With a quick glance around the web, it seems that we are heading for pretty much a repeat of last season’s Premier League: Manchester City on the top, Liverpool just behind, and Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United in some order behind them. Everton seems to be a dark horse candidate in some circles, and the middle and bottom are likely going to be shuffled up as well. But with action kicking off this weekend, we figured it was time to take a look at how we think the Premier League will play out this season.
Same League, New Clubs
First, a quick recap on last season: Manchester City walked away victorious, winning their last 14 matches to win the title over Liverpool by one point (98 to 97, the highest point total for a second place squad). Not to be outdone, Liverpool took their frustration out on Europe and won Champions League, taking out the fourth place Spurs in the final. Meanwhile, Chelsea defeated Arsenal in the Europa League final after their third place finish in league play.
Joining the Premier League after promotion from the Championship: Norwich City (1st), Sheffield United (2nd), and Aston Villa (playoff winner), while Cardiff City (18th), Fulham (19th), and Huddersfield Town (20th) went back down to the Championship.
But we’re a long way from the end of the season, with 38 matches left to play through May. Here’s a brief look at how we think the season will go this season:
|West Ham United||8||11||9.8|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||16||19||17.0|
UEFA Competitors at the Top
If the season ended the way shown in our rankings, three of the four clubs playing in this season’s Champions League would be the same, with only Arsenal sliding in to replace Chelsea. I remain bullish on Chelsea’s chances with Christian Pulisic now in the mix, though the inability to add players through the transfer market could come back to bite them at midseason. Chris is a little more optimistic about his Red Devils, expecting them to push for the last Champions League spot. Wolverhampton Wanderers will begin the season a few days after their first match in the Europa League third qualifying round, and they seemed position to return next season should this form hold as well.
Relegation Watch Begins Now
Of the returning clubs, Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Southampton appear to be the ones poised to compete with the promoted clubs at the bottom of the table. Newcastle saw Rafa Benitez head to China at the end of his contract, then pursued (and acquired) the services of Steve Bruce from Sheffield Wednesday for a hefty sum to lead the squad, a move that will hopefully reap dividends (we are skeptical of it working out for them).
Brighton & Hove Albion finished just out of the relegation zone last season, and they have spent the offseason spending money like a club more intent on sticking around, with big money spent on Belgian winger Leandro Trossard. They paid $23M to pry him away from Genk, and while that’s what the top clubs spend on on their third keeper, it’s a lot for a club at the bottom of the table trying to stave off relegation.
Finally, Southampton is a club coming off an up-and-down season last year, finishing just ahead of Brighton in 16th place. They too have spent like a club trying to avoid relegation, shelling out $62M for three players – Danny Ings, Che Adams, and Moussa Djenepo that will form the core of the squad for this season for manager Ralph Hasenhüttl. They’ll look to avoid 11-match winless streaks in the middle of the season and try to avoid the bottom of the table once again.
Which Newcomers Will Call the Premier League Home Next Season?
It seems to us that the Aston Villa, the Championship playoff winner from last season, has the best chance of staying up beyond this season (though Chris is higher on Sheffield United). They spent at least $125 million this offseason (only the undisclosed natures of some deals makes the exact total unknown), so it doesn’t seem like they are willing to fool around with this Premier League opportunity. Meanwhile, Sheffield United heard some rumblings about their manager early in the offseason – though things settled down when Chris Wilder signed a three-year extension in July – and their “record transfers” are only records because they haven’t played in the Premier League in 12 years. As for Championship winners Norwich City, they’ve lost more players than gained this offseason, and the players they’ve added have been… underwhelming to say the least, though youngster David Adstead could be a surprise if he manages to find quality playing time.
We’ll be back to look at the Power Rankings in the Premier League every month, in order to better track trends in play instead of our weekly power rankings like last season. We’re excited for the season to start – even if it did kind of sneak up on us a bit – and can’t wait to join you all for the upcoming season!
Until next time…