club as regards new signings. Instead, they have sold a key player in person of Kyle Walker to City. They are a very formidable team but one suspects that they could be hindered by playing their home games at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane as they are in transition to move to a new stadium come 2018-19. Any neutral will, at first glance, place Tottenham in the top four given their effectiveness and consistency, but their recent struggles at Wembley could be a huge blow. Should they overcome this, then expect them to give their rivals a good run for their money.
These are my predicted top six teams for the 2017/18 Barclays Premier league season. Let me know if you agree with them.