Another season has already begun in the English premier league which is the most exciting and most watched league in the world. Last season, we had surprise package Leicester City run away with the title, but this season I don’t see this fairytale happening.
We have seen the addition of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte to the league for this new season in addition to the usual suspects Arsene Wenger, Mauricio Pochettino, Claudio Ranieri and Jurgen Klopp as the managerial heavyweights.
This season we shall see a shift from the players for once to the actions of these renowned managers. Two rounds of matches have been played so far. I purposely delayed this post so as to see these teams in action at least once. I must tell you I have been thrilled so far by what I have observed over the course of two weeks.
I will try and dissect the chances of these teams being coached by their respective managers all in a bid to lift the league title come May. I will analyze my seven top teams in a descending order on who I see winning the league.
CURRENT POSITION: 15th
Seeing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial land in Piccadilly Circus is more likely to happen than Leicester repeating their incredible Premier League triumph, Claudio Ranieri said this on the opening day at the premier league. This just goes to show you how humble Claudio Ranieri is. Winning the league last season looks like a mistake the traditional big four would not allow to happen this year again. Claudio Ranieri first aim for the season is to get 40 points then any other thing is welcomed.
They have only lost Ngolo Kante to Chelsea so it’s pretty much the same team with new signing Ahmed Musa and have also tied down Kasper Scheimechel, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater to long term contacts. But there is this dilemma that comes with being a champion because everyone wants to beat you and nobody underrates you anymore, which was what cased their first loss against Hull City. Also Kante has left a big hole in their midfield and so far neither King or the currently injured Namplys Maendy have been able to replicate Kante’s feats.
Claudio Ranieri will need more than his pizza rewards for clean sheets and his humble and innocent stance to defend their title. I see a 7th place finish with addition of European Football to cause problems for them.
MY VERDICT: 7th
CURRENT POSITION: 7th
Mauricio Pochettino seems to be the green horn based on experience and titles won, but don’t be deceived by that as they narrowly lost out to Leicester City in the battle for the title. This season they have strengthened their midfield with Victor Wanyama who has hit the ground running with a goal while the attack has seen the addition of Janssen which will finally lessen the burden for goals on Harry Kane.
Their midfield is covered with Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Dele Alli. Their defence will be key especially the duo of Alderweireld and Jan Vertoghen to Tottenham mounting a title challenge. They have the extra burden of Champions league football so how well they will cope will be crucial to their season.
Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp share the same ideas on football fast paced with early pressing from the forward players. The mental strength of Tottenham players can often be called into question looking at last season show of shame against Chelsea and their 5-1 loss to relegated Newcastle, so until these young players toughen their mindset, the league title will be difficult for them to win. A return to Thursday night football it is.
MY VERDICT: 6th
CURRENT POSITION: 11th
Jurgen Klopp is a manager every neutral fan loves watching due to his passion on the touchline. A times it seem he may run onto the pitch and play a part in a match. But eccentric actions do not win you titles in England.
When Liverpool beat Arsenal on the opening day 4-3, I told a Liverpool fan friend of mine that Liverpool clearly have issues despite their win but he laughed off my views and those views were evident in the 2-0 loss to Burnley. Those views I expressed included the lack of a cultured defensive midfielder who will shield the defenders, that person is not Jordan Henderson as he is too light for that role, also their defence is so leaky especially the left back position. Last season his ‘gegen pressing’ style of football which he calls ‘heavy metal’ caused a lot of muscle injuries to his players and it seems Coutinho is the latest victim.
Also, their recent inability to work the ball into the box is troubling especially when Coutinho’s outside shots fail. They could also go and bid for Joe Hart to help their defence and replace Simon Mignolet. A times it seems all Liverpool do is attack and attack all through a match. The addition of Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane increases their attacking strength but as it is known attack wins you matches but a solid defence wins you title. An Europa league spot beckons.
MY VERDICT: 5th
CURRENT POSITION: 13th
Same old Arsenal, same old Arsene Wenger. Has anything changed except the signing of Granit Xhaka and the imminent arrivals of Mustafi and Lucas Perez.
The problem with Arsenal in recent seasons has been their slow start, they are already five points behind Manchester city, Manchester United and Chelsea. Also, they often lack direction in the transfer market in the way their rivals sign their transfer targets quickly. They repeatedly get linked with several players but at the end of the day, these players end up in another club. They have failed to sign a solid center back on time and a clinical striker to inch them closer to the title. Last season, Arsenal finished second in a season, they were expected to take advantage of their rivals frailties.
This season it will be a fight to stay in the top four, as I don’t see them making it into the top three positions due to the strength of their rivals.
Arsene Wenger is in the last year of his contact and anything short of a silverware in the league may see him fail to earn a new contract even after revealing he is scared of retirement. Club legend Patrick Viera has criticized Arsenal for lack of leadership and physicality. Even the appointment of Per Mertesacker as the Club captain was mind boggling for a player who will be out for 5 months when Laurent Koscienly was the obvious choice.
Arsene Wenger will have to up his game and use his experience as the longest serving manager in England if he is to win the league as the #WengerOut brigade will be watching. Anything higher than a fourth placed finish will be a surprise considering Arsenal’s mental strength especially in February and the seasonal injury list of top players.
MY VERDICT: 4th
CURRENT POSITION: 4th
Last season, Chelsea football club endured a disappointing defense of their league title by finishing 10th. They have wasted no time in appointing Antonio Conte, signing tough tackling Ngolo Kante to shore up the midfield alongside Michy Batshuayi who has made an instant impact coming off from the bench. Antonio Conte has adopted a 4-1-2-3 formation deploying Kante as the Anchor man with Matic and Oscar in Central midfield role. A source of worry for Chelsea though is their defence which has looked shaky and lacks depth. They have been linked with Romagnoli, Koulibaly and more recently Marcos Alonso but have been unsuccessful so far as Conte will need more defenders to play his preferred 3-5-2 formation .
Antonio Conte has a history of winning trophies after his exploits and experience with Juventus and Italy. He has already demonstrated his fiery enthusiasm when he celebrated the winning goal against West Ham. The mere presence of him , on the touchline instills belief and confidence in the team.
He has the ability to forge players into a coherent unit and has penchant for getting the best out of his players. He has the ability to turn raw talents into world class players for example Paul Pogba. He is already moulding Ruben Loftus Cheek from a midfielder into a striker. He is admired, feared and respected by his staff and player. The lack of European football may propel them to a title charge but this a rebuilding process for Chelsea, so third spot should be theirs.
MY VERDICT: 3rd
CURRENT POSITION: 1st
When the rumors that Pep Guardiola was headed to the Etihad stadium, I am sure others managers in the League must have been trembling. However, the key question was whether or not his possession based football and patient buildup from the back would work in England. Well he has won 2 out 2 matches so far and last week win at Stoke City showed that he can win even on a wet, windy afternoon. The way he has handled the Joe Hart situation by bringing in Claudio Bravo as his replacement just goes to show his ruthlessness in making sure his players play the “Guardiola way”.
He also has a knack of developing young players under his wing into top class players, so I am sure Sam Allardyce must be very happy he is tutoring John Stones and Raheem Sterling who are key for the England team. He also changes the position of players to fit into his plans evident by moving David silva as a deep lying playmaker alongside Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne.
He has the goals of Aguero to help him, but keeping the Argentine fit throughout the season is another work on its own. So will he win the league in his first season just because he is Guardiola? I don’t think so, give him two years to adapt fully to this crazy league.
MY VERDICT: 2nd
CURRENT POSITION: 2nd
My Champions elect right from the way they conducted their transfers in businesslike manner. Jose Mourinho is not coming to Old Trafford to play second fiddle to anyone. This is a manager who most Manchester United players seem to get along with as he constantly making jokes. Mourinho is here to show why he is arguably the best manager in the world.
The signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henry Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba will surely galvanize the team and they are currently unbeaten. There is that feel good buzz back at the theatre of dreams due to attacking football on display in stark contrast to Van Gaal’s tenure.
Also, the defences of both Manchester teams will play a major part as Mourinho’s teams boasts a stronger back four.
The title will be a straight fight between Manchester City and Manchester United and the Manchester derbies will be highly important matches for both teams. Also, the experience of Jose Mourinho in the premier league could give him that edge over Pep Guardiola.
Expect the mind games from Mourinho as he is a master at it like Sir Alex Ferguson.
MY VERDICT: 1st
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