Football is coming back home. The best league in the world kicks off this week, the English Premier League. Every fan base comes into the season with high hopes but only a select few have a real shot at the title. With the exception of Leicester in 2015-2016, the top 4 teams are just a game of musical chairs between the teams that usually spend the most in the transfer window. This blog is just looking at the top 4 teams, no offense (literally) to the Brightons/Huddersfields/Cardiffs but you’re probably going to be relegated.
Manchester City – What a season Pep’s men had, smashing more records than Michael Phelps after an edible. 100 points, 106 goals, 18 game winning streak were all records broken and a testament to just how dominant the Cityzens were last season. Two losses in the league to Liverpool and Man United were all that separated City from being immaculate but in my mind they’re still better than the untouchables of 2003-04. Guardiola is still behind the bench and this team should only benefit having another year behind them. The big signing was Riyad Mahrez of Leicester who should start in the beginning of the year with Sterling coming back from holiday. Mahrez was player of the year in 2016 and should only help boost the depth and talent City have on the outside flanks. Player to watch this year for me has to be Phil Foden. The 18-year-old Stockport born midfielder has more potential than a 3rd National Treasure movie. Please Universal make that happen. Foden showed flashes of his abilities last year but if preseason and the Community Shield are any indication, he is just getting started. He dominated a weak Chelsea midfield and if Aguero didn’t Dan Benitez an open net, Foden would’ve added another assist. City are stacked at every position except for CDM and GK so if Fernandinho or Ederson can’t stay fit you might see some problems. Gundogan can step into that deeper lying midfield role but Fernandinho’s tackling ability can’t be matched by the German international. The depth besides those positions is ridiculous and I can’t see anyone picking off City this year. Book them as the first repeat champs since 2010 with Aguero leading the team in scoring and Foden making the next step in his career. It will be a tighter race with Liverpool having a great transfer window, but City just have too much quality and talent to overcome. Having Guardiola doesn’t hurt either.
Liverpool – You’ll never walk alone, except when no one likes you which in that case whenever you are walking it is probably alone. Also, if you happen to pull an Irish goodbye in college and live about 10 minutes away from the bars then there is a chance you will walk alone at some point. But, if you are at Anfield when the Reds are playing YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE. Liverpool have by far had the best transfer period this summer signing Fabinho, Shaqiri, Allison, and Naby Keita. Allison was the most expensive Goalkeeper ever, but you just can’t hate this move. Liverpool were a CTE less goalie away from winning the Champions League last year. Splurge on the right moves and no one cares how much it is for. Naby Keita is my guy to watch for this team. The former Leipzig midfielder should phase Jordan Henderson out of the lineup. He is tireless and an acute dribbler. Keita will do all he can to get the ball back and spring the attack forward which is what Liverpool lacked last year. There wasn’t a lot of connection between the midfield and the three-headed monster up top. Keita should fix that and help Liverpool close the gap on City. Salah can’t possibly top his form from last season, but he is too damn good to fall off that much. Overall, I don’t believe Klopp’s style of play is meant to win leagues, it is geared towards knockout football which landed the Reds in the Champions League final last year but is not sustainable for a whole season. Second place and one of the domestic cups is all I see for Liverpool this year, but a favorable draw (ex. Man City) in the Champions League and they could be right back in the final this year. Reminder that Liverpool haven’t won the Premier League title since…well…since ever.
Tottenham – Ah the Spurs, the perennial underachievers, the team that beat Real Madrid in the group stage, the team that signed ZERO players in the summer transfer period. ZERO. How can you possibly justify that to the fan base?! Yes, I know they signed a lot of their current players to long term contracts (Kane, Alli, etc.) but for a team that hasn’t been able to get over the hump, an injection of someone new could energize the dressing room. This team has 3rd to 5th place written all over them and the only reason I’m putting them 3rd is because Mourinho is awful and Arsenal/Chelsea have new managers. Harry Kane will be Frozone to start the season, but I think this might even stretch out into September as he just came back to training last week. Yeah yeah he won the Golden Boot but it was the most unimpressive Golden Boot since I started watching the World Cup and he didn’t have a shot on target in the knockout rounds. It’s like Tottenham’s owner said we’ll sign as many players as Kane’s shots on target in the knockout rounds. Awful joke but I had to connect that somehow. Three penalties, one deflection off his heel looking the other way, and two other gimme goals were all it took. Kieran Trippier was the star of the World Cup for England, but you can really only impact a game so much from right back. Heung-Ming Son is out for the beginning of the year with commitments to the Asian Cup which is another big blow. Honestly it comes down to the Spurs being complacent in the transfer period and settling for the team they had last year. They’re a solid squad and Pocchetino is a great manager but I see a very similar result as last year. Shout out to Foley for becoming a die-hard Spurs fan this year, hopefully it’s a little different than the results of being an Islanders, Mets, Jets fan is but I don’t think we are heading that way any time soon.
Manchester United – Park the bus, park the bus Man United, Park the bus Park the bus they say, Park the bus, park the bus Man United, Play football Mourinho’s way. I tell you what they’re not wrong. Since Joe-Say Mourinho has taken over for United they have played lackluster football that has left supporters none too happy. It’s one thing to play like that if you’re Burnley but as the most famous club in the world, maybe you should try to play more better. I am a linguistic at heart so that last part of the sentence was impressive to say the least. United came in 2nd last year but it was never really close, and the rift is continuing to grow between the club and their manager. Paul Pogba had a stellar World Cup, but you can’t say it’s going to translate into the league because he hates Mourinho more than Jesus hated Pontius Pilot. They have a great roster on paper but never seemed to get it together last year and why should this year be any different? Sanchez came over in the winter and looked as interested as a sedated Tiger in a zoo. It’s hard to criticize him because he’s only making $13 million this year to play a game he is quite good at. My 38k salary is just the right amount to keep me interested in working as hard as I can to make this company successful. Too much and I don’t care, too little and I won’t even do it. Maybe a pay cut will help with all the tension. Depth is also an issue for the Red Devils but they’re too good of a squad to fall out of the top 4 this year. Lukaku was an animal in the World Cup and will look to build on his solid first season. Rashford is just getting better and better while new signing Fred and Dalot will help bolster the defensive side of the ball. You also have De Gea in net who before the World Cup was considered good at keeping the ball out of the net. I call him the vaccine because you could inject him into your body and he would block all the viruses from coming through. They’ll probably finish 3rd but if a couple bad results come in, the dissension in the ranks will grow and turmoil is never a good thing. Hopefully we get some good Mourinho sound bites during the season blaming the refs, the ball, the field, the weather, the economy, the fact that we can’t terraform Mars and having it all coming back to the fact he’s won many trophies already, so he doesn’t care. Hm wouldn’t that be nice.
Contenders – Arsenal – Unai Emery came over from PSG and fans are hoping he can spark the Gunners going forward in a way Arsene Wegner forgot how in his 100 years presiding over them. Aubmeyang will look to improve in his first full Premier League season and they should be fun to watch nonetheless. Petr the Helmet Cech is on his way out with new signing Bernd Leno coming over from Germany. A big loss for Arsenal is Callum Chambers who went out to some lower level Premier league team that I don’t feel like looking up right now. The big loss is just because he is a bigger dude, his actual play on the field would suggest Arsenal have adopted the strategy of addition by subtraction. Yeah, he’s awful. No champions league for them so domestic is the only focus. Could steal some points from the bigger clubs while they’re focusing on European glory.
Chelsea – They signed Sarri from Napoli and if the oversized t-shirt he wore during the Community Shield is any indication, he isn’t a good fit. Nah I actually think this is a good hire for the Blues who move on from the mercurial Antonio Conte. Conte won them a title but the 3-year lifespan was reached so time to move on. It will be interesting to see if Chelsea can hold onto Eden Hazard who arguably is the best player in the Premier League. The Belgium Waffle as I call him because I always have him for breakfast on Saturdays, is dynamic in every sense of the word but has been linked to Real Madrid for a while. Him and Willian can really benefit from Sarri’s up-tempo, high pressing style but its hard to take advantage of that when you’re not on the team. Mateo Kovacic is coming to London and could have a nice impact for the Blues. Add in their highly touted signing Jorginho and the midfield should shape up to be one of the stronger areas of the team. I just don’t see them coming together with this new style quickly enough to make a real impact. Sarri literally came over last week so the learning period has just started. If things don’t start well Hazard could check out and then the team is really in trouble. Chelsea also have no Champions League to focus on so the team will in theory be well rested. This doesn’t exactly help keep Hazard but at least if he stays he probably won’t get shin splints. If they can get through the transition phase of this new back four and high pressing attack they could make a run into that top 4. I just have a hard time seeing it.
My rankings just in case I happen to get something right:
1. Man City
4. Man United
7. West Ham
9. Crystal Palace
18. Brighton & Hove
19. Huddersfield Town
20. Cardiff City