PREMIER LEAGUE expert Ben Levene (@benlevene96 ) delivers his team-by-team verdicts on all 20 clubs ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, as well as revealing how he feels the end of season table may look come May.
1) Man City (4/6 Coral)
Man City stormed the Premier League last season, and there is no reason they won’t do so again. While the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero are a year older, so are Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and John Stones.
Benjamin Mendy will be available and will add a further attacking-threat, not that he was overly missed.
Once PFA Player of the Year, Riyard Mahrez has undoubted ability. Having seen the progression of wide-men Sane and Raheem Sterling under Pep Guardiola, the Algerian can reach new heights.
There are few marks to put against the Citizens, and therefore it is difficult to oppose the same side that ran away winners by a huge 19-points.
2) Liverpool (4/1 Bet365)
If a team are capable of rivalling Man City, it’ll most likely be Liverpool. Last season’s Champions League finalists have kept hold of their best players while adding depth.
Dynamic midfield duo Naby Keita and Fabinho could prove hits in Jurgen Klopp’s high-intensity system. Xherdan Shaqiri adds to the squad massively and is an upgrade on the likes of Danny Ings and Dom Solanke who were often called upon from the bench.
A goalkeeper change was necessary, and the big-money spent on Alisson could solve that issue.
Only Man City scored more goals in the league last season, with Guardiola’s side the only team to find the net more times on the road.
The Reds were unbeaten at Anfield too. They can run City close.
3) Spurs (20/1 Blacktype)
Tottenham have improved year-on-year under Mauricio Pochettino and are now one of the country’s most consistent sides.
An underwhelming transfer window means it’s unlikely they’ll kick-on to the next level this time around, but that consistency can carry them comfortably into the Champions League for another season.
Settling into a new stadium and late returns of World Cup stars are two reasons why they may not be able to compete with City and Liverpool, but as mentioned, the level of performance Spurs are capable of means they’ll accumulate enough points to finish third.
4) Man Utd (12/1 Blacktype)
Manchester United finished second last season but will find life a whole lot tougher this time around.
United’s transfer priority has been a centre-back, and that speaks volumes. Record-breaking fees have been rumoured about a side who boasted the divisions second-best defence yet were outscored by four of the top-six. That alone is indicative of Jose Mourino’s approach.
In reality, the three most impressive Premier League sides last time out were City, Liverpool, and Spurs. Those three sides are brave in their styles.
Mourinho will also be without his right-hand man Rui Faria, and the Portuguese pragmatist has been downbeat for a lengthy period of time now.
Although the title might be out of reach, their pragmatic style means they won’t lose many matches. United may just have enough at their disposal to maintain a top-six spot.
5) Arsenal (25/1 Marathon)
Unai Emery took the reigns at Arsenal and immediately aimed to stamp his authority.
What’s promising for the Gunners faithful, is the swiftness with which he brought in a centre-back and a holding-midfielder – two positions that had needed addressing for a long-time.
Emery will encourage his charges to press and an improved showing is expected, but we cannot underestimate the magnitude of his task.
The likes of Spurs and Everton have shown us that too many additions can be counter-productive, while United in the post-Alex Ferguson era is comparable to Arsenal’s unique situation.
Arsene Wenger’s 22-year imprint is deeply entrenched into the club, so Emery’s opening season needs to be viewed as part of a bigger picture.
6) Chelsea (20/1 Blacktype)
Adjusting to the Premier League is a tough task and that’s playing it down. There’s the old-wives’ tale that Jose Mourinho wins the league in his second-season and even the great Pep Guardiola required a bedding-in period before taking Man City to extortionate heights.
In fact, new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri this week stated that Guardiola has warned him of the Premier League’s difficulty.
Sarri’s preferred style of play is not comparable with his predecessor Antonio Conte’s, and yet the squad remains the same.
His tenure at Napoli was a long-term project, and that might be the case again. Sarri’s Napoli finished five points and one-place better off in their second season compared to their first. Moreover, during his first season in charge, Napoli dropped 19 points in their first 19 games compared to just seven in the latter.
There is still uncertainty over the future of Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, two instrumental stars. With this in mind, a transition period could be on the cards, with the Stamford Bridge supporters finally seeing some homegrown talent.
7) Everton (300/1 10Bet)
There is a significant gulf between the top-six and the rest, and Everton have historically been the side to fill the void. The Toffees have finished inside the top-seven in nine of the last 14 campaigns.
Last time out they were just five points off doing so again, and that was amidst a season of shambles.
Marcos Silva has accumulated advocates in his short-time at Hull and then Watford before having his head turned.
Everton boast a gifted squad and Silva is screwed on enough to drive a decent 2018/19.
8) Crystal Palace (1000/1 Blacktype)
Roy Hodgson won hearts as he helped Crystal Palace to an 11th-placed finish. The former-England boss reverted to basics after taking over a pointless Eagles side who were trying to force an incompatible style.
Palace have recruited the likes of Cheikou Kouyate, Max Meyer and are close to bringing in a striker. Pessimists will argue that means the departure of star-man Wilfried Zaha but Steve Parrish has held firm for two-years now.
If the Ivorian does leave, Palace will get in excess of £50m, so they’d be able to make moves if Roy felt necessary.
The Eagles ended the season accumulating 17 points from a possible 24. They’ll be organised and have every reason to be optimistic.
9) Leicester (500/1 Blacktype)
Former champions Leicester might just have undergone the necessary overhaul to bring back a spark to the King Power.
Claude Puel was on the brink of departure throughout the second-half of last season and yet the Foxes finished ninth.
Harry Maguire has grown into a star in his own right, and with Riyad Mahrez finally moving on, an element of uncertainty has been removed.
Demarai Gray showed signs of improvement under Puel and will no doubt further improve with minutes. Likewise, Wilfried Ndidi and Ben Chilwell can continue their organic growth.
In Adrien Silva and new signing James Maddison they have quality on the ball that few outside the top-six possess.
Jamie Vardy is still one of the divisions must feared strikers and he’ll be helped by Kelechi Iheanacho and Fousseni Diabate who have shown promise in 2018.
10) Brighton (2000/1 Blacktype)
In their first Premier League campaign Brighton performed consistently, losing just seven of 26 games to non-top-six sides. Chris Hughton’s troops enjoy playing under him.
Much like Brentford in the Championship, Brighton’s data-driven recruitment has worked wonders over the years.
Brighton are well-drilled and defensively sound. Pascal Gross and Jose Izquierdo proved massive hits and with the likes of Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Florian Andone they could reach a new level in attack.
The Seagulls can soar.
11) Fulham (1000/1 William Hill)
After an impressive two seasons, Fulham have finally returned to the top-flight.
Slavisa Jokanovic has implemented an attractive style of play and this summer they have added the quality to take them to the next level.
Andre Schurrle has scored goals at the highest-level and midfield maestro Jean-Michael Seri was a target of some of Europe’s finest.
In their last 112 league matches Fulham have scored 164 goals, losing on just 18 occasions. The Cottagers can make a seamless transition into the top-flight.
12) Wolves (300/1 Blacktype)
Controversial Wolves took the Championship by storm last season. Dubbed the greatest ever Championship side by some, Nuno’s charges accumulated 99 points.
Ruthless business this summer has seen further Portuguese additions, with the likes of defensive mainstay Barry Douglas moving on.
A black mark against Wolves could be the success of the current regime. The Nuno era has not yet experienced a barren run, and should any occur in the Premier League, they’ll have no respite.
When much changed, Wolves competed well with the likes of Southampton, Man City and Swansea in cup competitions. Their depth is impressive and like Fulham they can bypass the divisions strugglers.
13) Burnley (2000/1 Blacktype)
Valiant Burnley were the Premier League’s surprise package last season and this time around will have to balance league commitments with Europe.
But last campaign Sean Dyche’s team were without the likes of Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward and Steven Defour at times. Nonetheless, Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, and Ashley Westwood proved able deputies. They have more depth than they get credit for.
The Clarets have this summer added Ben Gibson while Aaron Lennon is enjoying a new lease of life. Sam Clucas and Jay Rodriguez are rumoured targets.
Burnley are no weaker than they were last season. While extra-commitments and expectation will no doubt take their toll, Dyche’s outfit have enough to hold their own once again.
14) Newcastle (1000/1 Blacktype)
Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez’s long-running tiff has shown no signs of boiling over. The Magpies manager has publicly criticised the clubs transfer business in the build up to the new season.
Much like Antonio Conte last season, Benitez won’t resign and miss-out on a pay-off. Likewise, Newcastle won’t sack Benitez because of the pay-off due.
Luckily for the Toon faithful, under the Spaniard the Magpies have enough to muster another top-flight survival. Jamal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey were last season’s stars, and both have been retained.
Salomon Rondon could prove ideal for Benitez’s negative style while keeper Martin Dubravka really impressed last season. Benitez knows his sides’ limitations and will adapt accordingly to get results
15) West Ham (500/1 Betfair)
West Ham have been busy this summer as they aim to progress as a club. By the close of the window, spending could have hit in excess of £100m.
Manuel Pelligrini looks an impressive appointment but I still have my question marks over the Hammers. No side conceded more goals than West Ham last season, and that was under a fairly defensively minded manager for the most-part.
We’ve seen how toxic the London Stadium can get. West Ham begin the campaign with games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Man Utd, and Spurs inside their opening nine matches. If things don’t start well, they probably won’t end well either.
Goals are often at a premium at the bottom-end of the table, so having the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Andriy Yarmolenko and Javier Hernandez around could save West Ham from a truly chaotic campaign.
16) Watford (2000/1 Blacktype)
The Pozzo’s strange strategy has ensured survival for many a year now. Each change of manager has scope to go wrong. However, the Hornets have enough talent within their ranks to ensure survival yet again.
Javi Gracia may not pull-up any trees but with a squad as deep as Watford’s he can ensure survival once again.
Abdoulaye Doucoure starred last campaign, so his retention is a massive plus. In addition, Will Hughes showed glimpses throughout the season and along with Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Etienne Capoue and a fit-again Nathaniel Chalobah, Watford have impressive variety and quality in midfield.
All four of Gracia’s wins last season came at Vicarage Road, so their away form will need to improve.
17) Southampton (1000/1 Blacktype)
After countless seasons punching above their weight, Southampton found themselves in trouble.
The appointment of Mauricio Pelligrino failed to mimick the success of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman but thanks to Mark Hughes’ late impact, the Saints survived.
The loss of Dusan Tadic is a blow – he’d been their main creative spark over the last few seasons. Goals were an issue last season and that has to be a worry for the St Mary’s faithful.
18) Huddersfield (2000/1 Blacktype)
Huddersfield survived against the odds last season but this time around it could prove a bridge too far.
David Wagner’s side evolved as the season went on. The Terriers went from playing on the front-foot to defending much deeper.
Premier League football was new to everyone at Huddersfield last season. They are bettered prepared mentally this time around as they’ve experienced it before, but they were the division’s lowest scorers last campaign and financial limitations mean they haven’t kicked-on.
Six of their nine wins came before Christmas and they produced a record of W3-D6-L10 thereafter. Bar three anomalies, the side who has won the fewest or joint fewest games has been relegated in all 18 Premier League seasons this century.
Huddersfield face Chelsea and Man City in their opening two games, so could be playing catch-up from very early on.
19) Bournemouth (2000/1 Blacktype)
I’m convinced this season could be one too far for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. Much of the squad remains from their Football League days, and their xG data was less than convincing last-season.
There is a reliance on the unreliable Callum Wilson up-top, and defensively they look suspect. No Premier League side kept fewer clean sheets than the Cherries last season.
Nine of 11 wins last season came by the single-goal, and if margins go against them, Bournemouth could be in trouble.
20) Cardiff (3000/1 Blacktype)
In true Neil Warnock fashion, Cardiff earned promotion while ruffling feathers along the way.
The Bluebirds were negative and pragmatic, but unlike their promoted counter-parts, Cardiff have done little to convince they can bridge the gap. Warnock has spoken of his frustration at the Welsh side’s summer business.
When discussing Huddersfield we drew reference to the importance of winning matches and the same applies to Cardiff. Warnock’s side will be tough-to-beat and competitive but churning out wins could be a struggle.
Warnock has himself admitted he prefers the “muck and nettles” of the Championship. He could be back there again come this time next year.
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